Canadian Veterans Advocacy

Friday, January 30, 2015

New announcement: Few details on O'Toole's response to veterans charter recommendations

Few details on O'Toole's response to veterans charter recommendations

David Pugliese More from David Pugliese
Published on: January 30, 2015Last Updated: January 30, 2015 8:32 PM EST

New Veterans Affairs Minister Erin O'Toole failed his first test in convincing the country's former soldiers that things would be different under his watch, says a veterans' advocate and an opposition MP.

O'Toole was supposed to provide an update Friday on how the government was responding to recommendations put forth by the Commons Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs in June. Those recommendations, supported by the Conservative, Liberal and NDP MPs on the committee, focused on how to improve the situation for Canada's retired military personnel by making changes to the controversial New Veterans Charter.

O'Toole didn't provide a progress report. In a response Friday evening, his spokeswoman Kayleigh Kanoza said that "it was submitted" to the clerk of the Commons committee on Friday. She provided no other details.

There were 13 recommendations on how to make improvements to the charter. Those ranged from increasing the disability award provided to veterans to improving how injured soldiers are handled by the bureaucracy. The 14th recommendation was to produce a response by Jan. 30, 2015, on the progress that had been made.

"He failed already," said Mike Blais, an injured veteran and president of Canadian Veterans Advocacy. "It's not a very good start."

The Royal Canadian Legion did not respond to a request for comment.

But Liberal veterans affairs critic Frank Valeriote said O'Toole not only failed but his actions showed contempt for veterans. "All he had to do was update us on what the government was doing with the recommendations and he couldn't even do that," said Valeriote. "It's business as usual for this government."

The New Veterans Charter has prompted anger among younger veterans who complain it provides fewer benefits than those offered to military personnel who fought in previous wars.

Valeriote said O'Toole is acting no differently than former minister Julian Fantino, who was disliked by some in the veterans' community because of how he dealt with former soldiers.

O'Toole declined an interview with the Citizen.

The recommendations from the Commons committee are not binding on the government, which had asked the committee to examine the charter.

The government's request came after a group of injured Afghan veterans filed a class-action lawsuit arguing that the New Veterans Charter violated their Charter rights since it removed lifetime disability payments for injured military personnel. The veterans charter replaced that with a lump sum payment.

It was revealed earlier this week the Conservative government has spent almost $700,000 in legal bills fighting the disabled Afghan veterans in court.

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The Canadian Veterans Advocacy Team.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

New announcement: Canadian forces major tells story of mental illness publicly for first time

Canadian forces major tells story of mental illness publicly for first time

By Trevor Greenway

Major. Réjean Richard spent two decades hiding from the stigma of mental illness.

He spent months in his basement, having up to seven intense anxiety attacks a day that left him unable to sleep, unable to work and incapable of being a major in the Canadian Military. He hid his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from his wife, his grown kids and even to this day, his parents.

Richard told his story Wednesday – the first time ever publicly – about how he was able to muster the courage to ask for help. He knew he was risking his entire career and rank going for help, but it saved his life.

"For me, it was either going to seek treatment or committing suicide and I couldn't do that to my wife of my parents," Richard told Metro following a Bell Let's Talk panel discussion on mental health at National Defense headquarters Wednesday morning.

"If I could do it all over again, I would have sought treatment in the mid 1990s because then I wouldn't have had to suffer in silence. I feel fantastic now."

Admitting you need mental help for a rough and tough military officer is as hard as fighting a war, added Richard, who served in Somalia, Bosnia, Haiti and Afghanistan during his 30-year career.

The stigma that comes with it is close to unbearable. But another major reason Richard hid his illness from everyone was because he knew disclosing it would threaten his career. And it did.

Richard can never again be promoted in the military. If he was younger, he would have had a chance to reverse his medical category, but he knows as well as anyone that he cannot be deployed to combat situations because it may trigger his PTSD.

But for younger soldiers, Richard urges them to get help now.

The process gives soldiers a three-year retention period, so they can seek help and get back to work. If they are healthy enough, they can reverse their medical category and begin working their way up the ranks again.

But if a soldier is still sick after three years, he or she will be medically discharged. That is almost what happened to Richard. He was set to be discharged next month, but his health has come full circle and he is back at work full-time, but in a limited role.

"What I tell soldiers now is to be optimistic and get the treatment now and that will probably salvage their career if they want to remain in the forces."

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The Canadian Veterans Advocacy Team.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

List of all Pensionable condition (VAC) - Liste de toute condition pensionné de ACC

List of all Pensionable condition  (VAC) - Liste de toute condition pensionnĂ© de ACC

You will need to register to get access to this information.

The Canadian Veterans Advocacy Team.

