Canadian Veterans Advocacy

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New announcement: What is PTSD? (Whiteboard Video)

What is PTSD? (Whiteboard Video)

Evidence-based" Treatment: What Does It Mean?

PTSD Treatment: Know Your Options

Prolonged Exposure for PTSD

Cognitive Processing Therapy for PTSD

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The Canadian Veterans Advocacy Team.

New announcement: SITREP - With Pat Stogran

Submit a Report

The Colonel would like to interview people on the front lines, Canadians who can speak about topical issues first person singular: I – Me – My – Mine

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Saturday, December 27, 2014

New announcement: Veterans story being misrepresented

Veterans story being misrepresented

Editor on December 27, 2014.;board=68.0

While I have been the first to admit that more needs to be done for veterans and that there are legitimate issues, Cheryl Meheden and Mark Sandilands (Dec. 16 letter to the editor) should do some independent fact-checking before they sound off.

The veterans story is a good one, but certainly not a perfect one, and it will always be a work in progress. Every issue the Auditor General raised was already being addressed and he also cited examples of things going right. The Liberals lapsed almost $112 million in their last year for the same reasons; where is the outrage over that? The 14 substantive recommendations of the Veterans Affairs Committee are all being addressed, but it doesn't happen overnight.

Major Mark Campbell is receiving his full CAF pension plus substantial monthly financial and support benefits under the New Veterans Charter plus substantial lump sum amounts. They should ask him how much he is receiving. What he is not receiving, in addition to all that, is a pension under the old Pension Act that is no longer in effect, having been replaced under legislation passed by the Liberal government and implemented by the Conservative government. This story truly is being misrepresented.

In response to Richard Gaff (Dec. 23 letter to the editor), please read what I actually say. I have always acknowledged legitimate issues in service to veterans. Injured do have access to lifetime financial benefits in form of Permanent Impairment Allowance (PIAS) and PIAS Supplement. See recommendations of the Committee report – also working on making Earnings Loss Benefit for life; we just don't use the word "pension."

I and others are working hard in public and behind the scenes to make progress; and we are, always with more to do. Any government has to deal with reality and competing legitimate demands. Mr. Gaff is right, I was only a "cold warrior" and while not in combat, I did lose over three dozen friends. I do understand loss. And, yes, I would fly the F-35 anywhere.

Hon. Laurie Hawn, PC, CD, MP

Lieutenant-Colonel (retired)


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New announcement: A Canadian soldier re-learns how to be a civilian

A Canadian soldier re-learns how to be a civilian

Jennifer Scott found returning to non-military life almost as challenging as two tours in Afghanistan

By Yvonne Zacharias, Vancouver Sun December 26, 2014

Jennifer Scott has transitioned from the Canadian military to civilian life as a student at BCIT, which offers a military skills conversion program, giving credit for the skills she learned as a soldier.
Photograph by: Jenelle Schneider , Vancouver Sun

At age 18, Jennifer Scott drove, rifle in hand, in an armoured truck through the war-torn streets of Kabul, transporting soldiers from one place to another.

Three years later, she went back for her second tour of duty as a Canadian soldier in Afghanistan.

Now, soldiers like Scott have come home to build a new life. The transition to civilian life can be difficult. Gone are the structure, the discipline, the chain of command and the close circle of soldier friends.

Scott, who is studying for a marketing communications diploma at the British Columbia Institute of Technology, doesn't seem the type to cry easily.

Yet she chokes up when she describes the return home from her first mission, on a military plane that also carried the bodies of three Canadian soldiers killed in the war.

The plane stopped at Canadian Forces Base Trenton. One by one, the caskets of the three young soldiers were carried to waiting hearses. Scott will never forget the grief on the faces of the families.

Scott said she was sad, and angry. Angry with the Afghans for having taken these young men's lives.

But people change when they go to war. Scott said she developed a closer relationship with Afghans on her second mission. She realized they had lost soldiers, too, and her anger dissipated.

Despite the loss of colleagues in Afghanistan, Scott doesn't regret the near decade she spent in the Canadian military. She seemed destined for it.

Born in Edmonton, she spent 12 years in Las Vegas where her mother worked as a dancer while raising her two daughters as a single parent. Then, deciding it was time for a career change, her mother packed up her family and moved them back to Canada where she became a truck driver.

Unorthodox career paths for women seem to run in Scott's family.

As a 16-year-old high school student in Edmonton, Scott heard from a friend about the military reserves. She went to the recruiting centre, liked what she saw and signed up.

It changed her life.

While completing high school, she spent most weekends learning military skills — how to read maps, how to use a compass, how to use a rifle, how to wear a gas mask. There were drills. There were gruelling pushups, sit-ups, pull-ups.

She loved it all.

While girls her age were off to the beach and parties during the summer break from school, she was taking artillery training.

After she graduated from high school, her path again diverged sharply from her peers. They went to post-secondary schools. She volunteered to go to Afghanistan.

She was sent to Kabul, an urban jungle with many traffic circles, few stop lights and few rules of the road. As a military driver, she learned to navigate this complex landscape quickly. You don't want to be sitting idle anywhere for too long.

Danger lurked everywhere. Suicide bombers regularly hit in the city. "You were watching vehicles, you were watching people, you never felt 100 per cent safe and that's good because once you feel one hundred per cent safe, that is known as complacency."

There were bright moments, too.

Scott was able to visit an orphanage for girls in Kabul that the Canadian Forces advisory team had adopted. It became one of the uniquely Canadian volunteer legacies of the war, with soldiers pitching in to provide some basics in the orphanage.

"They were just a lovely group of kids. They were just so friendly."

They borrowed her camera so they could take pictures of each other. "They were all dressed up with earrings and doing each other's hair like kids do here."

She celebrated her 19th birthday in Afghanistan.

