Vets ombudsman 'absolutely correct': Natynczyk
Canada's top soldier, Gen. Walter Natynczyk, says concerns raised by the veterans ombudsman are "absolutely correct issues" and the controversial New Veterans Charter "doesn't work for everyone."
At a news conference Friday, Natynczyk, the chief of the defence staff, was asked if veterans ombudsman Pat Stogran, whose term is not being renewed, has been doing a good job.
"He has certainly voiced with clarity what the issues are," said Natynczyk, who held the news conference with his Dutch counterpart, Gen. Peter van Uhm, who has been on an official visit to Canada.
Earlier this week, Stogran hit out at the Department of Veterans Affairs for being "deliberately obstructionist and deceptive," rather than helping injured soldiers. Stogran also said one government official told him that soldiers were less of a liability if they died in war, rather than coming back to Canada injured.
One issue Stogran says is a problem is the New Veterans Charter, under which a lump sum of money is awarded to injured soldiers, rather than a monthly pension for life.
Over a veteran's lifetime, a monthly pension works out to be hundreds of thousands of dollars more. And there are concerns that soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder may mismanage money that is given in a lump sum.
Natynczyk weighed into the debate Friday.
"I know Veterans Affairs has done their survey and 69 per cent have some satisfaction. [We] gotta worry about that 31 per cent and we gotta make sure they get the support that they need because their circumstances may be different," Natynczyk said.
Operations under review: Blackburn
Veterans Affairs Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn has said operations at the department are being continually reviewed, including the lump-sum payment.
Natynczyk also encouraged soldiers to speak out, whether at parliamentary committees, to the media or in public, about the issues they face and the needs they have, because every soldier is different.
"Everyone's had a different war, a different fight. Their family circumstances are different," he said. "I think the bottom line is we can't do enough for our soldiers, our wounded soldiers."
At a separate news conference Friday afternoon, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said his government will continue to work with the current and next veterans ombudsman and Veterans Affairs to address the concerns of military veterans.
"Serving our veterans is one of the highest priorities we have as a government," said Harper. "Men and women who serve in uniform are our best and bravest citizens and, particularly when they get injured, we have an eternal debt to them."
On Friday, Liberal Veterans Affairs critic Rob Oliphant submitted a letter to the clerk of the all-party veterans affairs committee and demanded it be recalled to study the government's refusal to appoint Stogran to another term.
He said public criticism of the system by the former ground commander in Afghanistan is serious enough to warrant special hearings.
The committee requires the signatures of four MPs to be recalled, and Oliphant got the backing of other Liberals on the committee as well as the NDP. Its return would mark the third Commons committee brought back this summer.
Parliament is set to resume Sept. 20.
- In an earlier version of this story, the comment about soldiers being less of a liability if dead was incorrectly attributed to an unnamed veterans affairs official. In fact, veterans affairs ombudsman Pat Stogran said the comment was made by a treasury board official.Aug 20, 2010 3:15 PM ET
With files from The Canadian Press