List of all Pensionable condition (VAC) - Liste de toute condition pensionné de ACC

List of all Pensionable condition (VAC) - Liste de toute condition pensionné de ACC You will need to register to get access to this information. More importantly, this is the kind of information the ATIP Request team will be able to get. This is much valuable information, which is not avail on VAC web site unfortunately. Regards, The Canadian Veterans Advocacy Team.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Erin O'Toole's new job Will Julian Fantino's removal as minister fix the problems at Veterans Affairs?

Erin O'Toole's new job
Will Julian Fantino's removal as minister fix the problems at Veterans Affairs?

The Canadian Veterans Advocacy Team.

Fantino OUT At Veterans Affairs: Report

Fantino OUT At Veterans Affairs: Report

The Canadian Veterans Advocacy Team.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

New announcement: Liberals hope to escape past, chart new future with military candidates

Liberals hope to escape past, chart new future with military candidates

Lee Berthiaume More from Lee Berthiaume
Published on: January 4, 2015Last Updated: January 4, 2015 6:17 PM EST

Justin Trudeau's Liberals are hoping to capitalize on the cracks that have appeared in the Conservatives' pro-military image, especially when it comes to veterans.

To accomplish that goal, the Liberals will have a number of former and currently serving military members running under their banner, including retired lieutenant-general Andrew Leslie and Lt.-Col. Harjit Sajjan, the first Sikh to command a Canadian Army regiment.

"I would suspect we represent a bit of a threat to Mr. Harper's ground, which he's tried to claim as being supportive of the Canadian Forces and veterans," Leslie said. "Of course, we don't actually have to say or do anything. The Conservatives are digging themselves into all sorts of trouble."

The question is whether the Liberals can escape the party's own checkered past and redefine its relationship with the military to take advantage of what appears to be growing discontent with the Conservatives among many of those who have served in uniform.

The Conservatives' troubles started in January when they triggered a mini-uprising by some former military personnel by closing several Veterans Affairs offices. There was also anger over layoffs and the department returning more than $1 billion to the federal treasury since 2006.

In addition, Auditor General Michael Ferguson released a stinging report on wait times for mental health services in November, while the government was accused of trickery after it was revealed $200 million in new funding for mental health services was to be spread out over 50 years.

Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino's abrasive nature has only made matters worse, as he was captured on camera arguing with veterans in January and then being chased down a hallway by the wife of a veteran suffering from PTSD in June.

In a recent roundtable interview with the Citizen, several Liberal candidates with previous military experience were scathing in their assessment of how the Conservative government has treated veterans.

David MacLeod served 27 years in the Canadian Army until he was medically released in 2010 due to chronic pain in his left leg, which was shot in a training accident in 1991. A former card-carrying Conservative, MacLeod faces the tall task of beating Justice Minister Peter MacKay.

"When I was released, what I found was that there was a great deal of bureaucracy and a great deal of pushback with my application," said MacLeod, who has also worked with several veterans' groups since leaving the military.

He is also on his third case manager. One was burnt out from having too many cases, he says, while another was essentially fired when she refused to transfer to Halifax because the government had shuttered the Veterans Affairs office in Sydney.

"Many veterans are facing the exact same challenges," MacLeod said. "The bureaucratic processes that are part of this are starting to fall apart because of the cuts, and it's the front line cuts that are having the biggest, biggest impact on veterans."

Marc Miller served as an army reservist from 1990 to 1994. Now he is a lawyer running for the Liberals in the newly created Montreal riding of Ville Marie. He said there is an essential bond of trust between veterans and the government, which has been damaged.

"No person serving in the military ever thinks about getting injured," Miller said. "They get in there wanting to serve. But when they are injured, Canadians in turn owe them that duty. When that's broken, it's very difficult to repair."

A former Canadian Army commander who is now running for the Liberals in Orléans, Leslie said there are "lots of voices which are now crying out for some sort of redress to the current veterans situation."

"Why Mr. Harper has chosen to declare war on veterans, against people who have fought for their nation," Leslie said, "and why he refuses to treat veterans with the dignity and the respect and the resources they've earned is beyond me."

The Liberals are hoping to convince Canadians, particularly disaffected veterans, that they are best placed to undo the damage and fulfil that duty. But it may take more than platitudes to convince veterans as well as serving military members to vote Liberal.

You can currently count the number of Liberal MPs with military experience on two fingers.

Marc Garneau served in the navy for 15 years, rising to the rank of captain before his career as an astronaut forced him to leave in 1989. Kevin Lamoureux spent three years in uniform in the 1980s as an air traffic controller until he was elected to Manitoba's Legislative Assembly.

Contrast that with the seven former Canadian Forces members currently serving as Conservative MPs, including retired brigadier-general Gordon O'Connor and retired lieutenant-colonels Laurie Hawn, Pierre Lemieux and Ted Opitz.

