Practical day-to-day problems of veterans, many with disabilities, needs to always be on front burner
On Sunday, Veterans across Canada took to the streets to protest foot-dragging and benefit cut-backs in a Canadian Veterans National Day of Protest.
They got results.
Veterans Affairs Minister Blackburn was on a media blitz this week trying to re-assure Canadians he had the best interests of veterans at heart. Blackburn said that the $2 billion recently announced for more benefits would go a long way.
Veterans know that is only a partial solution.
Canada is a wealthy nation. It can afford to deal fairly with those for whom it asks the greatest sacrifice.
The Government of Canada has embarked on a program of downsizing services to veterans at a time when we are in a war in Afghanistan.
Instead of declines in veterans and veterans with disabilities, their ranks are growing.
Veterans Affairs have confirmed out-going Veterans Ombudsman Pat Stogran’s claim that the government finds it cheaper to deal with dead soldiers than soldiers who come home with disabilities.
For his outspokenness, Stogran has had his services terminated. Today his is on CTV talking about Veterans and his own struggle with post-traumatic stress syndrome. While some fault him for being too strong an advocate, how can he not speak out when he knows the reality of a returning vet?
Social action like protests and marches work better than letters to government officials. Veterans have been rejected with polite letters for decades.
Media attention focused on real people works. It shames the government into changing policies that show our policy is to ignore the realities of veterans with disabilities.
The lump sum payment for disabled veterans was a cost-conscious policy that leaves many young veterans impoverished within a few years of leaving active service. Yes it does save the Canadian government’s money but is that the objective?
Essentially, veterans want the government to look after them if they are injured in the line of duty.
They want the lump sum improved and more assistance provided to ensure the money lasts for the veteran’s lifetime. Many want the return of the lifetime pension that takes away the risk they will be unable to look after themselves, which was the way it used to be.
Many say the announcement of an annual pension of $40,000 to $52,000 for the most severely disabled is not enough.
Inclusion in Canada
Canada is at a cross-roads with disability policy. After World War II, veterans with disabilities could be warehoused in Veteran’s hospitals or left to stay at home. Today people with disabilities including veterans have a right to be included in Canadian society. They don’t want to be and don’t deserve to be trotted out for Veterans Week or special functions but left to suffer the rest of the time.
An inclusive and just society for Canada’s Veterans doesn’t means more than Veteran’s Week. It means more than poppies. It takes commitment to fair policies from the government that make Canada truly inclusive.
Veterans who fought for Canada shouldn’t still have to fight back in Canada.
Unless things change, Canadian veterans with disabilities will find themselves struggling to live in Canada that has relegated them to Veteran’s Week and hanging out at the Legion.
While veterans have special call on the Canadian collective conscience, their need for inclusion in employment, housing, education, healthcare and rehabilitation, and society are part of our need to accommodate all of Canada’s 4 million persons living with disabilities.