Cross Country Checkup

Are Canada's veterans getting the support they need?

The auditor general says there are too many veterans who are not getting the support they need. Is Canada living up to its responsibilities towards returning soldiers? Should wounded veterans have unlimited support? What do you think?
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper shakes hands with members of Soldier-On during a National Day of Honour Friday May 9, 2014 in Ottawa. The National Day of Honour commemorates the Canadian Forces. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

The Auditor General says there are too many veterans who are not getting the support they need.
Is Canada living up to its responsibilities towards returned soldiers? Should wounded veterans have unlimited support?  What do you think?


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INTRODUCTION

Today we'd like to talk about looking after Canada's war veterans.  This country has a tradition of helping returning soldiers re-integrate into civillian life after fighting abroad, especially those who are wounded or suffering from the horrors of war. Recently some veterans have been outspoken about not getting the help they need, and a report last week by Auditor General, Michael Ferguson affirmed that Canada could be doing better.  

Prominent among the Auditor General's observations was the question of whether the government was "truly meeting the needs of Canadians." Specifically, Mr. Ferguson looked at the needs of veterans, and acknowledged that many of them don't feel well-served because they often have difficulty obtaining the services they need.

The report comes at a time when many veterans and veterans groups have been calling for change in the way services are delivered to them. The government has brought forth changes over the years since the end of the Afghanistan mission, including a lump sum disability payment for the wounded (replacing a monthly disability support), a new Veterans Charter and recently announced funding for mental health clinics. The changes have not dampened the criticism from veterans who say not only are they not being well-served but they feel they're forced to struggle against a lumbering bureacracy that seems not to understand them.

There is a high degree of consensus on this issue.  All political parties and most Canadians genuinely feel that veterans need and deserve respect and all the support required to adjust to a normal life.  So, why is there such discontent? Is it a bureaucratic problem, an inability to deliver in a way that satisfies? The Auditor General's report suggests that is indeed partly to blame. Is it a problem of political will where people in positions of leadership have not delivered on their responsibility to make sure that veterans get what they need? That is certainly the view of the opposition parties and some veterans groups, who dispute the Conservative government's reputation as being the champion of the military and those who serve.

So, what's gone wrong?

Not all veterans are unhappy with the system. What are the expectations returning soldiers can reasonably have? How much service merits how much support? How does being injured, physically or mentally, alter the burden of responsibility? Wounded soldiers used to receive a disability pension-for-life as well a service pension after ten years in the armed forces. Should Canada drop the lump sum and return to that? How can we best help and how much support should be offered? Are there ways the system can be improved? 

I'm Rex Murphy on CBC Radio One and on Sirius XM satellite radio channel 169. This is Cross Country Checkup.


GUESTS

Alice Aiken
Director of the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research. Health Research, Associate Professor & Chair, Physical Therapy Program, School of Rehabilitation Therapy, Queen`s University. She served in the Canadian Forces for 14 years, first as a ship's navigator in the Navy, then as a physiotherapist.

Lt-Col (Ret.) Chris Linford
​Ambassador, Wounded Warriors Canada. Author of "A Warrior Rising: A Soldier's Journey to PTSD and Back."

Professor David Bercuson
Director, Centre for Military and Strategic Studies, University of Calgary. His latest book is called "The Fighting Canadians."


LINKS

CBC.ca

National Post

Globe and Mail

Ottawa Citizen

Toronto Star

Halifax Chronicle Herald


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