Pat Stogran blames shock he felt over Ottawa's treatment of disabled soldiers
By Donna Carreiro, CBC News
Posted: Mar 5, 2013 6:35 AM CST
Last Updated: Mar 5, 2013 2:48 PM CST
Canada's former veterans affairs ombudsman is now being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder — a direct result, he says, of the shock he felt over Ottawa's treatment of disabled soldiers.
"The most traumatic experience that I had was the aftermath of my experience as veterans ombudsman," retired colonel Pat Stogran told CBC News.
"I find it very, very difficult to take the situation sitting down."
Stogran was shocked but not surprised to hear the stories that veterans have told CBC Radio as part of its special series, Battle Scars.
Some of those stories have been about veterans being denied treatment for PTSD and, in some cases, being denied disability pensions once they were released.
"Yeah, different time, different place, but same old story," Stogran said from his Ottawa home. "The system is an empty shell of treatment and services."
Back in 2007, the federal government hand-picked Stogran to act as a special adviser to the minister of veterans affairs.
Stogran, who had served in the military for more than 30 years, took that chance to advocate for better treatment of disabled soldiers, regardless of whether those injuries were physical or psychological.
Pension plan changes challenged
He specifically challenged the government on its revised disability pension plan. Prior to 2006, wounded veterans were compensated in lifelong monthly installments.
Now, they're paid one lump-sum installment — something that critics charge is penny-pinching and insufficient.
Stogran also advocated for better support and treatment for veterans suffering the injuries you can't see, like PTSD.
Again, he said, those pleas fell on deaf ears. By 2010, he was ousted from his job, he said.
Today, Stogran still advocates for disabled veterans. He says it's a matter of life and death.
Without federal support, more soldiers will commit suicide, he said, especially as Canada's troops return from Afghanistan in the next year.
"It shouldn't be a numbers game," he said.
"Does the government have a quota that they're going to fill before they react? We should be doing everything we can to stop that kind of a trend …. Let's not wait until the requisite number of suicides occur before they flick the switch."
In an email sent late Monday, Veterans Affairs Canada told CBC News it is helping more than 16,200 veterans with mental health conditions and their families.
A spokesman said the department conducts transition interviews with released Canadian Forces members, reservists and their families to "identify any potential challenges/barriers they may face in making a successful transition from military to civilian life" as well as highlight programs that could help.
Veterans Affairs Canada case managers and clinical care managers work with veterans with complex needs, including mental-health needs.
The department also has a suicide prevention framework and addiction strategy in place, the spokesman added.
"The range of benefits and services available to eligible veterans and their families from Veterans Affairs Canada are intended to reduce the burden of disabilities related to military service, thereby reducing the pressures that can lead to suicide," the department's email states in part.
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The Canadian Veterans Advocacy Team.