Even the NDP boast more veterans in their caucus, with Alex Atamanenko, Christine Moore and Jean-Francois Larose having all spent several years in uniform.

Many current and former Canadian Forces members have vivid memories of the belt-tightening that occurred within the military during the so-called Decade of Darkness in the 1990s, when Jean Chrétien's Liberal government slashed the military to cut spending and balance the books.

In a recent interview, Conservative MP Erin O'Toole said the Liberal government "neglected" the military, and he questioned why anyone who has served in uniform would run for the party.

"All of these people, in one way or another, served during the '90s," he said of the current crop of Liberal candidates with military experience.

"They're going to have to come to terms with the fact that they're joining a party that historically has not considered the Canadian Forces as important to our country and our foreign policy and our domestic security situation as Conservative governments have."

Former lieutenant-colonel Karen McCrimmon, who is running in the Ottawa-area riding of Carleton-Mississippi Mills, said Chrétien had no choice but to cut to protect the economy.

"Our credit rating as a country, it was seriously endangering our future," she said. "Did we make some sacrifices in the '90s? Yes we did. But there was an objective. It was short-term pain for long-term gain."

The Liberal candidates also note it was Pierre Trudeau who started the ball rolling on buying CF-18s and other equipment for the military in the 1970s and '80s, and that Paul Martin injected billions of new dollars into the Canadian Forces when he was prime minister.

They argue that rhetoric aside, the Conservatives' own record is far from flawless, not just when it comes to veterans, but the military as well. For example, billions of dollars in budget cuts and significant problems with a number of military procurements are putting significant pressure on the Canadian Forces.

"There is what we call a 'say-do gap' with this government," McCrimmon said. "Oh, they talk a good story. But what do they actually do? What new equipment is actually showing up there?"

Yet it's not completely clear what the Liberals will do differently when it comes to veterans or the military, aside from reopening the nine Veterans Affairs offices the government closed.

The party has pledged to "ensure that no veteran will have to fight the government for the treatment and compensation they have earned by putting their lives on the line for this country." Exactly how they will do that hasn't been explained.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has also said little about how he will fulfil that pledge or about his plans for the Canadian Forces, aside from saying Canada should have focused on humanitarian aid to Iraq rather than "whipping out our CF-18s."

Leslie, who in addition to running in Orléans is also one of Trudeau's foreign and military advisers, would not comment on what the Liberal leader plans to do. He did note the Liberals plan to scrap the Conservatives' income-splitting plan, which would free up $2 billion per year.

"That is crying out for re-allocation," Leslie said, "especially when the argument … is the current income-splitting plan is essentially being paid for on the backs of veterans and the troops, the sailors and the aircrew."

However, the idea the Liberals would reinvest the money into Veterans Affairs and National Defence rather than some type of voter-friendly social program seems unlikely at best.

Sajjan did one tour in Bosnia and three in Afghanistan, including one in 2006 in which four of his soldiers were killed during two weeks of fierce fighting with the Taliban. He suggested the most important thing is just having input when the tough decisions are being made.

"Soldiers out of the woodworks are calling and sending Facebook messages and saying, 'Way to go. You're experience will be needed,'" Sajjan said. "It's not about the party. It's because they know you'll have a voice, because you've earned that trust in some very difficult situations."

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The Canadian Veterans Advocacy Team.

Friday, January 2, 2015

New announcement: 2014: The Year Canadians Saw VAC's Mistreatment of Veterans

2014: The Year Canadians Saw VAC's Mistreatment of Veterans

Jeff Rose-Martland Become a fan

Author, Citizen Advocate

The news articles contains many hyperlink, please visit this link

2014 will go down as the year in which Canadians -- all Canadians -- truly became aware of the debacle that is Veterans Affairs. It was the year in which pictures spoke, in which talking points failed, and in which government reports were actually read. It was the year that Conservative misdirection drove increased awareness instead, thanks to Julian Fantino.

From the start of his ministry, Minister Fantino has been a distraction. He declared himself a veteran, despite never having served in the Forces or RCMP, offending those who did. Julian's outrageously disrespectful attitude this year has had veterans demanding his resignation, removal, or head. This works out well for the Conservatives. With veterans and supporters focused on a single person, the Harper Government can keep doing what it does best: ignoring Canadians. As long as dear sweet Julian is at the helm, he gets the blame and Harper gets a pass. At least, that's the theory.

