Veterans face more battles to get benefits

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Governments, Canadians must support those who risk lives in service to country

Prince Edward Island veterans, including many who served in the Korean War, march to the Cornwall Cenotaph Service.

As Remembrance Day 2013 approaches, it should be a time to honour our veterans of today and yesteryear, especially those who paid the supreme sacrifice in their duty to Canada. It should also be a time to take some comfort in the knowledge that our veterans are being properly looked after in terms of pensions, healthcare and other necessities by a grateful nation.

Instead, it’s not such a great time to be a veteran. When Islanders turn out by the thousands Monday at cenotaphs across the province to remember their sacrifices, they should also be aware of the battles that veterans are fighting today.

Veterans are facing mounting problems as offices that serve them are closing across the country and layoffs are affecting the headquarters of Veterans Affairs Canada in Charlottetown.

This week, a call has gone out from veterans and workers who serve them urging the minister of veterans affairs to hear what they have to say before going ahead with closures of nine Veterans Affairs offices across Canada. Ottawa plans to close those offices in smaller communities by 2015 as a cost-cutting measure. This will force some veterans to travel long distances to other cities for service or rely on phone apps and call centres, a potential huge barrier for many disabled veterans.

The Union of Veterans’ Affairs Employees says its workers have been told the government is waiting until Nov. 13 or 14, just after Remembrance Day ceremonies, to start informing veterans when the offices will close, including the one in Charlottetown. Demonstrations protesting the closures are planned in a number of those communities today.

Last month, veterans ombudsman Guy Parent identified serious shortcomings in the support available to injured veterans and their families. In response Veterans Affairs said that government must be mindful of its responsibility to the Canadian taxpayer.

Government spent $35 million on legal fees and six years fighting Dennis Manuge, an injured Nova Scotia veteran and other disabled veterans in court over a clawback to their disability pensions. Government is now fighting injured Afghanistan veterans in a court battle over the level of financial support under the New Veterans Charter.

Maimed and disabled veterans face being released just days or weeks before any pension entitlement. There are problems with the Last Post Fund which should ensure every veteran gets a proper burial. Efforts to acknowledge veterans with a proposed volunteer service medal have stalled. Thousands of our veterans have no medal to wear on their lapel at Remembrance Day ceremonies to show they once served.

Volunteers who join the Canadian Forces accept unlimited liability, knowing they may be called upon to risk their lives on behalf of Canada to uphold democracy, peace, security and human rights here at home or around the world. In turn, the government and people of Canada have an obligation to care for and support those who risk their lives in service to our country.

If Canadian taxpayers support better benefits and services for veterans and their families, they must add their voice to ensure that veterans are treated with dignity and respect and with financial support and retirement security.     

Don’t blame all the problems facing veterans on government. It was a few short days ago that Summerside Legion members were trying to get their poppy campaign launched. A date was set to canvass the city to sell poppies, and instead of a planned turnout of 100 members and volunteers, there was about a dozen and a fraction of the city was covered.

Government must start paying more than lip service to show their support for veterans and their families. Our veterans are frustrated and wonder if they are forgotten by their nation, and are only remembered for their sacrifices for one hour on one day of the year.

Organizations: Veterans Affairs Canada, Union of Veterans, Last Post Fund Canadian Forces

Geographic location: Canada, Charlottetown, Ottawa Nova Scotia Afghanistan

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Recent comments

  • mary lou
    December 05, 2013 - 14:57

    are vetrans children entitled to an benefits

  • don
    November 11, 2013 - 16:28

    the best way to stop all wars is to have the leaders of all levals of government thru out the world is to give them the guns etc and say you want war well then you go fight it and leave us alone. and you all know that most will find a away to stop it. it is called COWARDS.

  • Lest we Forget
    November 10, 2013 - 14:58

    Yes close all DVA buildings just have one ombudsman to call into regarding pensions and benefits and dump all payroll into the veterans and let those who fought for our freedom live with respect,diginity and a healthy years to come.

    November 09, 2013 - 18:04

    I firmly believe that the case workers at the DVA are under strict instuctions to deny all requests for assistance. It certainly appears that the only claims that are approved are the ones where the individual repeatedly keep appealing . I believe that the reason for this is a number of veterans get fed up with the bad treatment and stop appealing therefore the cases are shelved and the blame is placed on the individuals for not following up again and again. this has to change and so do a vast number of the workers at the DVA who could care less about anything except their paychecks.

  • David Griffin
    November 09, 2013 - 14:22

    My father was a World War Veteran and we always attended the cerimonies on November 11th each year in respect and honour of those who faught for this country and the ones who did not return. Today it seems we are reading everyday in the news about some Veteran(s) and thei family going through hell on earth over benifits and what is owed to them. What in hell has happended to this Government to allow this to be happening. I would remind all these Government people and MLA'S these Veterans went to war and laid their lives on the line so that we could live in a free country, now all of this bullshit running out of the mouths of these so called Politicians really upsets me. The way the Veterans across this country are being treated like they are nothing is disgraceful. Something must change very quick. These problems should not be existing in our country today. Someone is causing all of this and it must stop NOW. I hope this Rememberance Day changes all this infighting and give the Veterans and their families what they faught for and righfully deserve.

    • Right On David
      November 09, 2013 - 22:50

      David you are spot on with your comments. Veterans are getting screwed over for their earned pensions and other benefits. You don't see the politicians getting such shoddy treatment when they look for their unearned pensions and benefits

  • balance
    November 09, 2013 - 09:46

    As valid as many of their concerns are, its the dissatisfied veteran, not the happy one, that makes it into the media. This is creating a perception that no veteran is getting their needs met. This is unfortunate.

    • candrayo
      November 09, 2013 - 13:17

      Dissatisfied veterans…that is what you call us…..UNREAL! And I choose to serve to protect an attitude like this. No wonder I struggle to find pride in serving!

    • balance
      November 09, 2013 - 16:12

      @candrayo: so what's your issue with "dissatisfied veteran"? Why not articulate your concern if you are going to post at all?

    • Rick MacLeod
      November 09, 2013 - 22:19

      Reply to balance: A veteran who receives an injury that causes a disability should receive adequate compensation for that injury wether injury is received at garrison or on the battle field. Our government is the only insurance company a service member has when employed in a theatre of war. Are you willing to sign up and put your life on the line for Canada?

    • balance
      November 10, 2013 - 08:12

      @Rick MacLeod: Not sure how what you say has anything to do with my initial point, but, for the record, I agree 100%.

  • Peter
    November 09, 2013 - 09:34

    In response Veterans Affairs said that government must be mindful of its responsibility to the Canadian taxpayer. As a veteran, I speak only for myself here, although I'm sure many other veterans would agree with me. In response to the above statement from the article, I have to ask "Where was Government's responsibility to the Canadian taxpayer when it changed a balanced budget and surplus into a monstrous deficit and debt, by doing such things as building artificial lakes ?

  • candrayo
    November 09, 2013 - 09:16

    I served 9 years and 4 months before medical release. 8 months short of a pension. I didn't know that it would only take 6 years as an MLA or other government official to get a pension. Man did I pick the wrong job! It would have been so much easier to act like a kid in high school than signing on the dotted line to offer myself up for my Country. And the money would have been sooooo much better. Hindsight sucks sometimes!