MANITOULIN—A local representative of the War Pensioners of Canada (WPC) agrees wholeheartedly with the War Amps of Canada/National Council of Veteran Associations (NCVA) contention that the federal government has failed to live up to its commitment to fix the New Veterans Charter and has ignored the elephant in the room overshadowing the discussion.
Brian N. Forbes, chairman of the executive committee of The War Amps and chairman of NCVA, stated that it is fundamentally essential at this time that the government recognize that much more is required to improve the New Veterans Charter, with particular emphasis on resolving the significant disparity between the financial compensation available under the Pension Act and the New Veterans Charter and ensuring that no veteran under the New Veterans Charter receives less compensation than a veteran under the Pension Act with the same disability or incapacity, in accordance with the one veteran-one standard principle.
“It is totally unacceptable that we have veterans’ legislation in Canada which provides a significantly higher level of compensation to a veteran who was injured prior to 2006 (the date of the enactment of the New Veterans Charter), when compared to a veteran who was injured post-2006. If applied to the Afghan conflict, we have veterans in the same war with totally different pension benefit results,” said Mr. Forbes.
“I couldn’t agree more with the War Amps of Canada/National Council of Veterans Associations,” stated local war pensioners rep Colin Pick. “It is because of the bureaucrat penny pinching that many of our veterans are in the position they are in. Many veterans have been screwed financially because of the will of the government of the day.”
“The government has failed to live up to its commitments,” alleged Mr. Pick. “The new Charter has to accommodate veterans who have a disability with lifelong pensions.”
Mr. Pick explained the WPC, “has been fighting this since 2006.”
It was the expectation of the veteran’s community that with the election of the Liberal government in 2015, the inequity would be rectified, based on promises made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the election campaign.
“It was disappointing that the federal budgetary announcement made earlier this year essentially “kicked the can down the road” on this fundamental dilemma, promising a solution by the end of this year,” said Mr. Forbes. “Veterans are losing faith that the government will fulfill its responsibility and eliminate the two distinct classes of benefits available to disabled Canadian Armed Forces members.”
The War Amps and NCVA take the position that this is a critical juncture for the new Defence Minister, Seamus O’Regan, who has inherited a career-defining problem which cries out for immediate resolution.
“There is no reason that the federal government cannot implement the recommendations made by veteran’s stakeholders and ministerial advisory groups, who have been pushing specific proposals for a number of years to address self-evident gaps and inequities in the New Veterans Charter,” Mr. Forbes added.
The War Amps and NCVA contend that, through the utilization of the best parts of the Pension Act and the best parts of the New Veterans Charter, a pension benefit model can be created which removes the inequality which currently exists.
“If the one veteran-one standard philosophy advocated by Veterans Affairs Canada has any meaning, this glaring disparity requires the government to seize the moment and satisfy the financial needs of Canadian veterans and their dependants,” Mr. Forbes said.
Mark Campbell and Aaron Bedard, two of the six injured veterans who launched a lawsuit against the government five years ago known as Equitas, are demanding that disabled veterans who were discharged after 2006, when the New Veterans Charter took effect, receive compensation equivalent to that which was awarded under the old pension act. In particular, they want to receive the lifetime pensions Prime Minister Justin Trudeau campaigned on in 2015, promising to bring back the lifetime pensions—that commitment has yet to be fulfilled.
The most recent federal budget promised lifetime pensions would be offered to disabled veterans before the end of this year. However, Mr. Campbell said his recent meetings with government officials gave him little assurance this would take place.