On Sunday many of us will gather around cenotaphs and in city squares for solemn ceremonies paying tribute to Canada’s service men and women. We’ll hear words like sacrifice and honour, some of them uttered by politicians.
But for some veterans – and for Jim Scott, advocate and chair of White Rock-based Equitas Disabled Soldiers Funding Society – they’ll ring hollow.
In 2006, Parliament passed the New Veterans Charter that changed the way injured soldiers are compensated. Instead of a lifetime pension, indexed to inflation, most veterans injured after that year, or who had their injury diagnosed since then, would get a lump sump settlement.
Veterans Affairs champions the new system as “a more complete approach to helping our men and women injured in the line of duty,” offering them “real hope.”
But injured veterans say otherwise. They say Canadian soldiers injured in Afghanistan, and those suffering the lingering mental and emotional effects of their tour are getting substantially less support than they would have received with the former indexed pension.
Last week, Equitas filed a class-action lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court to improve compensation for disabled servicemen and women. Scott knows all about the situation for disabled veterans – his own son Dan, 26, was caught in a landmine explosion while serving in Afghanistan, and received a lump sum payment of just over $41,000 for injuries that included loss of his spleen, a kidney and a collapsed left lung.
A measure of support in this community is the fact that last week Jim Scott was awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal by Surrey-White Rock MLA Gordon Hogg, partly in recognition of his work on behalf of disabled veterans.
But support for the organization’s position can be found all across Canada.
A study by Queen’s University last year concluded most disabled soldiers will receive only two-thirds the compensation under the new charter than they would have from the old act.
Even in death, indignities continue. A program that is supposed to contribute just over $3,600 to the funeral costs for destitute ex-soldiers has rejected more than two-thirds of funding requests since 2006. Even when approved, that money is still less than some social services departments will pay towards the burial of the homeless.
It’s one thing for Canada’s politicians to honour our veterans. It’s another to treat them with honour.