The cruel shell game government plays with veterans

This piece was first published on the Hill Times website on February 12, 2018.

The new Liberal plan for veterans is all about saving money, yet again, at the expense of veterans.

The more Canadians and veterans learn of the 2019 Liberal programs, the more the confusion and anger grow. How do we survive the dizzying daze induced by trying to understand veterans’ benefits?

First, let’s cut through the thick and misleading rhetoric.

The issue: Injured veterans receiving pre-April 2006 Pension Act benefits collect more in pain and suffering payments than fellow veterans receive under the post-April 2006 New Veterans Charter lump sum program. Veteran outcry prompted the Liberals to announce a completely revised program to come into effect April 2019.

Government talking points:  The New Veterans Charter and the April 2019 plan are superior because they offer more than just pain and suffering payments. They both provide medical and vocational rehabilitation, education, income loss, and medical care. The April 2019 plan claims to “re-establish” lifelong pensions.

The reality: All injured Canadian Forces veterans, under all three plans essentially have access to the same income loss, medical rehabilitation and care, as well as vocational rehabilitation and education (if not too disabled). … Read the rest

Liberals’ new ‘pension for life’ for veterans fails to live up to campaign promises

This piece was first published on the CBC website on January 2, 2018.

Canada’s military veterans who endure disabling injuries were hoping for a Christmas present: a fulfilment of the Liberal campaign promise to “re-establish lifelong pensions as an option for injured veterans.” Instead, the government merely resurrected ghosts of Christmases past with a hodgepodge of benefits that amount to recycled, remodeled and repackaged programs that already exist.

The proposed pension for life — which was promised as an alternative to the lump-sum payments introduced under the New Veterans Charter of 2006 — is a clear reduction of the lofty scheme that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau personally promised while he was campaigning.

Instead of the Liberal commitment of offering lifelong pensions for veterans applying for disability assistance after 2006, veterans will have to wait until April 2019 to choose between the existing lump sum and a new lifelong pension that, when all is said and done, will pay far less than one half of the pre-2006 pension.

Compensation for injuries

Some background first. When Canadian Forces members suffer disabling military injuries and are released from the Forces, Veterans Affairs Canada is legally obligated to provide both pain and suffering non-taxable compensation, as well as taxable compensation for lost income.… Read the rest

How Seamus O’Regan can do the right thing

This piece was first published in the Hill Times on September 4, 2017.

Removing Minister Kent Hehr from Veterans Affairs Canada was the right thing to do. The new minister, Seamus O’Regan, must do better.

Just six days prior, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau commemorated the calamitous losses Canadians suffered on the beaches of Dieppe 75 years ago. In the midst of a downpour, the prime minister folded his umbrella, noting that enduring rain is nothing compared to the bullets of war.

Such apparently unscripted compassion has been the hallmark of Trudeau’s repeated promises to make things right for Canada’s veterans. Sadly, nothing has meaningfully changed in the department mandated to care for them. Its persistent affliction: a profound cultural disconnection from veterans’ needs in the only federal department heaquartered outside of Ottawa—in Charlottetown, P.E.I.

The best Hehr could muster in his almost 22 months as minister was an unimaginative barrage of talking points written by an insensitive senior bureaucracy. When challenged by media or veterans, he was prone to outbursts of self-righteous parroting or to abruptly end town halls, hastily heading for the door.

One would expect that the tragic circumstances that led to Minister Hehr becoming a quadriplegic and his ensuing struggles would have engendered sympathy, compassion, and a sense of urgency to make real and substantive changes at Veterans Affairs.… Read the rest