COMMENT: Our veterans deserve the best of benefits
There is a fair amount of debate today about Canada’s role in the world and the role that our military continues to play. Many feel that Canada should be returning to a peacekeeping role, while others feel that the current direction is more appropriate in today’s world. Regardless of how we feel about this issue, I firmly believe that we must do our utmost as a society to look after those men and women and their families who have chosen to serve in our Armed Forces. This includes giving them the very best support when they return from combat or retire from active service. In this Remembrance Day column I would like to share some thoughts of my colleague, Peter Stoffer, a passionate advocate for veterans for many years.
“It is important for us to remember because those who went to war will never forget. We need to ensure that the men and women who served, and their families, have the best of resources to meet their needs over the course of their lifetime – from the moment they sign up to the moment they pass away.
New Democrats are leading the way with practical proposals to improve the care of our military and RCMP veterans and their families. For many years we have proposed the following: end the clawback of retired and disabled CF and RCMP service pensions, expand the Veterans Independence Program to all veterans including widows and the RCMP, and grant veterans’ ‘marriage after 60’ pension and health benefits. We continue to press for a public inquiry into CFB Gagetown defoliant spraying, long-term care for all veterans, and the elimination of the politically appointed Veterans Review and Appeal Board. We are pushing for reforms to the New Veterans Charter, an increase for funeral expenses, action on veterans’ homelessness, and better care for those suffering from PTSD. We advocate for a system thatwill evolve with the changing health care needs of veterans and that will treat all veterans equally.
Veterans should not have to fight the government in court to get the benefits they need. If Dennis Manuge of Musquodoboit Harbour, Nova Scotia, had not launched a class action lawsuit against the federal government over the clawback of injured Canadian Forces veterans’ disability pensions (SISIP), the issue would likely still be unresolved. It is outrageous that the federal government spent over $750,000 to fight these injured veterans in court. We also know that the federal government has not settled with RCMP disabled veterans in a case that mirrors the SISIP issue and the RCMP have now filed their own class action to end the unfair deductions from their long term disability payments. As well, veterans exposed to chemical spraying at CFB Gagetown, veterans subjected to atomic weapon testing, and veterans unhappy with the New Veterans Charter lump sum payments may plan to launch class action lawsuits against this government to try to get the benefits they deserve.”
In addition to Peter’s comments I would to say that, since being elected to Parliament, I have observed how some military personnel need to fight with the current government to receive the benefits they justly deserve. I remember one case of a woman from Ontario who had to go public to finally shame those in authority to ensure that her son, suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), would receive adequate treatment. It seems ironic that a government that finds enough resources to send our soldiers into combat often lacks the resources to assist them when they return.
Therefore, as we take time to reflect on the sacrifices that Canadians have made for our country, let us also do everything in our power to ensure that our veterans have the very best support available through their benefits. They deserve it.
Alex Atamanenko is the MP for BC Southern Interior.