Vet loses home

Mitch MacDonald
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Fabien Melanson during his hunger strike in front of Veterans Affairs Canada headquarters in Charlottetown.

A veteran’s advocate is blaming Veterans Affairs Canada for abandoning Fabien Melanson despite admitting to a mistake that destroyed the  former Van Doo’s home and life.

Just a year after holding a week-long hunger strike in front of the VAC headquarters in Charlottetown, it appears the Cap-Pele resident will lose his ancestral Acadian home.

Over the past year, Melanson and his advocate Jeff Rose-Martland say they have also been waiting for VAC minister Steven Blaney to return numerous phone calls, faxes and messages to his office.

The hunger strike ended with VAC apologizing to Melanson and giving him a letter admitting they were responsible for problems that plagued Melanson for more than six years, leaving his house in shambles while also re-igniting the soldier’s post-traumatic stress disorder and prompting a suicide attempt.

However, a year after the fact, the veteran and his advocate are still waiting for a call back and will now likely lose his house to due VAC’s inaction. The bank began the process of re-possessing Melanson’s home at the start of June.

The ordeal has been brought up in the House of Commons more than once, most recently when opposition critic for Veterans Affairs Peter Stoffer called out VAC minister Steven Blaney on the issue.

“Once again Minister Blaney shows his true colours when it comes to the quality of life of our veterans. Mr. Melanson is a decorated soldier who deserves our utmost respect. Minister Blaney must fix this appalling situation immediately,” said Stoffer.

The problem began in 2004, when Melanson was supposed to have obtained his pension cheque and began renovating his home. Several months into the renovations, he was still waiting for his first chque. He had to stop the renovations because he couldn’t afford to pay the contractor, leaving the house open to the weather.  Melanson says he lost up to $190,000.

When it was discovered almost six months later that the cheque was being deposited into someone else’s account, the government issued Melanson the back payment of his pension.

Having never received an apology, or funds to get his house back into the shape it was before renovations were halted, Melanson held his hunger strike. That ended with VAC’s apology and a letter, which they said should help Melanson rebuild his credit rating.

“He came off the hunger strike obviously hungry but on quite a high, feeling like finally he was going to get some resolution on this,” said Rose-Martland, who now describes Melanson as being distraught.

“It’s just gotten more and more negative all year. With missing the June 1 deadline and the legal action proceeding, he’s extremely upset.

In 2004, he had specific plans for his house, which his sometime great-grandfather built. He was going to rescue animal, this was going to be where he retired and recovered from PTSD.

“Instead, it’s been nothing but a nightmare ever since. And now, through the inaction of VAC, the property is going to be gone and he’ll have lost his entire heritage on top of all his plans.”

Rose-Martland said he has made numerous calls on Melanson’s behalf to minister Blaney’s office. He’s received no response.

Attempts by the The Guardian to reach Blaney were also unsuccessful.

While the VAC also told Melanson it doesn’t have a mechanism for making reparations, Rose-Martland said they do have a policy for making ex-gratia payments for very rare occurrences. These payments were used previously on Agent Orange victims, as well as for giving Melanson the back pay of his pension.

Rose-Martland added that he and others have been doing some low-level fundraising, however, they had expected to get a small amount of compensation from VAC to “get the ball rolling” on the renovations.

Plans for fundraising with country music star Julian Austin also fell through.

“(I see the minister stand up in the house and) there’s all this commitment and all of this caring but nobody is doing anything,” said Rose-Martland. “If the minister doesn’t do anything than this veteran is going to lose everything, all because of a typo.”

“It’s just a complete disregard for a Canadian citizen, let alone abandonment of a veteran that his own department admits they’ve messed up his life.”

Organizations: Veterans Affairs Canada, House of Commons, The Guardian

Geographic location: Charlottetown

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Recent comments

  • Questions??
    June 25, 2012 - 17:17

    What happened to the Julian Austin Benefit Concert?! & his VET Buddies helping him renovate his house? Were charges ever laid again the contractor who destroyed his home? Why didn't he have to fix Fabien's home? I'm with a lot of you. There is a lot more to this story then what's being reported.

  • Benefits
    June 25, 2012 - 14:50

    I am concerned that Mr . Melanson is not getting the benefits he deserves. Is Mr Melanson incapable of work do to his PTSD? If so is he in a treatment program? If the answer is yes to both of these questions he must be getting earnings loss benefit and permanent impairment allowance? Earning loss guarantees a gross income 40K and the impairment allowance gross $1000.0/month. If Mr. Melanson cannot work he needs to get these benefits he is entitled too and these benefits along with his disability pension and CF Pension should go along way to helping him pay his bills and live.

