Welcome to PaulFranklin.ca
The official website of Paul Franklin: a father, veteran, activist, motivational speaker, and proud Canadian.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Why cant we simply have the same pension plan as Senators and MP's?

A wounded Canadian soldier from the NATO-led coalition crawls for cover seconds after his position was hit by a Taliban shell fired from an 82-millimeter recoilless rifle during an ambush in Zhari district of Kandahar province, southern Afghanistan, October 23, 2007… REUTERS/Finbarr O’Reilly  
Date: Tuesday Jul. 19, 2011 
OTTAWA — As thousands of Canadian soldiers adjust to home life after the battlefields of Kandahar, what looked like a flood of aid for the wounded among them and veterans of other wars is turning out to be only a trickle.

The Conservative government made a $2-billion promise last September to increase disability benefits, just as veterans' outrage began to boil over how survivors of past and present conflicts were being treated.   Support for the military is a key priority for Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government.

But the pledge was for the lifetime of the program, meaning the money is meant to last until the last veteran alive needs it.  Now, details are emerging about how much money current vets will actually see in their pockets.

A government analysis of regulatory impacts resulting from changes to the Veterans Charter says $129.9 million will be spent over 10 years for three elements of the new program.

One provides a monthly increase of $1,000 for the most seriously injured or ill veterans who are unable to work. A second program will increase financial support to all injured veterans who aren't working because they're in rehab or can't find work. A third will give soldiers the option of taking disability payments over time, as opposed to giving it to them in a lump sum.
The goal of the changes, in part, is to ensure that wounded veterans can meet basic needs. The changes seek to bring the minimum income for disabled veterans up to $40,000 a year -- $3,000 more than what Statistics Canada says is the low-income cut off.

A further $125 million has been earmarked over five years for additional enhancements that don't require regulatory adjustments, said a spokeswoman for Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney.

"Our government has taken steps to ensure veterans get the respect they deserve," Codie Taylor wrote in an email. "We have invested $2 billion to ensure the Department of Veterans Affairs meets the needs of our veterans and their families.  "Our government has set aside enough funds for the life of the program, not just for the short term. "The short-term cost of the program is $189.4 million over five years, officials say.

The changes coming in the next few months flow from the passage of the Enhanced New Veterans Charter Act, which received royal assent in March.

"The cost-benefit analysis demonstrates that the financial well-being of these Canadian Forces veterans will be improved to a point, which is likely to result in an overall increase in their subjective well-being," said the regulatory impact statement on the changes, published July 9 in the Canada Gazette.

Tracy and Cpl Bill Kerr (triple amputee) watch as wreaths are laid on Remembrance Day. Ontario lawyers moved by the stories of Canada’s wounded soldiers like Bill Kerr, say they’ll represent injured veterans for free.

But two of the elements are taxable, it noted.

"The regulations will therefore result in increased tax revenues of $40.4 million, which will benefit Canadians and the Canadian economy."

It also suggests that improving treatment of veterans may enhance Canada's international reputation.  That the aid enhancement isn't what it seems, at least in the short term, elicited a frustrated sigh from former veterans' ombudsman Pat Stogran, an outspoken critic of the current veterans' charter and the promised changes.  He called the $2-billion promise "smoke and mirrors."

"I find it all very demoralizing," he said.

"Thankfully it's not my kid who is suffering, thankfully it is not me who is suffering."

Sean Bruyea, a veteran whose battle with the government became a celebrated case after his confidential medical and financial information found its way into a minister's briefing notes, said the timing around posting the regulations was suspicious.

Sean Bruyea is every complacent politician's and senior bureaucrat's worst nightmare — a decorated former intelligence officer who, being disabled himself in the course of serving his country, was able to spend years studying the inner machinations of Veterans Affairs Canada.
As a journalist and former intelligence officer myself, it was no real surprise to discover that senior officials in the department of veterans affairs somehow accessed and discussed Bruyea's personal medical information — right up to the minister's office — without his knowledge or consent.

The original $2-billion pledge was made at a time when sustained criticism over how veterans were treated was about to become an issue of national public debate, but the announcement effectively silenced it, he said.

Posting these latest regulatory changes in the middle of summer does that all over again -- and follows a disturbing trend.  In 2005, the government announced over the Christmas holiday and during an election that it was switching to a lump-sum payment for disabilities, he said.

That decision is still a major sore point among veterans, and one they had hoped would be addressed in the latest changes but was still not resolved to their satisfaction.

"They're doing this in the middle of summer so that no one can respond to these," Bruyea said.

Cpl. Ryan Elrick, a Canadian soldier who lost his legs in Afghanistan, is taking the federal government to court, saying the policy known as Universality of Service is discriminatory and unconstitutional. Elrick spent three years training as an intelligence officer following his wounding but has since been discharged from the military due to the policy, which states that all soldiers must be able to go into combat.

"These are bureaucrats that absolutely want to do everything possible to deny veterans a say in what their destiny is."  Blaney's spokeswoman said the regulations were posted over the summer because the Act only received royal assent in the spring, and the government wanted to move ahead with the process as quickly as possible so that veterans could take advantage of the program.

No comments:

Post a Comment