Nova Scotia

Veteran with PTSD who killed his family, himself got $126K in disability compensation

The former soldier from Nova Scotia who killed his family and himself received $126,561 in disability compensation from Veterans Affairs for his diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder and other connected conditions, a fatality inquiry heard Tuesday. 

Fatality inquiry hears from Veterans Affairs witness about the supports available to former soldiers

The fatality inquiry into the what led to Lionel Desmond fatally shooting his family and then himself on Jan. 3, 2017, heard from Veterans Affairs witnesses for the first time Tuesday. (Dave Irish/CBC)

The former soldier from Nova Scotia who killed his family and himself received $126,561 in disability compensation from Veterans Affairs for his diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder and other connected conditions, a fatality inquiry heard Tuesday. 

The inquiry examining the circumstances leading up to Jan. 3, 2017, when Lionel Desmond shot his wife, Shanna, his mother, Brenda, and his 10-year-old daughter, Aaliyah, heard from a Veterans Affairs witness about what support may be given to those who are leaving the military.

A document presented Tuesday shows that Desmond received the lion's share of his compensation, $103,977, between January 2012 and February 2013.

In August 2007, he returned from a seven-month tour of Afghanistan, a mission his platoon told the inquiry earlier this year was like "going to hell."

A psychiatrist at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown diagnosed Desmond with PTSD and major depression in 2011. Although the rifleman seemed to briefly improve after undergoing almost a year of therapy combined with prescription medication, Dr. Vinod Joshi testified in February that Desmond repeatedly relapsed when triggered by the stressors in his life. 

Desmond was medically released in June 2015.

Lionel Desmond is shown here in this family photo, with his mother, Brenda, left, and daughter, Aaliyah, right. (Submitted by Cassandra Desmond)

Desmond assessed as 'moderate risk' to reintegrate

At that point, Veterans Affairs assessed him as a moderate risk in terms of difficulty in reintegrating to civilian life, according to testimony from Lee Marshall, a senior manager within the department. 

Marshall testified that meant Desmond's assessment would have been sent for review to see if he needed additional support from a case manager. 

Shanna Desmond, Lionel Desmond's wife, had just become a registered nurse when she was killed. (C. L. Curry Funeral Services)

Documents show Desmond filled in paperwork to get support from the department's rehabilitation program, including a case manager, but evidence Tuesday suggested it took more than six months for him to be paired with one. 

It's unclear why there was a delay.

But Marshall agreed with an assessment by Tara Miller, the lawyer for Brenda Desmond, that six months is "outside the best practices for making sure he's moving through the system as he should have at that time."

Desmond's Veterans Affairs case manager, Marie-Paule Doucette, had been scheduled to testify before the inquiry this week. 

Inquiry counsel learned last week that Doucette had been part of an internal review within Veterans Affairs into the deaths of the Desmond family.

Veterans Affairs has refused to voluntarily disclose the contents of that review as evidence. 

Counsel for the federal department told the judge Tuesday she felt the review was protected by interjurisdictional immunity and did not need to be entered as evidence. 

But she said a copy has been provided to the judge and he can make a legal determination about whether it falls within the mandate of the inquiry. 

The inquiry is a fatality inquiry, not a public one, and it is only provincial in scope. Ottawa rejected the Desmond family's campaign for a joint provincial-federal public inquiry, which would have had legally binding recommendations that could encompass both levels of government.

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