Disabled veterans in court fighting federal government on benefits
Group want program restored that guaranteed life-long disability payments for injured veterans
A group of military veterans is battling it out once again, but this time they're in the courtroom rather than in a war zone.
Earlier the group won the right in a lower court to sue the federal government. They want to restore a program that guaranteed life-long disability payments for injured veterans.
The federal government is now in front of the B.C. Court of Appeal, trying to get the case tossed out.
It argues it has every right to change the way it administers benefits to any Canadian, including veterans. Government lawyers say past promises to veterans don't override Parliament's authority to change programs as it sees fit.
Canada bred us as warriors;to think we’re going to fold and buckle under a bit of government pressure is ridiculous- Mark Campbell, retired Major
The challenge to the federal government is being mounted by a small group called Equitas, which was formed in 2011 to lobby for veterans and restore the old monthly disability payment system.
"The government seems to want to save a buck or two and they’re doing it on the backs of the veterans," says retired major Mark Campbell.
Campbell lost both his legs above the knee, a testicle and had an eardrum blown in an ambush in Afghanistan in 2008. He says he's receiving about $35,000 a year less than he would have under the old system.
"Canada bred us as warriors; to think we’re going to fold and buckle under a bit of government pressure is ridiculous," he said, adding that the government now has three different types of compensation for veterans, each depending on what time period they served.
The office of Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino released a statement Wednesday saying the government doesn't comment on issues that are before the court, "except to say that this matter deals with something that all parties agreed to under the previous government."
Concern about lump-sum payments
For many decades, an injured war veteran from Canada received a pension for life. But since the implementation of the New Veterans Charter in 2006, the monthly disability payments were replaced with a one-time payment that is capped.
In addition to a lump sum injury compensation payment of up to $550,000, the Veterans Affairs website indicates a severely injured soldier with the rank of Major could receive up to $9,685 per month from a variety of government programs.
Some veterans' advocates have warned of the danger of giving large lump-sum payments to veterans still suffering from post traumatic stress or other war related disabilities.
They fear the money might be wasted, especially if the vet has substance abuse issues, and argue it's more secure to give disabled vets a steady monthly payment.
Campbell says it's all about fairness in his mind and he hopes the court process, alongside public pressure on the government, leads to changes.
"Their behaviour in court is consistent with their behaviour in general, and that is, to delay, to deny and wait until we all die. That seems to be their tactic."
Arguments in the appeal are scheduled to wrap up Thursday.