The New Veterans Charter (NVC) and the SISIP clawback issue are among the many points of contention that veterans have with the Conservative government. Conservative MP and former fighter pilot Laurie Hawn sees himself as the champion of veterans and has views on both topics. This is a passage from a larger email Mr. Hawn sent to a veteran. Here is what he writes:
"The whole package of benefits under the NVC is an improvement over the old Pension Act and even Peter Stoffer admits that. The supposed issues from Bill C-201 and C-215 were and are bogus. Manuge, etc. won on the SISIP clawback issue, because I and others worked hard to convince the PM to not appeal; even though the courts were ruling on emotion and not the law. We have done more and we will continue to do more with people of good faith."
So that is what Mr. Hawn has to say about that.
And from the archives there is this letter written by Donna Campbell and published in the Edmonton Journal on Nov. 30, 2013. It outlines the views that a veteran's family has on the above topics and Mr. Hawn's previous statements on them:
As the wife of a seriously disabled veteran, I can tell you that MP Laurie Hawn is not giving you all the facts.
In his letter to the Journal on Nov. 15, Hawn says disabled soldiers can receive up to $548,000 in lump sums.
Yes, they can, but what he isn't telling you is he is combining the maximum settlements of two totally different awards; a lump sum through the new veterans charter and a group insurance plan settlement.
The fact is in April 2006, the Canadian government imposed a new disability compensation scheme on all its Armed Forces as part of its new veterans charter.
This replaced tax-free, lifelong, monthly medical pensions with a paltry one-time lump-sum payment that is a fraction of civil injury settlements.
At the same time, Veterans Affairs unilaterally ceased all tax-free benefits formerly provided to disabled veterans and their families.
All veterans disabled since 2006 are financially disadvantaged compared with their peers receiving a medical pension. Many will experience financial difficulty until the federal government enacts the more than 200 internal recommendations that Veterans Affairs has been sitting on since late 2010.
Years of government inaction has forced six seriously disabled veterans to launch a class-action lawsuit against the federal government. The suit is based on Section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees all Canadians equal protection under the law … except disabled veterans?
Canada's new generation of disabled combat veterans want nothing more than fair compensation for their physical and psychological sacrifices in the service of Canada.
The class-action lawsuit is aimed at changing the way disability settlements are "awarded" to our veterans victimized by the veterans charter and to challenge Veteran Affairs' withdrawal of all tax-free benefits.
The lump-sum component of the veterans charter is supposed to compensate the disabled veteran for a lifetime of pain and suffering. There is no financial "award" for the actual loss of limbs and other equally devastating injuries.
Under the charter, veterans receive a monthly income support only if they are incapable of gainful employment.
The so-called "earnings loss benefit" is nothing more than the Service Income Security Insurance Plan's (SISIP) long-term disability coverage that all full-time soldiers must purchase as a condition of employment.
That long-term disability coverage guarantees replacement income if a serving member is released from the Canadian Forces after becoming totally disabled (up to age 65).
The plan guarantees 75 per cent (taxed) of the income the veterans were receiving when they were forced to leave the military. Because SISIP is an insurance plan, all other earnings are clawed back – including any military pension the disabled veteran has earned.
As a result of taxation on the veterans charter's 75-percent income replacement, our new disabled veterans are the only class of citizen guaranteed to have a lower income and standard of living as the direct result of a workplace injury, let alone a catastrophic disability incurred in serving Canada.
Veterans Affairs' mandate is to provide services and benefits that respond to the needs of veterans and their families, in recognition of their service to Canada.
The government is failing in its moral and ethical obligation to some of the most vulnerable members of our society – Canada's new generation of disabled veteran.
Donna Campbell lives with her husband, a disabled veteran, in Sturgeon County.
The Canadian Veterans Advocacy Team.