``CANADIAN VETERANS ADVOCACY RESPONDS TO FEDERAL BUDGET``
OTTAWA – After weeks of negative comments and adverse reactions from veterans of all eras regarding Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino`s boorish behaviour to Canadian veterans on January 28th, we are saddened to note that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty ignored an opportunity to sincerely make amends with the veterans community, in particular, the thousands of veterans across Canada who are negatively affected by the recent district office closures.
``The fact that there was nothing substantial for veterans in the Budget is extremely disappointing``, said Jerry Kovacs, a Director with Canadian Veterans Advocacy (CVA). ``The reality is that the Harper Government doesn't care about Canadian veterans and their families. They say they have increased spending without acknowledging the fact that 150 valiant Canadians died and more than 2,000 were injured during the Harper Government`s stewardship of the war."
Michael L Blais CD, President and founder of the CVA, expressed bitter disappointment that none of the major issues confronting veterans and their families were addressed in the Budget. Mr. Blais said: "I find it unconscionable that with the high level of pain and suffering that Canada's sons and daughters are experiencing as a consequence of the Afghanistan war, the war in former Yugoslavia and in Africa, that this government would give more funding for snowmobile trails than for the care of veterans."
Blais cited as examples the plight of thousands of seriously disabled veterans on the VAC Earnings Loss Replacement program or War Pensioner Allowance who for years had their awards unlawfully offset by the amount of their pain and suffering awards.
"Why have these disabled veterans not been given the same retroactivity obligation as was accorded to those on the SISIP Program? Why does this budget not provide the mechanism to ensure that the monies taken away from them are returned? Why does this government continue to ignore their pleas for help?" asked Mike Blais.
Mike Bais cited grave concerns that the monies allocated to the Last Post Burial Fund will not be delivered and the 66% refusal rate of applications will be only marginally change. Two thirds of all applicants in the past have been refused. In addition, neither Mr. Blais nor Mr. Kovacs are confident that Bill C-11, the ``priority hiring`` bill for injured veterans (not passed by Parliament) will have any impact under the current regime's fiscal austerity programs and continuing efforts to downsize the public service. "This will just be another headline without substance", Blais said.
``This Budget was extremely disappointing for veterans of all eras", said Kovacs. ``It`s obvious that Julian Fantino has very little influence in Cabinet and/or is not standing up for the rights of veterans and their families. He says he cares, but it`s obvious he can`t persuade the Prime Minister or Finance Minister to make the important decisions that `support and honor` the sacrifice of the wounded. Tuesday was a very sad day for veterans. It was worse than we expected.``
CONTACT: Mike Blais (905) 357-3306 or Jerry Kovacs (613) 915-1516
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The Canadian Veterans Advocacy Team.