New Brunswick

94-year-old British war hero ineligible for long-term care in Saint John

After news that a Norwegian Second World War veteran was denied access to a long term care facility for vets in Nova Scotia, CBC News has learned of a New Brunswick veteran in a similar situation, 94-year-old Frank Rusling.

Frank Rusling served in British Royal Navy for 10 years before becoming Canadian

Elsie and Frank Rusling look at photos from his time in the British Royal Navy. Rusling will not qualify for access to a long-term care facility for veterans because he served in the British navy. (Brian Chisholm)

After news that a Norwegian Second World War veteran was denied access to a long-term care facility for vets in Nova Scotia, CBC News has learned of a New Brunswick veteran in a similar situation.

Frank Rusling, 94, was born in the United Kingdom and served in the British Royal Navy for 10 years, including all of the Second World War.

He moved to Canada almost 60 years ago and is a Canadian citizen, but because he served in the British Army, he isn't eligible for long-term care in the Ridgewood Veterans Wing in Saint John.

Elsie Rusling is Frank's wife, and his primary caregiver. They spend their days drinking tea and watching television or reading in their sunroom in Lorneville, overlooking the Bay of Fundy.

Rusling has some difficulty with basic household tasks, but he is still able to live at home. When the time comes, though, they'd both like to see him enter the Ridgewood Veterans Wing.

Elsie Rusling said she and her husband spend their days drinking tea and watching television or reading in their sunroom in Lorneville. (Brian Chisholm)

But when Elsie Rusling talked to a few of her husband's friends at the local Royal Canadian Legion, she learned that may not be possible.

"It was just quite a shock to hear that because he's been very well all his life, very active, but in the last year and a half, he's not so well," she said.

"It just makes you wonder about those things. How are we going to cope?"

Elsie Rusling has not yet formally applied for her husband to get into the wing because he doesn't need it yet, so she hasn't received a formal letter of rejection from Ridgewood.

However, for years, she'd been under the impression that her husband would be welcomed there.

"We've talked about it, and we were always told that the veterans were allowed to go there," she said.

"But when I talked to someone not too long ago, they were told that they are no longer letting British veterans in, only Canadian veterans."

10 years of service

A photo of a 15-year-old Rusling during his military training. He had a decade-long military career in the Royal Navy, where he worked in visual signalling on ships. (Brian Chisholm)
Rusling had a 10-year military career in the Royal Navy, where he worked in visual signalling on ships. He quickly rose through the ranks, eventually becoming a Yeoman of Signals.

His career took him around the world, landing him in many close-call situations in Malta, in battles against German soldiers during World War II.

In fact, many of his stories are chronicled on the Veterans Affairs website, as part of the Heroes Remember series.

After retiring from the navy, he worked as a policeman in England for 10 years before immigrating to Canada. When he arrived, he joined the Canadian Pacific Police and worked with them for 30 more years before retiring at 65.

"I enjoyed every moment of it, I'll tell you that," he said.

Even though his memories were immortalized on the Veterans Affairs Canada website, he is still an allied veteran.

2 types of long-term care

At 94 years old, Rusling is less active than he used to be. (Brian Chisholm/CBC)
Veterans Affairs says there are two long-term care options for allied veterans.

The first is a community bed: a bed in a community facility not specifically designated for veterans, such as a long-term care unit in the hospital or a nursing home.

"Veterans who served with Allied armed forces, War Veterans who served in Canada only and have a low income, and Canadian Armed Forces Veterans who need care due to service-related disability can receive long term care in a community bed," the department said in an emailed statement.

The other, a contract bed, is available for Canadian veterans who have served overseas, who are income qualified, or who have a disability related to their military service.

For allied veterans, this option is only available if they have special needs that can't be met in a community bed.

Ridgewood Veterans Wing operates contract beds, so Rusling isn't eligible there.

Also, Veterans Affairs states that veterans may be eligible for programs such as the Veterans Independence Program, which provides home care support that can help veterans stay in their own home as long as possible.

Rusling said he has generally been treated with respect, but he said this policy is unfortunate.

"We should all be treated the same. We're doing the same work, we're the same people," he said.