"As I mused, the fire burned"

Reflection on life as a person of faith.

Rick Mercer and Veterans Affairs

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Rick Mercer has always been a great friend of the military. His recent rant concerned the experience of MCpl Paul Franklin (ret’d) having to repeatedly certify that he was still experiencing disability as a result of his double leg amputation.  His website (link above) is quite interesting.

You might recall Franklin’s name associated with the January 2006 IED death of a Canadian diplomat, Glyn Berry.  The RC Legion wrote a good summary article back in 2007 talking about some of Franklin’s challenges.

After Mercer’s rant, Franklin received a call from the new Minister of Veterans Affairs, Erin O’Toole.  Franklin wrote a letter in reply that was published in the Huffington Post.  The article is titled, “Each Year, Veterans Affairs Makes Me Prove I Lost my Legs”, here’s a snip:

Minister Erin O’Toole,

I have had many issues in my nine years as a wounded soldier and as a vet.

After returning in 2006, the Department of Defence (DoD) did amazing things and worked tiredly on the issue and where VAC (Veterans’ Affairs) failed to deliver they stepped up. Upon my retirement “my file” of course went to VAC and to quote a great writer “and this is where my trouble began.”

The legion wrote a piece about my struggles in the beginning called the “The Quiet Fight.” I personally prefer that method but alas even that method is being taken from me. It would seem that if I fight for myself things may change for me, but not sadly for the 700,000 others.

I have had my wheelchair taken away from me twice. First while in hospital due to lack of payment when DOD and VAC were in argument about who pays.

The second was just last year when upon getting a new chair it was felt by VAC that I didn’t get the appropriate paperwork — which was a doctor’s note saying “Due to transformal amputations, Paul Franklin needs a new wheelchair.”

During the recent Manulife lawsuit, I was approved of a pension but was not to receive it until a doctor confirmed my limb loss. This is something that has to be done every year presumably until age 65.

The core problem is VAC’s focus on providing services in an insurance-minded manner.  The only way to resolve that, I’ve convinced, is to gut the organization and put in place people who clearly understand the obligation to support injured veterans.  As a personal note, I’ve given up on VAC as the arguments and endless letters almost always result in nothing but added stress.

One example: I use massage therapy as a means of staying off narcotics.  It works well, and I attend every two weeks.  VAC pays for 15 or so sessions per year, and I have never received an extension – usually because the treatment doesn’t provide measurable improvement to the underlying condition.  As the underlying condition is chronic, and the treatment palliative, that’s not surprising.

The rate of pay for that service has sat at $65 per hour since 2005, in spite of my massage therapist’s increase in her rates to $85 per treatment.  She continues to accept the lower rate without passing along extra billing because of her commitment to support veterans.  Just this year, VAC has finally increased the rate per treatment to a reasonable level.  Given that many of these service providers are small business owners, that sort of burden is really unreasonable.  I’m thankful for my therapist’s commitment to me and the other veterans she supports…but she shouldn’t be put in that position.  VAC is also chronically slow in making payment.

That’s one small example from my experience, and I have no where near the degree of disability that many of our Afghanistan veterans have returned with.  I’m also a pre-2006 claimant, which means my benefits were brought under the older legislation.  Many of our Afghan vets (like Franklin) came to benefits under the New Veterans Charter which has replaced a life-time pension with a lump-sum pain and suffering payment.  Those lump-sum payments were brought into being for one reason only – to limit the government’s ongoing liability.  For a young veteran, the life-time pension always pays out a higher level of benefits over time than the lump-sum.

Here’s hope that Mr O’Toole is prepared to do what is required to replace that insurance mindset with one that focuses on veteran’s needs.

 

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Written by sameo416

February 9, 2015 at 10:11 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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