A class-action lawsuit to improve compensation for injured servicemen and women will be filed by the end of this month, says Jim Scott, chair of the White Rock-based Equitas Disabled Soldiers Funding Society.
The B.C. Supreme Court case represents the start of a formal legal challenge of the federal government’s decision to alter the way wounded soldiers are compensated through paying lump-sum settlements instead of long-term benefits.
“We don’t have the capacity to take care of our severely disabled soldiers,” Scott told Peace Arch News last week.
Scott, a South Surrey resident, said the application is for court approval of a class-action case on behalf of all disabled soldiers in Canada.
It will argue the federal government unfairly reduced benefits for military personnel wounded after the law was changed in 2006 with the New Veterans Charter.
The society maintains soldiers should receive the same kind of continuing disability benefits non-military federal and provincial government employees receive.
A position paper released by the society in April of this year estimated some veterans will see their benefits cut by 90 per cent under the new regulations, which provide a lump-sum payment and continuing loss of wages benefits for some, but not all, disabled veterans.
That assessment is based on a 2011 Queen’s University study that found most disabled Canadian soldiers will only receive two-thirds of the compensation they could have received under the previous Pension Act.
Disabled reserve soldiers and partially disabled soldiers will receive even less, sometimes only 10 per cent of what other provincial worker compensation programs would provide.
“They have a very strong case,” Scott said.
Scott took up the cause of veterans’ benefits after his 26-year-old son, Dan, was injured in action during a tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2010.
Scott says his son, who survived his injuries and is recovering, was a member of a platoon of 40 soldiers that suffered a 25 per cent casualty rate of people killed or injured in the fighting.
“We can either help these kids or drop them,” Scott said.
In 2011, Scott established the Equitas foundation to raise funds for a legal challenge of the legislation.
The Miller Thomson law firm has agreed to take the case without charging for its time, and the society is fundraising to cover the cost of court fees and other expenses.
The seed money for the lawsuit was raised last year at an event at Hazelmere Golf Course.
Tickets for a second fundraiser at the same location on Nov. 2 sold out in two weeks.
“Last year, we were anticipating costs,” Scott said. “This year, we have costs for real.”
For more information about Equitas, visit www.equitassociety.ca