When she started her first tour, she had attitude. She thought she knew everything.

By the end of it, she questioned everything. Her eyes had been opened to the plight of a country where schools had been bombed and where children, girls especially, wanted to learn but were denied a basic education.

At the end of her six-month tour came the rocky path back to civilian life in Edmonton.

She drove with her sister at her side to make sure she didn't run any red lights. "I ran a couple," she said with a laugh.

Whenever she heard a loud bang, she flinched. It reminded her of the frequent rocket attacks and car bombings outside her camp's perimeter. In camp, she dived for cover to avoid shrapnel.

She got a job working at a warehouse and got fired. "It was an awakening."

She didn't belong in a warehouse; she belonged in the military.

So she transferred from the reserves to the regular army.

Suddenly, she was happier.

She immediately signed up to be trained as a tank gunner. She studied distances to develop accuracy. She learned how to repair the tank.

As fate would have it, she never got to use these skills. In 2011, Canada withdrew its combat troops and changed its role to one of training the Afghan National Army. So for her second tour, she was dispatched with the rank of master corporal in a teaching role to the city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

The minute she landed, her gender was an issue. The departing Americans from whom the Canadian team was taking over said they didn't think the Afghan trainees would accept a woman. But her sergeant backed her up.

"The commanders totally took to me. They were very interested in me.""

As for the rest of the soldiers in training, many from remote mountain villages, they couldn't stop staring at her. "It was a little uncomfortable at first."

Some of the Afghans thought she was there to sleep with the Canadian commanders. She learned to fire back with humorous but pointed retorts. She also told everyone she was married even though she wasn't. It saved her a whole lot of trouble.

She commanded respect for the simple reason that she knew her stuff.

When the Canadian male soldiers were trying to teach the Afghans how to do the leopard crawl, the Afghans did what they were told for maybe a minute, then reverted to their old, incorrect ways.

When she dropped to the ground, crawling in the dirt while holding her rifle, they paid attention. They weren't going to be outdone by a woman.

Saving face was really important for the Afghans. It was important for her, too.

At one point, when roughly 3,000 Afghan recruits seemed to be descending on her, their commanders started shouting at her to take cover in a building.

She refused, knowing that if she did, those men would never respect her. She boldly waded through the throng, pushing them aside, asserting her authority, letting them know there was work to be done and she planned to do it.

"I developed a thicker skin."

Then there was life inside the camps, which was its own special world. There were special dinners — Afghan food night, British food night, Canadian food night with, of course, poutine.

On the dark side, there were the racket of rocket attacks and car bombings and the massive protests outside the camp perimeter by Afghans whenever there was a flashpoint, like the infamous incident in early 2012 when American soldiers burned copies of the Qu'ran.

Through it all, she developed an appreciation of the Afghan people and for the intelligence of some of their soldiers.

"They are a very proud people."

Then she was home in Edmonton, again struggling to find her footing.

This time, she found her tolerance level was very low. Her family noticed she was easily irritated.

One day, she went to the counselling offices at CFB Edmonton and asked for help.

"That's the hardest thing to do, to ask for help. We in the military are very proud people."

It was also one of the best things she did.

She was basically in reverse culture shock. When she was working with the Afghans, she was used to pushing her way through crowds. There were times when the Afghan soldiers were constantly taking photos of her, sometimes two inches from her face. This meant that from the moment she left the camp, she was constantly on high alert.

In Afghanistan, the Canadian soldiers had a routine. It helped to keep them focused and mentally healthy. When she returned to Canada, it was very difficult to transition from having such a strict routine to little or no routine.

"I was on edge with my family because they wanted to spend time with me, but I needed time to adjust to my new surroundings."

"Crowds made me nervous and stressed. I always needed to sit facing the door in restaurants. I would double check people's hands as they walked by and I always felt like something was missing: my weapon."

Counselling on the base helped. So did her family.

A year ago, she decided to leave the military. She didn't want to wake up a soldier at the age of 50. Following in the footsteps of her mother, who had become a safety officer in the oilfields, she worked for a time for a First Nations company in that role near Cold Lake.

But through those nights in army barracks, she had long harboured a dream. She wanted to return to school. She found that the B.C. Institute of Technology was one of the few universities offering a military skills conversion program, in conjunction with the Legion, that would credit her for some of her military skills, and provide some support while she attended school.

She said the program has been a lifeline. She often feels she can't relate to the non-military students on campus, given what she went through. The program has given her a refuge and linked her with other ex-military students.

She's hoping for a future in public relations, perhaps with a paramilitary organization like the police. She is finally enjoying life. She commutes to campus from Squamish where she lives with her boyfriend, a commercial fisherman. The pair enjoys spending time on the water, fishing and scuba driving. They, along with her dog, will head back to Edmonton for the Christmas holidays.

She expects she will get together with some military friends, but it won't be the same. Once you leave, you have turned your back on that life forever.

She says she misses the military. But for her, it was time to move on.

on twitter:@yzacharias

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

New announcement: Does the Royal Canadian Legion matter anymore?

Does the Royal Canadian Legion matter anymore?

By Robert Smol | Nov 10, 2014 8:57 pm | 3 comments

This year, members of the Royal Canadian Legion will be standing front and center at Remembrance Day ceremonies across the country. Since its founding in 1926, the Royal Canadian Legion has come to embody Canada's veteran community and the need to respect and support those who served in our armed forces.

These days, however, the Legion's image is a false front. Once an outspoken advocate for disabled veterans, the Royal Canadian Legion is now widely perceived by younger veterans as the federal government's lapdog, with an increasingly non-veteran, non-military membership out of touch with the military community and its needs.

Every time I am invited to a Legion branch I see little that might make me feel that this is an organization that truly relates to and understands where a modern veteran like me came from. Today's Legion branches are popular and respected drinking establishments that occasionally do good charity work in the community. But I can't trust that today's Legion will ever be able to advocate for my generation of veterans in the same way they once stood for the soldiers of decades past.

