A class-action lawsuit to improve compensation for injured servicemen and women was filed in B.C. Supreme Court last week.
The application is for court approval of a class-action case on behalf of all disabled soldiers in Canada.
If approval is granted, the court would hear 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.
Jim Scott, chair of the White Rock-based Equitas Disabled Soldiers Funding Society, issued a written statement last Tuesday calling the court filing a regrettable, but necessary, course of action.
"Despite six years of dedicated advocacy by many veterans' organizations and individuals throughout Canada in favour of the restoration of proper disabled benefits (that were reduced or eliminated under the New Veterans Charter enacted in 2006) for injured Canadian Forces members, no concrete evidence has resulted to date of an acceptable political solution being possible out of Ottawa," Scott said.
The society maintains soldiers should receive the same kind of continuing disability benefits non-military federal and provincial government employees receive.
A 2011 Queen’s University study 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.
Scott took up the cause of veterans’ benefits after his 26-year-old son, Dan, was injured in action.
The younger Scott is one of six veterans whose stories are told in the filing to support the class action application.
As outlined in the court document filed Tuesday, Dan Scott was wounded Feb. 10, 2010 during his second tour of duty in Afghanistan as a result of the "negligence" of the officers conducting a training session with claymore mines.
When one C19 mine went off, it sent shrapnel in the wrong direction, toward the soldiers.
One soldier died.
Scott suffered multiple life-threatening injuries including the loss of his spleen, one kidney,and a collapsed left lung.
He was awarded a lump sum payment of $41,411.96.
The other five veterans have similar stories.
In every instance, the lawsuit maintains the soldiers should have been given continuing benefit payments to reflect the fact that they will have permanent medical problems.
In an email statement also issued Tuesday, lead Miller Thomson counsel Donald Sorochan said attempts to resolve the issue by discussions outside court have been exhausted.
"Therefore, to advance and protect the interests of our clients, this matter is being referred to the courts," Sorochan said.
If the lawsuit is certified by the court as a class action, Miller Thomson will invite additional Canadian Forces members to join the action.
Jim Scott established the Equitas foundation in 2011 to raise funds for a legal challenge of the legislation.
The Miller Thomson law firm has agreed to take the case on a pro bono basis without charging for its time, and the society has been fundraising to cover the cost of court fees and other expenses.
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 last Friday sold out in two weeks.
For more information about Equitas, visit www.equitassociety.ca
For more information about Miller Thomson, visit: www.millerthomson.com