But Minister Fantino has served another purpose equally well: raising awareness. Various advocates have been working for years to explain to Canadians how badly veterans are treated. That's no easy task because many of the issues are complicated, bureaucratic, and, frankly, boring to read. Then along comes bungling, offensive, incompetent Fantino. No one needs an explanation of how the Harper Government holds veterans in contempt; you just need the video clip of the Minister yelling at decorated war heroes. You don't need a complex outline of how the Ministry refuses to address veterans; you just need to see the Minister running away from a veteran's wife. And you only have to notice that people like Parm Gill, Erin O'Toole, Laurie Hawn, and Ashlee Smith (Fantino's spokesperson) are fielding questions about VAC, and Julian Fantino isn't, to realize that the Minister is not responsible.

But lest we all fall victim to this great distraction, here's a few of the low points from 2014:

2014 rang in with despair after a series of suicides by still-serving veterans made headlines. The highest profile death was that of Corporal Leona MacEachern, who drove headlong into a transport truck on Christmas Day. On the 9th of January, her husband released a scathing indictment of Veterans Affairs. The issue of veterans suicide had been forecast to become epidemic, and in 2014 the number Afghanistan lost to suicide exceeded the total lost in battle. Last January, faced with mounting suicides and a government refusing to acknowledge there even was a problem, veterans themselves set up their own crisis hotline -- staffed by veterans.

Spring saw a series of consultations on the New Veterans Charter. Harper Government representatives on the panel concerned themselves more with the political views of veteran advocates than with any suggestions they had. The final report was submitted to the Commons with a series of strongly-worded recommendations; the third submission for many of them. Nevertheless, and despite taking the full three months allowed to respond, the Minister largely declared that the recommendations required still further study, and no action was taken on them. Incidentally, in a bizarre case of spin, Julian Fantino continues to claim credit for ordering the review... despite the fact that the Harper Government had nearly violated the Charter itself by delaying so long.

August had the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman reporting that over 50% of Canada's disabled veterans were not in receipt of benefits. Reasons offered were that the applications were difficult, and the appeal process so arduous, that many veterans simply abandoned the process.

A Sunday in late November found Fantino announcing a massive veterans' initiative: $200 million for mental health support and new clinics. Then he flew to Italy. Then we found out that that $200 million was to be spent over as much as 50 years and also included the infrastructure costs of setting up eight offices. By the way, there are nearly a million veterans of the Forces and RCMP spread out across Canada. You do the math on how much support that works out to.

A few days later, the Auditor General released is report on Veterans Affairs. The impartial review was another scathing indictment of VAC and fully supported what advocates have been saying for years: that it was too hard for veterans to access their entitlements; that the process was cumbersome and bureaucratic; that the department was bogged down in directives; and that the cycle of reject-reapply-reject-appeal forces veterans to stop in despair.

That appeal times can run from 10-15 years. That the Veterans Review and Appeal Board is not acting as it should, not adhering to legislation, not even equitably applying policy across cases. The AG report supported the claims of bureaucratic mistreatment made by veterans. But in a stunning display of contempt, Minister Fantino was "unavailable" to respond to the AG Report, and left his office staff to field questions. Fantino was in Italy to commemorate the WWII Italian Campaign. He also visited the graves of the dead Canadian soldiers; many of which, according to the AG, were neglected by Veterans Affairs.

But the biggest scandal of all, the one Harper will be ducking and dodging right into the election, is this easily understood item: Veterans Affairs returned $1.13 billion to Treasury Board. Stephen Harper would have us believe that this is a standard accounting measure. Canadians are not that stupid. Veterans Affairs is under constant cuts and claw backs. VAC offices were closed, staff terminated, programs slashed, due to a lack of funds. Yet there was money in the VAC coffers all along. 1.13 Billion.

We found that out shortly after the Harper Government announced a $1.9 Billion surplus.

You do the math.

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The Canadian Veterans Advocacy Team.

2015 Pension / Award / EIA / Attendance / Clothing / ELB / PIA

Permanent Impairment Allowance
Grade Amount
1 $1,753.97
2 $1,169.33
3 $584.66
The PIA supplement is $1,074.93.

War Veterans Allowance
Maximum per month
Single/Survivor Single/Survivor Blind Married Married (both blind) Additional amount for each dependent child Orphan
$1,441.98 $1,498.40 $2,186.99 $2,243.20 $241.01 $722.21

Death Benefit
The death benefit is a one-time, tax-free amount of $306,698.21 paid to a spouse or common-law partner and any dependent children if a CAF member dies while in service.

Canadian Forces Income Support
Maximum per month
Veteran or Survivor Veteran with Spouse/Partner Additional amount for each dependent child Orphan
$1,441.98 $2,186.98 $336.93 $722.21

Earnings Loss Benefit
This income replacement provides 75% of your gross pre-release military salary while you are participating in Rehabilitation services. This ensures a pre-tax income of at least $42,426 per year (with the exception of some reservists).

For the Pension and Award Rates, please clikc on the link:;topicseen#msg16243

The Canadian Veterans Advocacy Team.