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News - Veterans - 19 Aug 2010

News Item 121 of 123 

Veterans: 19 Aug 2010
Region’s veterans support ombud’s complaints

WATERLOO REGION — Veterans across the region are standing behind their national ombud after he criticized the way former soldiers are being treated by a federal agency.

Retired colonel Pat Stogran came forward with a wide range of complaints against bureaucrats at Veterans Affairs Canada Tuesday, criticizing the agency for “cheating” war widows and making it difficult for many soldiers to access full veteran benefits.

Veterans in Waterloo Region supported those claims Wednesday, with many railing against apparent cutbacks in veteran-aid spending.

A major point of contention was disability payments, which changed in 2006 from a series of lifelong monthly payouts to a one-time lump sum payment based on a doctor’s assessment of the disability.

David Davidson, a 77-year-old Korean War veteran who also oversees veteran services at the Kitchener Legion, said he was 100 per cent behind Stogran’s complaints, adding that the new disability system was extremely shortsighted for veterans just returning from active duty.

“When they give you the lump sum payment it’s like they’re saying, ‘That’s it, we’re finished with you,’ ” he said. “But your condition may deteriorate when you get older, and things that are minor now can hit you well down the line. That’s when you need the assistance, so they’re simply not looking into the future in that regard.”

Bill Steel, a 75-year-old Hespler veteran who served in the British Merchant Navy, also agreed with Stogran’s assessment, saying that while many widows and family survivors are well cared for, others deserve more than a one-time payment after the death of a loved one.

“You look at the guys who serve and are killed in Afghanistan, they leave behind wives and children who only get paid the lump sum,” he said. “But what is a wife and child to do later on when the children have to go to school and so forth? They should get some kind of pension, but obviously they’re not doing that.”

Steel added that another issue facing veterans is income caps which limit who can qualify for some government-covered benefits.

One such program, the War Veterans Allowance, requires that individuals earn less than $1,277 a month and families less than $1,943 a month to qualify for low-income assistance payments.

Steel said that that cap is too low, as many in need of aid are penalized for making too much.

“How can you possibly live on $1,200 a month?” he said. “I know people who are only $5 or $10 over the limit, and there’s no way they can live comfortably on the kind of money they’re making, but there’s no way they’re getting any assistance either, because it’s too much as far as Veterans Affairs is concerned.”

Veterans also voiced disappointment that Stogran wouldn’t be back for a second term later this year, with Davidson saying he felt the watchdog’s complaints were well in tune with veterans’ needs.

“I think he’s done an excellent job,” he said. “He’s tried to look after the veterans even though he’s run into some trouble with the bureaucracy. He finally spoke out, and I guess they said his term is finished.

“It’s the same as the Governor General,” he continued. “When she did what they wanted they gave her another term, and when she didn’t, she was gone. So whoever comes in after (Stogran) will have a really tough job to do.”/FONT>

KW RECORD/jm
 

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