"As I mused, the fire burned"

Reflection on life as a person of faith.

Veteran’s Benefits

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The question of veteran’s benefits and the Conservative government’s treatment of veterans have been heavy in the news this past week.  The CBC featured this as a discussion topic in their Sunday evening panel discussion.

Now I hear that the government has allocated $4M for advertising to promote the work of Veteran’s Affairs.  This pales in comparison to the image of the Veteran’s Affairs minister (Julian Fantino) quickly walking away from the spouse of a veteran suffering under the weight of PTSD.   The spouse, Jenifer Migneault, was attempting to speak with the minister about receiving support for her husband.

I have to say as a veteran, and a client of Veteran’s Affairs, that this $4M for advertising, and the almost complete disinterest of Fantino, are outrageous.

These continue in the same tone as Fantino’s comments last year about how he has spent time ‘in the trenches’ and understood the burden of soldiers.  I have the utmost respect for those who answer the high calling of the police service, but to suggest that police and soldiers are in the same bin is simply wrong.

I’ve written about this frequently in the past.  The present police practice of calling the population ‘civilians’ and how wrong that is – given Peel’s principles of policing, that of police-citizens who are selected as civilian constables.  The police are to be civilians, policing civilians.  Soldiers, by contrast, undertake the unlimited liability of service, which means accepting that they may be asked to die in pursuit of the mission.  While the police face risk, they have the ability to refuse duty, are represented by police unions, and return home to their families each evening.  There is, in fact, a huge danger in the police thinking of themselves as somehow not being part of the civilian population, as this permits all sorts of abuse to be justified.  The idea that the police are not citizen civilians is a modern creation, and mostly an American creation (reflecting the militarization of the police).

For Fantino to place himself in the same bin as those returning from combat patrolling in Afghanistan is ignorant and offensive.

OK, back to the $4M.  Here’s my personal story.

I’m a disability pensioner, something that came from my military service.  It wasn’t a wound in a theatre of operation.  Rather my injury came from the mundane part of military life, as most military injuries do.  My experience of Veteran’s Affairs is that they are an organization that seeks to minimize payments as much as is possible.  There is love for the use of rigid rules.  Here’s my examples:

1.  One of the treatments I find most helpful for my condition is intermuscular stimulation (IMS).  When my condition flares up, what keeps me off of heavy doses of narcotics is IMS.  IMS treatments cost $80 versus $50 for a standard physical therapy treatment.  VAC refuses to pay the added $30 per treatment because there is not rationale for the use of IMS alone (aside from my physician’s prescription), and no reason to provide for  a higher payment.

I have a work medical plan which pays the difference, but were I a vet with an inability to work, and no health care plan, that $30 per treatment might mean I couldn’t use the one thing that really brings relief from chronic pain.

I’ve appealed these decisions in the past, and I’ve given up as the progress is predictable and denial is always the result.

2.  I also receive benefits under the veterans independence program (VIP)  which pays for grass cutting of my back yard (which I find too challenging to do) and to wash my second floor windows.  This used to be a submit receipts for reimbursement system, which means that each dollar was repaid.  This year, VAC changed this to a lump sum system.

The problem is that VAC set the dollar amount based on what I claimed last year.  Problem with this is that last year I never had my windows done.  So the lump sum amount is deficient as compared to the entitlement, and there is no provision to allow for review of the amount, or for increase based on changes in the cost of services.

Again, for me this is an annoyance, because I can afford to pay the extra amount.  I’m able to work full-time in a job that pays well.  Many of my peers are not in a similar circumstance.

3.  VACs drug list.  I’ve used older narcotics for years (15 now) for my disability.  These cause me huge side effects, but I had little option until recently.  The new drugs Tramacet/Tramadol were approved for use in Canada a few years ago.  I find that Tramacet provides excellent pain control with only about 10% of the side effects I find with other narcotics.

The problem – VAC’s approved drug list does not include Tramacet.  Using the drug of choice means I have to pay for this myself (and through a separate drug plan).

4. My best non-drug treatment is massage therapy.  I’ve found over the past 15 years that the best way to minimize drug use is by regular massage therapy.  VAC caps these treatments at about 18 per year, while I use 24.  My insurance pays for the balance.

The part that bothers me is my massage therapist is only compensated $65 per treatment when her current rate is $85 per treatment.  She keeps VAC clients on her case load because she feels it to be her civic duty.  Many of her peers refuse to treat vets because it requires them to provide cut-rate services.

I also know, from her comments, that VAC is frequently slow with payment.

These are all small things in the big scheme of my life, and I have other insurance that covers almost all the costs.  The burden on small business people like my therapist is troubling.

To hear that the government is spending $4M on advertising to convince the public that VAC is really doing a good job is outrageous.  If that reflects the Conservative view of veterans, it’s no wonder that Fantino can act with great disregard toward veterans…for a political party that has always courted the military, and represented themselves as the best political friend of the military, this is very disappointing.

This Wednesday, June 4, there is a protest on Parliament Hill to support veterans.  I agree with Senator Dallaire, that after supporting 10 years of combat mission, now is not the time to start chopping support for the most seriously injured veterans (“Veterans cost too much”)  There is a moral and ethical obligation on the state to stand with those who stood for Canadian values in a far away land.


Written by sameo416

June 1, 2014 at 8:10 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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