Give thoughts Nov. 11

MP Dick Harris is upset because the NDP voted against a bill aimed at protecting war monuments.

MP Dick Harris is upset because the NDP voted against a bill aimed at protecting war monuments.

Question.  Is Mr. Harris equally upset over the shabby way Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of National Defence (DND) treat ill and injured veterans of the war in Afghanistan? The government trumpets “Support Our Troops” but the support falls short for soldiers unlucky enough to be damaged in the hostilities. Some wonder if there is more concern over saving money than there is in helping those who are discharged for medical reasons. The New Veterans Charter, passed unanimously by the federal government in 2006,  clawed back income support benefits for disabled veterans.

A class action lawsuit launched by 4,500 vets challenged this. The government fought back (with taxpayer’s dollars of course) but last spring the federal court ruled in the veterans’ favour.  Defence Minister Peter MacKay patted himself on the back for not appealing the decision.  That’s the same Peter Mackay who blew $25 billion on F-35 fighter jets.

In the meantime, federal Auditor General Michael Ferguson reported that the process of wading through the VA’s bureaucratic maze is extremely difficult for the vets. Shoddy record keeping adds to the problem. Last month, another group of disabled vets launched a lawsuit against a VA decision to give lump sum payments in lieu of lifetime pensions. These vets say the payouts don’t come close to meeting their needs.

On Nov. 11, as we honour the heroes from past conflicts, let’s give a thought or two for the current bunch. Even those who don’t support the war in Afghanistan do support the soldiers. Government departments should treat these “new” vets decently without being forced to by the courts. No doubt  Mr. Harris is doing everything he can to ensure the government acts on the AG’s recommendations ASAP.  Surely the Opposition parties won’t oppose.

Diana French is a freelance columnist for the Tribune. She is a former Tribune editor, retired teacher, historian, and book author.

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