Eighty-eight years ago, the Royal Canadian Legion was founded as a group of veterans helping other veterans. The Legion's original mandate set out its duty to act as an advocacy group for the veterans themselves, especially those suffering from hardship and disability. Politicians in the 1920s were just as willing as contemporary ones to disregard and minimize the health, pension and rehabilitation needs of returning soldiers and their families.

The Legion of my father's and grandfather's generation held the government's feet to the fire, making certain that the disabled soldiers, sailors and airmen who fought for Canada were looked after. Not anymore.

Fast forward to more recent years and you find a Legion that has failed miserably to reach out to the post-Korean War community of veterans. For the most part, what you find in the Legion of today is an increasingly non-veteran collection of military groupies. Just how focused is today's Legion on protesting against and shaming the Harper government for its shabby treatment of veterans? Is helping the struggling, destitute and homeless veterans out there just one of the many good charitable efforts of your local Legion branch — or is it their absolute raison d'etre?

No single decision better represents its institutional ignorance and disconnect with the veteran community than the Legion's support of the much-maligned New Veteran Charter at the time it was being implemented in 2005-6. It may come as a surprise to a lot of people that the Legion actually gave the New Veterans Charter its full support back when the legislation was being introduced in 2005.

As a result of this legislation, soldiers disabled while on duty are no longer entitled to disability pensions, but instead receive a one-time lump-sum payment for their injuries.
The Legion is doomed to irrelevance unless it radically rededicates itself as a modern veteran advocacy group. To survive, it must single-mindedly reach out to younger veterans … and challenge the current government's abandonment of modern veterans.

Knowing full-well what the New Veterans Charter was about, then-president of the Legion, Ms. Mary-Ann Burdett, stated before a Senate Committee on May 11, 2005 that "there should be no doubt that whatsoever that the Royal Canadian Legion fully supports this initiative (the New Veterans Charter). We want this legislation."

And they got it. Now, unlike their fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers who fought in the First and Second World Wars, members of today's military who become disabled are no longer entitled to disability pensions. The Legion was far too willing to give the government the benefit of the doubt when the New Veterans Charter was being introduced. And though the Legion has since reversed its support for the New Veterans Charter, the Legion-endorsed damage is there each and every time a younger veteran is forced to make do with one-time lump-sum payments.

How could the Royal Canadian Legion have allowed its leadership to support such legislation? Part of the reason might be that it took way too long for the Legion — obsessed with the legacy of the World War II veteran — to recognize that veterans of my generation are indeed military veterans deserving of the same attention and respect. Refusing for so long to recognize younger veterans, such as myself, as bonafide war veterans made it much easier to say that we should not be entitled to the same benefits.

Perhaps the Legion didn't know any better. Demographically and culturally, its membership increasingly is losing touch with the veteran community. As Second World War and Korean War Legion members die off, they are not being replaced with younger veterans — who increasingly see nothing to be gained from Legion membership.

So in a desperate attempt to fill its ranks with new recruits, Legion membership is now open to non-veterans — a policy that would have been unthinkable in its early years. Increasingly, Legion membership — including many of its administrative positions — are made up of people who never spent a day in a military uniform.

Almost any adult resident of Canada can be a member of the Royal Canadian Legion. Anyone who is the child, stepchild, adopted child, grandchild, sibling, niece/nephew, widower, parent or spouse of someone who had served in the military, Coast Guard, RCMP or municipal police forces of Canada can become a Legion member themselves. Even those without relatives who had served in the military, police or Coast Guard can still apply to be affiliate voting members of the Legion. People who are not citizens of Canada can apply to be affiliate non-voting members of the Canadian Legion.

Non-veteran members can still wear the Legion 'uniform' and are entitled to receive special merit and service medals produced solely by the Legion — medals which often can be mistaken by those outside the military for authentic military medals.

Today, younger veterans in need of help increasingly are turning towards a growing number of non-Legion charitable and advocacy groups popping up across the country, formed solely for the assistance of veterans.

As for the Legion, it's doomed to irrelevance unless it radically rededicates itself as a modern veteran advocacy group. To survive, it must single-mindedly reach out to younger veterans, and commit its capital, financial and personnel resources to helping them and their families. More importantly, the Legion needs to aggressively challenge the current government's abandonment of modern veterans.

Only then could the Legion reach its centennial in 2026 with the same status, purpose and respectability among veterans that it enjoyed at its founding.

Robert Smol is a freelance journalist, a teacher and retired Canadian Armed Forces intelligence officer. He lives in Toronto.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by all iPolitics columnists and contributors are the author's alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of iPolitics.

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Sunday, December 14, 2014

New announcement: Harper must accept responsibility for the poor treatment of veterans, says vet

Stephen Harper must accept responsibility for the poor treatment of veterans, says veteran

David Pugliese More from David Pugliese
Published on: December 13, 2014Last Updated: December 13, 2014 10:09 PM EST

By Dennis Manuge

Defence Watch Guest Writer

Dear Prime Minister Harper

Subject: Call for VAC Minister Fantino's Resignation

The time is long overdue for you to ask for, and accept, VAC minister Fantino's resignation and for you to accept responsibility for the systemic failures with in the Canadian Forces and Veterans Affairs Canada; specifically, the treatment of injured and ill service men and women and veterans who have become disabled during their service.

This last slap in the face to our veterans community, and the over one billion dollars that has been rolled over from the VAC budget, truly illustrates your government's commitment to seeing off disabled service men and women.

A very small portion of that amount of money, your numbers said $200 million, could have been easily used and marked for those of us disabled veterans who have been given a paltry retroactivity settlement under the New Veterans Charter's (NVC) Earnings Loss Benefit (ELB) program.


"Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney announced Wednesday that effective immediately, veterans will no longer have the amount of their earnings loss benefit and their Canadian Forces Income Support benefit reduced because they're also receiving a disability pension.

Blaney told reporters that the government is going "even farther than what the court required," saying the Harper government had "no obligation" to make today's move but it is committed to "harmonizing" its system and ending deductions for complementary programs."

"Former veterans minister Steven Blaney also ended the practice for programs in his department, but his successor has yet to open discussions about compensation for what was deducted prior to the decision."

Guess what your government's and Fantino's decision was?

VAC has decided in all of its generosity and wisdom to give us, approximately 2000 disabled veterans and our families, roughly "one tenth", in my case, of what we are owed retroactively.

Your government went back from October 2012 to only May 2012 in your calculations, a paltry 4 months in actual compensation, rather than go back to the beginning of this program in 2006.

In comparison, my case, Manuge vs Her Majesty the Queen, Federal Court Justice Barnes, stated in his decision, ref :

"[63] It seems to me that to ask these questions is to answer them. Giving effect to the SISIP offset of Pension Act disability benefits wholly deprives disabled veterans of an important financial award intended to compensate for disabling injuries suffered in the service of Canadians. The SISIP offset effectively defeats the Parliamentary intent that is inherent in thePension Act which is to provide modest financial solace to disabled CF members for their non-financial losses. The approach adopted by the Defendant does not lead to a fair or sensible commercial result and defeats the reasonable expectation of CF members. CF members looking at the SISIP Policy and, in particular Article 24, would expect that they were obtaining a meaningful and not illusory LTD benefit payable over and above their Pension Act disability entitlement for the loss of personal amenities. This view is enhanced by the fact that disabled CF members who continue with their active service are entitled to be paid and to keep theirPension Act disability benefits and by the fact that they lose their right of action against the Crown to pursue claims to damages (including income losses) if a Pension Act benefit is payable: see Crown Liability and Proceedings Act, RSC 1985, c C-50, s 9. The practical consequence of the claimed offset is to substantially reduce or to extinguish the LTD coverage promised to members of the Class by the SISIP Policy with particularly harsh effect on the most seriously disabled CF members who have been released from active service. That is an outcome that could not reasonably have been intended and I reject it unreservedly."

Read the paragraph again and simply substitute ELB for SISIP!

The ELB offset is 100% exactly the same. In my class action legal case, the judge ordered retroactivity going back to 1976 for approximately 8500 disabled veteran class members. Your government, in a calculated and premeditated attempt at saving money on our backs, has once again singled out a disadvantaged group of Canadian heroes, 2000 strong and you are treating us differently than the SISIP Class Members and newly disabled veterans, whom will never have to experience an offset of their pain and suffering disability payments.

I believe under the Charter of Human rights, all disabled people, and people, should be treated the same….

Clearly you, successive VAC ministers', Canadian Forces CDS' and your upper echelon senior bureaucrats could care less about making a comparatively small financial gesture – given the spillage left over each fiscal year – to truly level and equal the playing field, for all disabled veterans and their families.

Fantino has been missing in action, brutal in personality when dealing person to person with veterans and families, and now you seem to be hiding him and not even letting him speak.

In comes General Walt Natynczyk…to help!

I think not….He is a former CDS that never said a word in support to ending the SISIP Clawback, but told me by phone that he answered to his boss at the time, former Defence Minister Pete MacKay.


He did retire on a General's pension and has become the head civil servant\bureaucrat at the Canadian Space Agency, and now is the Deputy Minister of Veterans Affairs…how much do you think he earns? It might appear as you were holding on to some very lucrative positions for him.

As the Equitas Legal Challenge in BC ramps up in challenge of the NVC Lump Sum disability Payments and based on my own six year legal battle, one thing is clear. Your conservative government would rather spend tax payer's money fighting disabled veterans in the courts of the land, than doing what is simply the right thing; especially when you already have the financial resources available, but choose to roll the money over from year to year.

It's time to clean things up, come clean, blow it up at VAC from top down and start fresh with new leadership to rebuild the trust.

It's time for Fantino to go!

Corporal (Ret) Dennis Manuge

Representative Plaintiff, Manuge Vs Her Majesty The Queen (SISIP Clawback Class Action)

Disabled Veteran of CF

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

New announcement: Harper calls veterans charter a ‘Liberal’ policy amid calls for Julian Fantino’s

Harper calls veterans charter a 'Liberal' policy amid calls for Julian Fantino's resignation

By Murray Brewster The Canadian Press
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OTTAWA – The new veterans charter, a marquee deal defended and championed by Stephen Harper's Conservatives since 2006, suddenly became a "Liberal policy" Tuesday as the government weathered more demands for Julian Fantino's resignation.

The veterans affairs minister, who was on his feet constantly during the previous day's question period, rose infrequently on Tuesday in the face of an unrelenting barrage of NDP and Liberal attacks.

Instead, he was defended by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who tried to put some political distance between his government and a class-action lawsuit in B.C. that argues the charter is unconstitutional and discriminatory against modern veterans.

"It's actually a court case against the previous Liberal policy," Harper told the House, prompting catcalls of "shame" from the opposition benches.

"In any case, we have repeatedly enhanced the benefits under that policy to the tune of some $5 billion, opposed every step of the way by the Liberal party, who has voted against all those benefits.

"They can keep voting against those benefits for veterans. We will keep bringing them forward."

The charter was conceived and passed by Paul Martin's Liberals with the support of all parties. It was put into force by Harper's Conservatives as one of their first acts after forming a minority government in 2006.

"I want our troops to know that we support them. This veterans charter is one example of our government's commitment," Harper said on April 6, 2006, the day the legislation was enacted.

