Advocate Keith Neville ordered to stop work with veterans' appeals

A veterans' advocate in Whitney Pier said he's been told by the federal government he can no longer help former military members navigate the bureaucracy of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board.

Keith Neville has worked 48 cases and won appeals in all of them

Keith Neville aired his concerns alongside NDP veterans affairs critic Peter Stoffer at a news conference in Whitney Pier Tuesday. (CBC)

A veterans' advocate in Whitney Pier said he's been told by the federal government he can no longer help former military members navigate the bureaucracy of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board.

Keith Neville has successfully advocated for 48 veterans having their cases heard by the Veterans Review and Appeal Board, which provides veterans and other applicants with an independent avenue of appeal for disability decisions made by Veterans Affairs Canada.

In July, the board sent Neville a letter saying he was no longer allowed to represent any veterans in any future cases against the board.

"Forty-eight cases were done and 48 cases were overturned," Neville said Tuesday. "So I've been making them look bad."

The letter from the board stated the requirements for representing a client have changed.

Non-lawyer representatives who do not comply with the expected standards will no longer be able to act on behalf of clients in proceedings before the board, it said.

Neville is not a lawyer.

Peter Stoffer, the veterans affairs critic for the New Democratic Party, was in Cape Breton on Tuesday to support Neville and said the process was nothing more than a manhunt. Stoffer said Neville is just a man who knows the system and how to fill out the paperwork.

"I am absolutely disgusted and I feel so sorry not for only Mr. Neville and his reputation, but the veterans and the family members he is supporting," Stoffer said.

'He doesn't do it for glory or for medals'

Peter Stoffer says veterans have the right to representation on their terms. (CBC)

"Let's not forget Mr. Neville doesn't do this for money, he doesn't do it for glory or for medals. He does it because he likes veterans and he wants to help them."

Stoffer said when several Veterans Affairs offices were closed last year, veterans were told they could get assistance at their local legion from the service officer. That officer is overwhelmed with cases, Stoffer said, and can't take on any more.

Frank Hawryluk, a veteran, said the other alternative Veterans Affairs gave him was to hire a lawyer.

"The last letter I got from the board, either get myself a lawyer because they do not want to have nothing to do him whatsoever," he said.

Stoffer said veterans have the right to representation on their terms.

"I find this quite unconscionable because once a veteran, or family member of a veteran, signs an authorization form, they can have anybody in the country that they ask to represent them and argue their case when it comes to the Veterans Review and Appeal Board," he said.

Stoffer is planning to send a letter to new Veterans Affairs Minister Erin O’Toole. Neville said he will continue his work fighting for veterans.

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