Nova Scotia

Disabled veterans fight Ottawa for benefits in proposed class-action suit

Some veterans who say they've been wrongly shut out of disability payments from Ottawa are taking their fight to Federal Court in Halifax.

A dozen veterans who were injured while serving say they were incorrectly told they were ineligible

Some veterans who say they've been shut out of disability payments have taken the federal government to court. (Reuters)

Some veterans who say they've been wrongly shut out of disability payments from Ottawa are taking their fight to Federal Court in Halifax. 

Their lawyer, Daniel Wallace, said about a dozen veterans have come forward, claiming they didn't apply for disability benefits because they were told they were ineligible.

The case involves a three-decade-long federal government practice of clawing back the military pensions of injured soldiers by the amount of disability payments they received.

"The government told each and every member that was being released that their benefits would be zero or close to zero because of this deduction," said Wallace. 

Wallace said it is the same flawed formula that has already been proven in Federal Court. In 2013, the court approved an $887-million settlement for more than 7,000 veterans, with some receiving money dating back to 1976.

That case was led by veteran Dennis Manuge, and supported by the federal Liberal Party. 

"The Liberals were very supportive of the Manuge case when they were in Opposition, and we certainly appreciated that support," said Wallace.

"And they have not been supportive now that they're in power, of this very similar case."

'It financially ruined me'

Military veteran Fernand Kenney is one of the veterans named in the proposed lawsuit. He's seeking disability payments for post-traumatic stress disorder related to his service in Bosnia. 

"For Mr. Kenny, it probably is maybe $30,000 to $40,000. So, a life changing amount of money that he should have received when he was released back in 2005," Wallace said. 

"These are benefits he paid for throughout his career in case he did get disabled, and unfortunately that's exactly what happened while he was serving during the Bosnian war." 

Stephane Hebert, a veteran who served 21 years, is also named in the lawsuit. He said he never applied for benefits because he was told he was ineligible. 

"It financially ruined me and physically I'm totally disabled," said Hebert, who has PTSD and also uses a cane to walk due to physical injury. 

"So it's really hard for me, you know, to take care of my little girl, and my wife, it takes a toll on her too.

At a court appearance Wednesday, Wallace argued the proposed class action should be certified. The federal government is opposing certification.

A ruling is not expected for a couple of months.


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