"Our troops' commitment and service to Canada entitles them to the very best treatment possible. This charter is but a first step towards according Canadian veterans the respect and support they deserve."

When concerns and complaints that the charter was not as generous as the old Pension Act system began to surface a few years later, the government doubled down in its support and introduced changes to the legislation, including hundreds of millions of dollars in program improvements for the most seriously wounded.

"Our government promised that the new veterans charter would evolve with the needs of the men and women it serves. With our latest enhancements, we're delivering on that promise," said Steven Blaney, the veterans minister at the time.

The notion that Harper would even partially disown the policy was jaw-dropping to opposition critics.

"I find that incredible," said NDP veterans critic Peter Stoffer. "They're not taking ownership; they mislead you — or they outright lie about it."

A group of veterans from Canada's war in Afghanistan launched a class-action lawsuit in 2012.

In defending against it, justice department lawyers argued the government does not have an extraordinary obligation under the law to those who have served. While conceding in a hearing last week that the new system is "less generous" than the old one, government lawyer Travis Henderson argued that current and future governments cannot be bound by the political promises of previous administrations.

Harper's government, which rarely misses an opportunity to express their devotion to the troops, has repeated ducked questions aimed at clearing up the contradiction by saying it cannot comment on an ongoing court case.

The Conservatives have been under fire for describing the nearly 900 job cuts at Veterans Affairs as impacting only the backroom bureaucracy, involving jobs that were either wasteful or redundant.

"The NDP wanted to keep bureaucrats to do nothing but cross us and delay payments to veterans under a program it actually voted against," Harper said.

"On this side, we cut down the bureaucracy. We deliver service to the veterans."

The government's own budget documents show the majority of the job cuts were in the disability awards branch, the area singled out for criticism in the fall 2014 auditor general's report for being too slow to approve mental health treatment.

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Friday, December 5, 2014

Don’t Give Up the Fight - A Blog on Military Trauma and Suicide

Don't Give Up the Fight - A Blog on Military Trauma and Suicide - Part 1 - Introduction


Don't Give Up the Fight - A Blog on Military Trauma and Suicide - Part 2 - Suicide is Not Simple


Don't Give Up the Fight - A Blog on Military Trauma and Suicide - Part 3- Secrets, Lies, and Suicide


Don't Give Up the Fight - A Blog on Military Trauma and Suicide - Part 4 - A Failure in Leadership


Don't Give Up the Fight - A Blog on Military Trauma and Suicide - Part 5 - The Suicide's Pain Becomes the Survivor's Pain

The Canadian Veterans Advocacy Team.

New announcement: Veterans say Fantino flap obscures real problems with mismanaging benefits

Veterans say Fantino flap obscures real problems with mismanaging benefits


OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail

Published Thursday, Dec. 04 2014, 9:12 PM EST

Last updated Thursday, Dec. 04 2014, 9:18 PM EST

Check the Video's:

Veterans say the real financial problems facing injured military men and women – and the government's failure to address them – have been lost amid current calls for Julian Fantino's resignation.

The beleaguered Veterans Affairs Minister is fending off opposition demands that he step down after the government said last week it was making a six-year, $200-million investment in veterans' mental health, then admitted the money will flow over decades.

But Donald Leonardo, a former soldier and the founder of Veterans Canada, an online network for vets, says the minister's unwillingness or inability to change to the New Veterans Charter is the reason Mr. Fantino must be replaced. "I don't think this is fixable with this minister because of his attitude," Mr. Leonardo said Thursday from his home in Airdrie, Alta.

Last June, MPs on the all-party Commons veterans affairs committee, which is chaired by Conservative MP Greg Kerr, unanimously recommended 14 changes to the much-maligned charter. It was implemented in 2006 and replaced an old system of lifetime pensions for injured vets with one that relies heavily on lump-sum payments.

New veterans say it leaves them inadequately compensated for their sacrifice, and this week the federal government was in court in British Columbia to try to stop a class-action lawsuit launched by soldiers disabled in Afghanistan who say the New Veterans Charter is unconstitutional.

Mr. Fantino responded in October to the veterans affairs committee's report with some positive words, but no definitive promises for when or how most of the recommendations would be implemented. That was a particularly irritating to veterans, Mr. Leonardo said, because some of the proposed changes are contained in multiple previous studies.

Three are particularly critical, he said. They include increasing the monthly payments available to veterans undergoing rehabilitation, treating reservists the same as regular forces when it comes to benefits and support, and making the lump-sum payment for pain and suffering equivalent to the amounts being awarded by the courts in civil liability cases.

"Fire Fantino," Mr. Leonardo said. "Replace him with Kerr. Let's get on with the recommendations."

Even as veterans complain they are not being given the benefits they need, the Veterans Affairs department returned $1.13-billion to the federal treasury that it did not spend in the years since the Conservatives took power in 2006.

It was recently revealed that the department shed nearly a quarter of its work force over the past five years. And the Auditor-General released a report last week saying many vets are waiting months or years to access mental-health disability benefits.

All of which has made Mr. Fantino, who has refused repeated requests for interviews, an easy target for opposition criticism. But it is the New Veterans Charter that has been the ongoing source of frustration for veterans.

Veterans ombudsman Guy Parent issued a statement Thursday saying it is essential that federal decision makers understand the urgency of targeting money to address the charter's deficiencies. "Support to veterans is not a theoretical exercise," he said. "There are real veterans out there, with real needs that need action now."

Brian Forbes, chair of the National Council of Veterans Associations in Canada, which represents 61 member organizations, agrees that lack of action on the New Veterans Charter is a major irritant. "The government doesn't seem to react in any meaningful way to things that are truly significant to the veterans community," he said.

Frank Valeriote, the Liberal who sits on the veterans affairs committee, said, "We were all expecting for there to be some meat in their response" to the recommended changes to the charter. But the word veterans does not appear in the Conservative government's fall economic update, Mr. Valeriote said.

