Canada’s benefits system denies and delays until claimants die, veterans say

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Minister of Veterans Affairs Julian Fantino responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa this week.

A loosely knit group of outraged ex-soldiers railed Wednesday against what it calls the insurance-company mentality of Veterans Affairs, demanding legislation spelling out the moral obligation Canada has towards its military veterans.

Over the next two weeks, the group plans a series of protests on Parliament Hill to call public attention to a system they say has long been rigged to deny and delay benefits in the hope that the claimants will eventually die.

“We’re not talking to Stephen Harper. We’re not talking to Julian Fantino. I am talking to the Canadian public,” said Linda Magill, an ex-member of the military and the wife of a soldier with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“You have to know what is happening to us because we’re the ones who had your back — and you need to have ours.”

Magill described the dizzying array of bureaucratic hoops that she and her husband have had to jump through as a “war of attrition” and said other troops in need of care often give up pleading for the benefits to which they are entitled.

The protest follows the 14 recommendations a House of Commons committee made Tuesday to make the system more responsive to the needs of former military members.

The veterans committee had some good ideas, but that’s all they will be until the government accepts and adopts them, Magill said.

The demonstrators hope to draw crowds similar in number to the demonstrations of the 1920s, when frustrated First World War veterans fought tooth and nail for recognition and a benefits system that’s been part of the fabric of military life ever since.

In its response to a class-action lawsuit launched by veterans of the war in Afghanistan, the Harper government has cast doubt on how secure that commitment might be.

Justice Department lawyers have said they intend to argue that the country has no extraordinary obligation to its soldiers, and that the current administration cannot be bound by the promises of previous governments.

That position enrages veterans, who say it violates the country’s sacred obligation to those who serve.

Among other things, the Commons committee recommended that the controversial new veterans charter be amended to include exact wording from its predecessor: that the law should be “liberally construed” in favour of veterans.

The protesters, however, say that rather fuzzy distinction is at the root of complaints about both the old and the new systems, because it has long given bureaucrats wiggle room to throw up roadblocks and deny benefits.

They say the only remedy is clear legislation or a military covenant, similar to the one in Britain which spells out that the nation has a “duty of care” to its soldiers.

“If they put it in legislation, we wouldn’t have people fighting the (class-action) lawsuit right now, where the government is saying they owe us nothing,” said Magill.

Another protest organizer, David MacLeod, who spent 27 years in uniform, said the government is guilty of spreading “half-truths” about the way veterans are being treated.

The government is quick to call on their service and call them heroes, but leaves them mired in a bureaucratic swamp when it comes time for compensation.

“If you can’t afford the wounded, you can’t afford the war,” MacLeod said.

The Conservatives have claimed they are cutting red tape at Veterans Affairs. Just last week, Fantino argued before the Commons committee that the government has injected an additional $4.7 billion into the system since 2006.

“In fact, the seriously injured veteran is eligible for thousands of dollars each month, up to and including after age 65,” Fantino told the committee.

“In some cases, a veteran can receive over $10,000 a month in financial compensation. This is in addition to two major tax-free award payments totalling in excess of up to a half-million dollars.”



Organizations: Veterans Affairs, Commons committee, House of Commons Justice Department

Geographic location: Canada, Afghanistan, Britain

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Recent comments

  • Modern Veteran
    June 05, 2014 - 20:34

    @ENOUGH ALREADY I have an idea, why don't you join up? After a few years of training and you go to a war zone(with REAL bullets, tank shells, IED's all aimed to KILL you), or a disaster area with mangled dismembered dead body's all over which you would need to collect, we can revisit your condescending view of today's modern veterans and see how much your opinion has changed. That is of course if your fellow soldiers don't chew you up and spit you out first because you think it's all a joke. Cancel my last, people with attitude like yours are weeded out. Here's hoping you NEVER have to experience what we have. What we it never comes knocking at your front door. Enjoy your freedom pal! Your welcome

    June 05, 2014 - 12:58

    TO ENOUGH ALREADY. Until you know what is happening to individual and their continuous fight with DVA best to keep quiet until, you get the facts unless of course you are one of these individuals that works to keep these vets from their benefits. A new group is heading out to Europe soon, If you can't stand behind them go alone and stand in front of them.

  • Bob Curran
    June 05, 2014 - 11:31

    You can receive up to $10,000 per month?? I think they are confused between their own government pay and that of the average retired veteran, which doesn't come close to $10,000 per month.

  • Hawkins
    June 05, 2014 - 08:11

    To "A Veteran". I am not a fan of this government nor of the present Minister. However, "enough Already" has every right to express his views. Canadian Veterans have the best services and programs available anywhere on the planet. And yes, before you ask, I did serve.

    • Shane jones
      June 05, 2014 - 10:20

      Really ,the best serves on the planet,are you for real,are you really a vet because I am, and I can't think of any vet that would agree with you,we have taken our government to court 2 times in the last few years, they say there is no moral and sacred obligation to care for us,that's your Idea of the best care on the planet, your a joke or a troll.

  • Stone Horse
    June 05, 2014 - 08:04

    To enough : IDIOT......I am guessing you are a suit and tie with a brief case roaming around looking for government " loans " You will never know the service these young soldiers provide,you will never know what they saw,the lives they saved from Bosnia to Afghanistan to search and rescue. You are not worth the sweat of one of these Vets.

    • huh
      June 05, 2014 - 11:52

      Ah yes. Its not trendy to ask such questions, so we immediately respond with outrage. Frankly, buried within his post is what I think is a reasonable question. Ridiculous Government bureaucracy has been around forever. Have things really changed that much for the worse for the younger veterans, or maybe they are simply more willing to speak up than the older guys?

  • A Veteran
    June 05, 2014 - 05:53

    to enough already: It's been more than 40 years since I served. Never have I been sorry for my choice. Nor have I been sorry for the disability I've lived with for those 40+ years, but after reading your post, just knowing what I did for the likes of you makes me sick!

    • don
      June 05, 2014 - 08:06

      A Veteran. i thank you for your service to our country. i to have had family and friends who served and some of the stories they told me as i was growing up. one friend served in WW1. scary. again thank you.

  • don
    June 04, 2014 - 19:53

    he cares for one person only and that is him. he could care less for any vet. love to have him in my boot camp.

  • enough already
    June 04, 2014 - 19:39

    The hand full of veterans or so called veterans that are around now do more whining than the tens of thousands of world war two veterans have for the last 4o year. Why is that? Is it because they feel they are owed a free ride after a few years in the service . I know some of them saw action but come on what is with all the whining?

  • Dundas Sue
    June 04, 2014 - 17:27

    Dont TELL us about the money; SHOW us that its being given and reducing their burdens.