  • Aizona
    June 25, 2012 - 14:47

    Arizona Fabian I hope you enjoyed the winter at friends place in Phoenix Arizona found you on signals website. Fabien I think Jeff Rose-Martland is using you to further his own carrier and from your singles add you appear to happily riding your Harley and enjoying life. Keep the shinny side up and your right hand cranked

  • Islandwoman
    June 24, 2012 - 12:09

    I agree with the other commenters that there must be a lot more to this story than is being reported here. I’m sure many Islanders have had to wait months for a government cheque and know how frustrating that can be. But I don’t understand how the situation went from Cpl. Melanson waiting 4.5 months to receive his cheques in 2004 to losing his home EIGHT years later. I noticed the advocate says “He got behind on his mortage when he needed to money to go to PEI for his hunger strike.”

  • Ed
    June 23, 2012 - 18:24

    If a woman who was ruddely treated by a bunch of punks on a School Bus in the USA, an have a Canadian from Toronto set up a fund to give her a stress relieving holiday of $5000.00, mnagedd to raise in excess of 1/2 million dollars, maybe we should START ONE TO GET THIS GUY HIS HOUSE BACK. As a disabled Vet, I would certain ly know what he's going through but would give up 100.oo tp help the cause, but have no idea how we can block the sale and raise the funds quickly and even talk to the Bank to stop the sale and arrange for a reasonable settlement. Go VETS Go..

    • Shellie
      June 23, 2012 - 23:51

      ED - connect with people to assist You and " Fabien Melanson " to contact major media outlets in Canada AND the USA. Major Television, Newspaper media, Canadian and American Talk Shows. It would especially be productive to get AMERICAN T.V interested. ASK, the question how many American Vets are treated like Canadian Vets by their Country, Canada the country they put their lives in danger for? Canada boasts about the large number of multi-millionaires it has. Recently the Chronicle Herald reported the large number of millionaires it has. PEI has per capita a large number of extremely wealthy citizens. There has to be a way PEI'S Wealthy of The Wealthiest can find a way to get their Accountants & Lawyers cut them a "Tax Break" or name a Stage or Building after them if that's what it takes for Them To step up to the plate to save Fabien Melanson's Home.

  • Kari H
    June 23, 2012 - 14:25

    All of us veteran families across Canada who have been screwed out of disability payments from SISIP KNOW damn well that the government is about the bottom line.. $$$$. We are OWED certain things that we have paid into... or that we were promised... but then the government decides to make up rules so they don't have to pay out. Thankfully, after almost 30 years of this practice, the Supreme Court has ruled in our favour.. but there are still SO many facets that are corrupt. People on *welfare* or those who get disabled in the private sector workplace get treated WAY better than those veterans who were willing to pay with their lives.

  • Jeff Rose-Martland
    June 23, 2012 - 10:30

    If any of you actually bothered to READ, then you might understand. I was interviewed, I have seen the VAC documents referring to the back pension being issued ex gratia, which is why I called it that. I also have read and quoted the letter from VAC, which admits they misdirected Cpl Melansons pension. It took them 5 months to fix - 5 months of calls from Fabien Melanson during which VAC said that everything was fine and he had his money, when clearly he did not. VAC has admitted that, in writing. If someone took away your income for 4.5 months (September to mid-January) where would you be financially? Cpl Melanson was renovating his home when his pension disappeared. The lack of funds stopped construction in Novemeber, leaving the hosue exposed to the elements and with no heat. By the time VAC got around to fixing their error, weather and burst pipes had made the house unliveable. THAT is what VAC is responsible for. Financial plans were made based on having a certain level of income. VAC took away that income and ruined all that planning. Cpl Melanson has not been able to afford to fix the house and, until last month, also couldn't afford a place to live. Most of his very limited income was going to pay mortgage on the house he couldn't live in and storage for his belongings. He got behind on his mortage when he needed to money to go to PEI for his hunger strike. The bank repo'd the property when he could not provide them with plans to repair the house; plans he cannot make because he doesn't have the money to do it. Instead of all of you looking for ways to blame the victim, why don't you look at the bare facts? VAC admits their error, admits their actions destroyed Cpl Melanon's finances, but won't do a thing to fix the damage they caused. Steven Blaney, as a government minister, is required to be available to any citizen who wishes to speak with him and, as minister of Veterans Affairs, is especially required to speak with any veteran who asks. Even if he wasn't going to act, Steven Blaney is still required to talk to us. Or, for that matter, you. Government works for us and are beholden to us. When we allow them to ignore us, we make them rulers and accept subjugation.