And Peter Stoffer, the New Democrat on the committee, said many of the recommendations could be put into effect immediately. The government is simply promising more study, he said. "That's why so many veterans are [ticked] off with these guys."

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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Equitas, the fight for Sacred Obligation equality to the Pension Act

Equitas, the fight for Sacred Obligation equality to the Pension Act

Two stories, politicians/wounded.

How does Erin O'Tooles comments reconcile with Major Mark Campbell's. O'toole served, but has no connection to the VAC file or committee. Where is Fantino? Where is Gill? Do they just trot him out because he served?


Major Mark Campbell.

Comments welcome

Michael L Blais CD
President - Founder Canadian Veterans Advocacy
6618 Harper Drive, Niagara Falls, Ontario
905-359-9247 /// hm 905-357-3306

The Canadian Veterans Advocacy Team.

New announcement: Opposition calls new Veterans Affairs ad campaign propaganda

Opposition calls new Veterans Affairs ad campaign propaganda

Lee Berthiaume More from Lee Berthiaume
Published on: December 3, 2014Last Updated: December 3, 2014 5:12 PM EST

Veterans Affairs Canada is preparing to launch a new $5-million advertising campaign, as the Conservative government struggles to defend its treatment of those who have served in uniform.

The upcoming campaign is just one of several government advertising initiatives revealed in budgetary documents tabled recently in the House of Commons, and the second to be conducted by the department over the past year.

About $4 million was spent on a campaign this past spring that included television commercials during the NHL playoffs highlighting services available to military personnel who are moving into civilian life.

While Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino's office did not immediately respond to questions Wednesday, the minister has previously said advertising campaigns are important for informing veterans and their families about the many benefits and services available to them.

But Liberal veterans affairs critic Frank Valeriote compared the ad campaign to propaganda, alleging the purpose was to counter the litany of recent bad news that has undermined the government's record on veterans issues.

The Conservative government was stung last week by an auditor general's report that found many veterans are being forced to wait more than eight months to find out if they qualify for mental health services.

The government has also faced criticism for closing nine Veterans Affairs offices, cutting hundreds of positions since 2008, and failing to reveal it will take 50 years for $200 million in new funding for mental health services to be paid out.

Questions have also been raised about the Veterans Affairs department returning more than $1 billion in unspent funds to the treasury since 2006.

In the House of Commons Wednesday, a visibly annoyed Prime Minister Stephen Harper defended the government's record on veterans issues in the face of renewed opposition attacks.

"We have taken resources out of backroom administration from bureaucracy. We have put it into services," he said in response to a question from NDP leader Tom Mulcair. "That is called good administration, good government, and it is good service for the veterans of this country."

But Valeriote noted one of the programs showcased in the $4-million advertising campaign in the spring benefitted just 296 veterans, each of whom received $1,000 for career counselling, resume writing training and other job-hunting help.

"They spent $4 million in the spring on ads over the NHL playoffs for a program that they spent $296,000 on," Valeriote said.

"They use every opportunity to promote themselves under the pretext that it's really informing of the programs. And that's not the case."

Senior Veterans Affairs officials were scheduled to appear before the Commons' veterans affairs committee on Wednesday, where the budgetary documents were to have been discussed. But committee chair Greg Kerr sent out a notice late last week saying the meeting was cancelled.

The committee now isn't scheduled to meet again until Parliament resumes after the Christmas break at the end of January.

The opposition blames the committees' Conservative majority for suspending the committee's work, which they say is scandalous given the auditor general's findings and other concerns.

"They just said there's no remaining business and things to talk about in that regard, and they have the majority, so that was it," said NDP veterans affairs critic Peter Stoffer. "But there's all kinds of things we could talk about."

Neither Kerr nor Fantino's parliamentary secretary, Parm Gill, who is the senior Conservative MP on the committee, responded to requests for comment.

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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

New announcement: Veterans Affairs shed staff despite increased mental-health risks

Veterans Affairs shed staff despite increased mental-health risks


OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail

Published Tuesday, Dec. 02 2014, 8:04 PM EST

Last updated Tuesday, Dec. 02 2014, 8:07 PM EST

Check the Video:

The department of beleaguered Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino shed nearly a quarter of its work force over the past five years even as bureaucrats warned that the changes could put the delivery of services to veterans and their families at risk.

The downsizing occurred at a time when soldiers were returning home from Afghanistan with a myriad of physical and psychological injuries, and as growing numbers of veterans were butting heads with a Conservative government they accused of being indifferent to their needs.

Figures posted by the federal Treasury Board on an internal government website show the number of employees at Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) declined from 4,137 in 2009 to 3,188 last March. The most dramatic drop occurred between 2013 and 2014, when the department lost more than 400 people.

At the same time, officials in the Veterans Affairs department warned in a government report this year that: "The primary risk being mitigated by the department is that modernization of VAC's service delivery model will not be achieved as expected, and will not meet the needs of veterans, Canadian Armed Forces members, and their families."

Mr. Fantino, a former police chief, is the fourth minister to hold the difficult portfolio since Prime Minister Stephen Harper took office in 2006 – and has had the most trouble. Calls for his resignation came this week after the government said it would spend $200-million over six years for veterans' mental health, but staff in Mr. Fantino's office later acknowledged the money would actually flow to the vets over several decades.

"The plan is worth even less per year than the savings from closing the nine veterans services offices," Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau told the House of Commons on Tuesday. "It is by now clear to all that the Prime Minister owes veterans an apology."

Mr. Fantino was travelling on official business in Italy last week when the Auditor-General released a report saying many vets are waiting months or years to access mental-health disability benefits.

