Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the
round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're
not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify
them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change
things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the
crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that
they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Steve Jobs
US computer engineer & industrialist (1955 - 2011)

Friday, May 20, 2016

Veterans Liberally Betrayed

                                               Kent Hehr, Liberal Minister of Veterans Affairs

As an injured vet I was really hoping against hope that the Liberals would live up to their promises made toward injured veterans during the election. Hope against hope. Fighting that inner voice that warned of disappointment after disappointment with politicians associated with Veterans Affairs - and in many cases the department itself. A vast bureaucracy that eats so much money that it would probably be cheaper to give every seriously injured vet a million dollars - it would cost far less and be far quicker - and just get rid of the department. Wishful thinking I know, but you have to go through the process of trying to deal with Veterans Affairs to understand the hell it is to deal with. It is not uncommon, according to studies, that some vets actually get PTSD, or severely acerbated cases of it, by simply dealing with Veterans Affairs for periods of 5-9 years simply to be looked after from their injuries.

So, the Liberals got in and made a big splash in their first budget about everything they would do for vets. They increased the Income Loss Replacement program from 75% to 90%. That's a monthly payment program to fund injured vets who can't work due to their injuries. Up until now the monthly payment has been based on a basic Corporal's pay. When they increased from 75-90% they reduced the basic payment to that of a senior Private. That's pretty hard for a guy like me to wrap my mind around considering I was a Captain - Major qualified - when I left. Getting paid as a Private is a wee bit of a demotion. Beyond the personal though, the Income Loss Replacement program is essentially all that is left of a "disability-like pension" that's there for vets anymore. It's only like a disability pension in that it is all you can receive as a monthly benefit anymore - there is no disability pension for us. A major difference: disability pensions are tax free, as are workers compensation programs. Not so for us broken soldiers. We pay tax on that monthly payment - a lot of tax. That was one of the issues that the lawyer for the six Afghan veterans suing Veterans Affairs was fighting for. That leads us to the latest betrayal of vets by this rather new Liberal government.

The Liberals promised to recognize the social contract the country had with those of us injured by our service. They were outraged and indignant that the Conservatives were denying a social contract existed with the veterans and their country during that lawsuit. Former Minister Erin O'Toole, Tory, a veteran himself, managed to have the lawsuit put on ice for a year to negotiate a settlement that would see these serious veterans issues addressed with honour. There was some optimism. However, for what ever reason, O'Toole did not reach an agreement with the vets and their lawyer before the election. The Tories lost, and the Liberals promised to fix it. They even passed an all party resolution in the House of Commons that recognized the social contract between the country and their injured soldiers. Things appeared to be going as they should be. There was calm in veteran land - so to speak. Then came this week.

There is no greater betrayal than the betrayal of hope. Veterans watched in horror and dismay as the new veterans minister threw us to the wolves by resuming the lawsuit in the BC Court. Now, as if a bad nightmare has been revisited, Hehr is using the very same argument in court - that there is no social contract between Canada and it's fallen and injured troops. It is a cut so deep for an injured veteran that it's hard to describe. It strips us of the dignity and honour of our service. It says we owe you nothing. You will get the crumbs we feel you deserve, when we deem it, and as much as we deem. You will be greatful. A soldier by definition has to be a proud person. Pride is drilled into you, and so is honour. You associate that with your comrades, your unit, your country and even yourself. Hehr, and his boss Trudeau, have just ripped that from us yet again. It hurts deeply and it is unforgiveable. To know betrayal you must have your Prime Minister and your national government stick the cold steel blade of political betrayal into your heart. That is what Hehr and Trudeau have done. They have Liberally betrayed us.

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