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Federal government says it has no 'social contract' to care for military veterans

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CBC is reporting the federal government's official response to a lawsuit by Canadian veterans who say the government's miserly benefits to injured veterans from Afghanistan and other wars is a violation of a 'social contract' to protect them dating back to World War One.

Government lawyers have filed an argument in court that the federal government does not have such a social contract with veterans.

The move comes in response to a class-action suit brought by veterans against the New Veterans Charter that was approved by all four parties in the federal Parliament in 2005. Veterans say the Charter provides too little compensation for what soldiers risked. A key issue in dispute is that the new Charter replaced monthly payments to injured and recovering veterans with lump sum payments with a capped maximum.

A Postmedia news report in 2012 explained the following:

The New Veterans Charter is a relatively new statute which was enacted in 2006 at the height of the bloody Afghan conflict. Introduced by Paul Martin's Liberal government and endorsed by the

NDP and Conservatives, it replaced a set of regulations called the Pension Act.

Supporters say the new regulations provide additional benefits such as re-education and priority hiring in the federal government... But (NDP MP Peter) Stoffer admits that some severely injured veterans lose hundreds of thousands of dollars over their lifetime, as shown in a 2011 Queen's University study.

The study found that severely injured Afghan veterans post-2006 will receive an average one-third less from Veterans Affairs Canada than those coming under pre-2006 regulations. Study author Alice Aiken says the payments are usually one-time lump sums, rather than monthly cheques that actually work out to a lot more money over the course of a lifetime. [Read the 67-page, 2011 study here.]

Veterans are also up in arms over the recent closure of eight regional service offices of Veterans Affairs Canada. They have staged protests across Canada and called on citizens to vote against the Conservative Party in the 2015 federal election.

The Department of National Defence says 158 Canadian soldiers were killed and 2,047 injured in Afghanistan.

Two more Afghan veterans have committed suicide in recent days, bringing the number of suicides of soldiers to nine in the past several months. The suicide crisis is an acute embarassment to a federal government that champions militarism.

Late last year, Prime Minister Stephen Harper appeared to chide troubled veterans and their families, saying they were not availing themselves of counseling and other services that he says are available. He said it's everyone’s “responsibility to encourage” those who need support to seek help from programs already in place.

“Those supports are available and of course, we will make sure they will continue to be available,” he said.

* * *

Statistics compiled by the Vanier Institute of the Family, as part of the Canadian Military Family Initiative:

  • Number of military families in the Canadian Forces: 45,106
  • Number of children under 18 with a parent in the military: 55,199
  • Percentage of military families who live off-base: 83
  • Percentage of military members who are either married or living common-law: 59
  • Percentage of military personnel who are divorced or separated: 5
  • Percentage who are single: 32
  • Percentage of military spouses who work full-time: 46
  • Percentage of military spouses who are male: 13
  • Percentage of military couples who have children: 75
  • Percentage of military families who have one or more children with special needs: 8
  • Percentage of military spouses who have experienced at least one deployment of their family: 70
  • Percentage who have experienced at least five deployments: 17
  • Percentage who have relocated at least once for a military posting: 76


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