And, although opposition MPs say Mr. Fantino was invited to appear before the veterans affairs committee of the House of Commons to answer questions about the supplementary budget estimates for his department, as most ministers do, he did not agree to appear.

Those estimates show the Veterans Affairs department is asking for another $5-million to spend on advertising this year. That is about equal to the annual cost of running three occupational stress injury clinics for veterans with mental problems, such as the one in Halifax that will be created with the new funding.

Mr. Fantino's spokespeople did not reply Tuesday when asked why he did not appear at the committee. Nor did they answer questions about how the department is coping with reduced staff.

Stephen Lecce, a member of Mr. Harper's own communications team, has been sent to Mr. Fantino's office to act as the interim chief of staff. That prompted NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair to ask why the Prime Minister felt it necessary to impose third-party management on one of his own ministers. "If he's lost confidence in his minister, why is [the minister] still there?" asked Mr. Mulcair.

Mr. Harper did not directly respond. But, with regard to the announcement of mental-health supports for veterans that was made last week, he said: "Using the Auditor-General's standards of accrual accounting over a life cycle, the costs of these new announcements to the government are, in fact, $200-million over the next six years. Obviously these funds are available to veterans over many decades, over their lifetime."

Frank Valeriote, the Liberal veterans affairs critic, said the essential point about the money is that "veterans get it over 50 years."

Mr. Valeriote said the fact that the department staff has been reduced at the same time bureaucrats worried aloud that services to veterans could be put at risk "is a contradiction of what they say and how they respond. And that is exactly what our veterans have been facing …"

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Monday, December 1, 2014

New announcement: Stephen Harper aide takes over as chief of staff to Veterans Minister Julian Fan

Stephen Harper aide takes over as chief of staff to Veterans Minister Julian Fantino

Oppositions MPs call on Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino to resign over criticisms of Ottawa's handling of veterans issues.

By: Bruce Campion-Smith Ottawa Bureau, Published on Mon Dec 01 2014

OTTAWA—An aide to Prime Minister Stephen Harper has taken over as chief of staff to embattled Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino as opposition MPs call for his resignation.

Stephen Lecce, the director of media relations for Harper, will now also serve as interim top aide to Fantino as the Conservative government struggles to get a grip on a file that has turned into a political nightmare.

The staff shuffle comes just weeks after Walt Natynczyk, a retired top general who headed the Canadian Armed Forces, was named deputy minister of Veterans Affairs after a short stint heading the Canadian Space Agency.

The twin moves are seen as an attempt by the Conservatives to turn around a struggling department that has angered veterans and dragged down the government politically.

In the Commons Monday, the New Democrats and Liberals pressed Fantino to resign over criticism the department is failing veterans in need.

Liberal MP Ralph Goodale said Fantino, who has served in the post since 2013, has no trust or credibility left.

"The longer the minister clings to the government the worse they both look. His portfolio has been grossly mismanaged," Goodale said. "To prevent any more trouble for veterans, will the prime minister fire this failed minister."

Last week, the auditor general laid bare new problems with the department's efforts to treat veterans suffering chronic mental health issues, saying those seeking help faced long waits that threatened their recovery.

But as the bad news dropped, Fantino was in Italy, leading a delegation of veterans to mark Canada's Second World War campaign in the country, a trip that the minister defended Monday.

"In my world, lest we forget means something," said Fantino, who served as Toronto police chief and commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police before entering politics.

But that prompted a sharp response from Mulcair, who accused the minister of "cowardice" for being out of the country. "How about showing up for work and taking care of them when they are alive," the NDP leader said.

"He showed dereliction of duty by fleeing the country. Will the minister for once do the honourable thing and resign."

Fantino responded to the criticism by listing initiatives launched by the Conservatives to assist veterans while accusing the opposition of "mud-slinging" and "fear-mongering."

"We are in fact making substantial improvements that are generating better outcomes for Canadian veterans," Fantino said.

Still, the problems are piling up with damning revelations of more than $1 billion in unspent funding by Veterans Affairs since 2006, delayed treatment of ailing veterans and continuing charges that wounded ex-soldiers are being short-changed in their benefits.

Nor has the situation been helped by Fantino, who has appeared chippy in his dealings with some veterans. In February, he was forced to apologize for his snub of veterans upset by the closing of regional Veterans Affairs offices. More recently, he was chased down a hall by a woman crying out to him, seeking help for her husband suffering from post-traumatic stress. Fantino didn't stop to talk with her.

Fantino is the face of the problem but the problems run deeper into the bureaucracy that has an insurance company mindset in dealing with veterans who need help, said retired colonel Pat Stogran.

"It's a department desperately in trouble . . . they've really got to change the culture of it," said Stogran, who commanded ground troops in Afghanistan and later served as veterans ombudsman.

As veterans ombudsman, Stogran said he warned two ministers that what was unfolding in the department "was a scandal about to erupt."

Stogran said a public inquiry is needed to probe the problems within Veterans Affairs.

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New announcement: Veterans Affairs Minister Fantino spent much more travelling abroad than in Cana

Veterans Affairs Minister Fantino spent much more travelling abroad than in Canada

Published: Monday, 12/01/2014 12:00 am EST

Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino has spent a total of $53,588 travelling abroad to attend commemorations at cemeteries or war monuments, from Korea through Europe, since Prime Minister Stephen Harper named him to his post last year, departmental records and Mr. Fantino's ministerial public expense postings show.

The amount Mr. Fantino (Vaughan, Ont.) spent on the nine trips he has taken abroad from July 2013 to September 2014 dwarfs the $7,772 he spent travelling within Canada to attend meetings with Veterans Affairs Canada officials or to take part in events such as a one-day summit on homeless veterans the Canadian Legion held in Toronto.

Mr. Fantino's foreign travel expenses since his appointment have also exceeded the $13,479 he has spent travelling within Canada to attend veteran and war commemoration ceremonies and deliver speeches, with a few business lunches and one $766 dinner for eight thrown in.

