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 : http://decisions.fct-cf.gc.ca/fc-cf/decisions/en/item/60778/index.do
" 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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