    • Miss Information
      June 25, 2012 - 08:40

      Items not covered in this story. Was Mr. Melanson still a serving member when he started the renovation? Was his pension his only source of income? If he was still serving at the time, is there not resources he could have accessed on the base while this matter was being sorted out? Was it not already reported Mr. Melanson receive an apology for the clerical error from Keith Hillier on behalf of the Department of Veterans Affairs? What became of the offers that poured in to assist Mr. Melanson to assist him doing fund raising ie Julian Austin? Did Mr. Melanson et al sit and wait figuring there was some sort of reparation cheque coming when they told there was not until the bank took the house being there was no financial or structual plan to move forward?

  • Gerry
    June 23, 2012 - 06:44

    Here we go again. Agree, there's more to this story than what is being reported. If the Guardian is going to repeatedly raise this issue, then at least do some research and fact finding. Veterans Affairs provides a great measure of care for our veterans. My Dad, while not having been a disability pension recipient, he was entitled to access other programs and services, some of which he received, while declining others. Be mindful, the money our gov't spends is our tax dollars. It would appear the bank was lenient for a much longer period of time than in most cases. But then again, how would one know for sure, given the slant of this story.

  • kyle
    June 23, 2012 - 05:26

    How does the the back payment of six months qualify as an "ex gratia" payment? They bloody well owed him the money. They were in default. A payment of a debt is not a gift.

    • nitpicker
      June 23, 2012 - 08:57

      The ex gratia payment would not have been the 6 months back payment. It would have been $$ forwarded to keep the bank from repossessing the house.

  • Need the whole story
    June 23, 2012 - 05:10

    "MOTE INFO PLSE" and "VET" are right. There is more to this story than the one side we see here. Did Mr. Melanson sign a release giving the reporter access to DVA's files? Did the reporter get to see the bank's correspondence, or the renovation contracts, blueprints, materials purchases, or bank statements? If not, the story should not run, or at least the reporter should disclose whether he tried to see this information or not. Journalism standards are in the tank in this country. DVA has been getting dumped on pretty hard by activists and "advocates" who never seem to have a complete story. These poor vets are used as political footballs by agitators. Yes, there is lots of bureaucratic nonsense going on at DVA and elsewhere in all levels of government, but the people who work there are just people. The word "advocate" means a position coming from only one side. Get a grip.

  • mote info plse
    June 22, 2012 - 20:39

    Sorry there is more to this does VA Canada supposed to maintain mortgage payments?The OWNER does you utilize the money coming to you is YOUR business......why Blame VA Canada"When it was discovered almost six months later that the cheque was being deposited into someone else’s account, the government issued Melanson the back payment of his pension...Where did that go? 6 months with NO oney did he not ask "what's going on here?"Who would start a home without the appropriate funding in place? if you are blaming the govt because you have PTSD...was there not some one helping you at the time? Maybe there are 2 sides to this story..let's hear them before we start blaming people.Advocate or no advocate there are qustions here?How can VA be blamed for messing up his life? Where is the common sense here...why do a hunger strike...? for attention...BUT the owner bears some responsibility ?More info Please!

    • Vet
      June 22, 2012 - 22:11

      I am a vet, and I went through the VAC process, relatively easily. They do offer up to $500 for financial advice when you obtain the letter of approval that you are receiving a pension. It is a shame that this vet lost his house, but the blame isn't solely on VAC. He definitely made poor choices, and they could have been avoided either by his own responsibility, or by seeking an advocate, or financial advice. The logistical errors obviously made a huge difference, but financial affluence- spending money you don't have - or outside your means seem to be the bigger concern. Hopfully this mistake wont happen again - speaking as a vet, I was pleased with VACs involvement in financial planning

    • John Percy
      June 23, 2012 - 10:14

      Actually he contacted VAC numerous times to say he has not received his cheques. He was informed that he had indeed received them and they were direct deposited into his bank account. He repeatedly asked for the account number the cheques were deposited into and was refused for "privacy" concerns. It took six months for someone in VAC to actually cross-reference the account numbers. In that time the recipient of the extra payments said nothing.