Veterans roundly criticized Mr. Fantino last week for his absence as other government ministers responded to Auditor General Michael Ferguson's annual fall report to Parliament. The report included a scathing chapter on lengthy delays many Afghanistan war veterans face as they attempt to obtain treatment and support for post-combat trauma and operational stress injuries.

When Defence Minister Rob Nicholson (Niagara Falls, Ont.) fielded media questions about the Veterans Affairs Canada chapter of Mr. Ferguson's report, and several other ministers responded to other chapters, Mr. Fantino was either at the Cassino War Cemetery near Rome, Italy, or on his way there.

Mr. Fantino flew to Italy to join a Canadian delegation that left Canada earlier as part of several commemorations taking place to mark the 70th anniversary of the allied campaign in Italy during the Second World War, but Mr. Fantino's office would not tell The Hill Times when he left Canada.

Veterans were angry that Mr. Fantino also snubbed one of the largest and most important summits for military veteran issues that was taking place in Toronto the day Mr. Ferguson released his report.

A three-day forum organized annually by the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research, associated with Queen's University, began Nov. 24. The forum website listed Mr. Fantino as an invited speaker but Veterans Affairs Canada emailed a copy of a department news release dated Aug. 1 that quoted Mr. Fantino announcing he would be attending the Italian war cemetery ceremonies in November.

Mr. Fantino had delayed his departure for the ceremonies in Italy in order to take part in a weekend government announcement of more than $200-million in expanded health services for veterans as the Conservatives sought to deflect the fallout from Mr. Ferguson's report in advance.

Veterans advocate Mike Blais, who appeared with another veterans advocate at a Parliament Hill news conference only a week earlier to protest the government's prior closure of six Veterans Affairs Canada regional offices, was surprised when informed of the extent of Mr. Fantino's foreign travels over the past 16 months—especially when compared to his limited Veterans Affairs Canada-related travel within Canada.

Although the deputy minister of Veterans Affairs Canada is located in Ottawa, senior associate deputy ministers and many of the key veterans service branches are located in Charlottetown, P.E.I., with other branches across the country.

"I think his priorities are definitely adrift," Mr. Blais, a founder and director of Canadian Veterans Advocacy, told The Hill Times.

"This is one of the issues that we brought up, that he was not in the country enough in order to conduct appropriate oversight into his ministry," Mr. Blais said.

Despite recent speculation that Mr. Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) may shuffle Mr. Fantino out of the veterans portfolio because of his poor relations with veteran groups and several controversies over alleged snubs of activist veterans, Mr. Blais agreed that Mr. Fantino's travels to attend war commemorations and related ceremonies appears to conform with the Harper government's policy of emphasizing Canadian military accomplishments and war losses of the past.

"I think that every minister in Mr. Harper's administration has their orders and that Minister Fantino is fulfilling those orders very well," Mr. Blais said.

"I've always told veterans that the problem is not Minister Fantino, he is just the messenger of Prime Minister Harper. And until Prime Minister Harper fulfills his sacred obligation, Minister Fantino will just be a talking puppet that does only what the PMO requests and nothing more," Mr. Blais said.

Mr. Fantino's press secretary did not respond to questions about Mr. Fantino's travel abroad, or whether he left for the ceremonies the night before Mr. Ferguson tabled his report or that same morning.

"Our government has been working hard to provide our veterans and their families with the care and support they need, through the unprecedented investment of $200-million for a comprehensive mental health strategy, thousands of dollars each month in benefits, up to $75,800 for retraining at a university or college, services such as housecleaning, grass cutting/snow removal, medicine, and travel to and from medical appointments," press secretary Ashlee Smith wrote in an emailed statement to The Hill Times.

"Minister Fantino recommended that the auditor general review the mental health supports in order to help improve our programs and services; we thank the auditor general for making constructive recommendations," it said.

Opposition MPs on Nov. 27 pressed the government about Mr. Fantino's absence when Parliament received Mr. Ferguson's report, as well as other issues veterans say are not being addressed.

Conservative MP Parm Gill (Brampton-Springdale, Ont.), Mr. Fantino's Parliamentary Secretary who answers on Mr. Fantino's behalf when he is away from the House of Commons, defended the trip to Italy as well as government management of veterans' issues.

"I can assure the honorable colleague on the other side that the minister works hard and consults with veterans across the country all the time," Mr. Gill said.

"As a matter of fact, he is currently travelling overseas with veterans," Mr. Gill said. "It is a top priority for our government. We are working to address some of the recommendations that were brought forward by the Auditor General to address the concerns when it comes to the unnecessary delays. On this side of the House, we will continue to work in the best interests of Canada's veterans."

Mr. Fantino spent a total of $41,039 travelling abroad on his own airfare, accommodation meals and hospitality, and a further $7,659 on travel and expenses for his chief of staff and a press secretary who accompanied him on three of the trips.

The biggest bill for Mr. Fantino's personal travel abroad was $9,306 for a trip to Korea, to mark the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice in July 2013.

Mr. Fantino's second most expensive bill, with a total of $8,902 for his own expenses, was a six-day trip last April to Newark, N.J., to attend "ministerial events" and then on to France to attend the 97th anniversary of the Canadian First World War battle at Vimy Ridge.

Mr. Fantino's chief of staff, Jacques Fauteux, accompanied him on that trip, with his expenses boosting the total for flights, accommodation, meals and "incidentals" to $12,984.

Expenses for Mr. Fantino's trip to Italy last week have not yet been reported.

Mr. Fantino, who was born in Italy, also visited Italy in July of last year, also to mark the 70th anniversary of the allied campaign in German-allied Italy.

The campaign began with an invasion of Sicily in July 1943.

The Hill Times

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