Mark Ross first applied to Veterans Affairs Canada in June 2019 for assistance with post-traumatic stress. Even after more than two years, he is still waiting to hear if his claim is approved and the government will cover the cost of his treatment.
“That’s why I’m upset,” the former soldier said in a recent interview from his home in Pembroke, Ont. “Because they say if it’s post-traumatic stress, they’ll hear it very quickly and they’ll do everything. Well, I’m 100 weeks old now.”
Like Ross, thousands of other Canadian veterans have been forced to wait months and sometimes years to find out whether their requests for disability benefits stemming from psychological and physical injuries while in uniform were approved. Has been.
The backlog is one of several issues that have become a source of tension, frustration and anger within the Canadian veterans community, but was absent – and unusually absent – from the federal election campaign.
The community of Canadian veterans is not united, but it is large, with approximately 700,000 Canadians serving in uniform. When it has rallied in the past, political parties have stepped in with many big promises.
The most famous example was in 2015 when veterans rallied against the Harper government’s decision to close several Veterans Affairs Canada offices across the country and fire hundreds of departmental employees, triggering a backlog.
That battle coincided with the high-profile Equitas lawsuit, in which six Afghan war veterans were fighting in court to bring back lifetime pensions for disabled soldiers, a program adopted after World War I but by a system in 2006. was substituted. lump sum payment.
Although exact numbers are difficult to confirm, it is largely acknowledged that Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s promises to reopen offices, lay off staff, stop fighting the Equitas lawsuit, and restore the pension system have led him to many Vote won.
Still, while the Liberal government reopened offices and hired staff, the backlog continued to grow as demand for resources soared, which the Veterans Ombudsman has repeatedly warned will take a toll on injured veterans. There is additional stress and difficulty.
Liberals also continued to fight Equitas, which the Supreme Court ousted in 2018, and created their own pension system instead of restoring the old one, which in 2019 a parliamentary budget official found would give veterans more money.
After then-conservative leader Andrew Scheer sought to transcend the sense of betrayal during the 2019 election, many former service members felt toward Trudeau in support of the Tories, which many see as the party for which veterans Vote traditionally.
Scheer’s promises included cleaning up the backlog, creating a “military covenant” between the government and veterans in legislation, and a “credible, trustworthy pension system” that is “fair to Canada’s most disabled veterans.”
Fast forward two years and this issue has been conspicuously absent from this election campaign. No leader has gone out of his way to court the community or highlight his party’s promises, while the issues raised in 2015 and to a lesser extent in 2019 largely flew under the radar Huh.
Jim Scott, president of the Equitas Society, which is leading the lawsuit by the same name, says frustration continues over the fact that three different systems now offer different benefits to veterans with similar injuries.
Many people, like Ross, are also troubled by the disability claims dues of around 40,000.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the short duration of the campaign have been cited as reasons why veterans’ issues have not surfaced. Another factor, advocates say, is the community’s focus on rescuing hundreds of Afghans who served as interpreters and support staff with Canadian troops from 2001 to 2014 and who are now at risk of Taliban retaliation.
Oliver Thorne, executive director of the Vancouver-based Veterans Transition Network, said in an interview on Wednesday, “This has caught the attention of a lot of veterans because they care deeply about their colleagues with whom they worked in Afghanistan. “
“They are literally offering shirts off their backs because they care so deeply. So I think we can see that elderly Afghans are so focused on trying to aid in evacuation efforts that maybe they are not able to meet their needs. are less vocal about
Scott acknowledges a level of fatigue even within the community, with many veterans being weary of fighting that at this point has been a largely losing battle for the benefits, services and respect that were promised to them.
“The giants just moved on,” Scott said in an interview on Thursday. “A lot of them just said: ‘You know, this is an unhealthy place for me to fight the government. At the end of the day, I need to move on. Because I’m not getting any support.’”
He said he was also concerned that the war in Afghanistan was rapidly disappearing in the back mirror, with Canadians not having the same affection for the military and those serving in uniform.
This does not mean that the parties have not incorporated promises in their platforms for veterans. For example, the NDP has promised to create a pension system, while conservatives say they will restore a lifetime pension for veterans with moderate to severe injuries.
O’Toole and People’s Party of Canada leader Maxim Bernier are the only two leaders to have signed a pledge by the Equitas Society to introduce a social covenant with military members and a bill of rights.
Yet none of the leaders shied away from talking about their promises. Even O’Toole has spoken out about his 12-year uniform but not about the fact that he’s a veteran.
The Conservative leader on the campaign trail has not emphasized his role as Minister of Veterans Affairs during the past 11 months of the Harper government, for which he has received some praise for undoing the damage he had done under the supervision of his predecessor, Julian. Fantino.
The lack of discussion on veterans’ issues during the election does not sit well with the President of the Royal Canadian Legion Dominion, Bruce Julian.
He said in a recent interview, “We have found that unless those issues are made public and brought forward, where the public can see them and discuss them and take a position That is, they do not become the priority of governments when they take power.”