Pat Stogran calls $2 billion promised to veterans "smoke and mirrors"

Last September, amidst outrage by soldiers and reports in the media critical of the government’s treatment of veterans, the Harper government promised $2 billion in increased benefits.

It was announced at the time that the money would go to “increased financial support for seriously injured Veterans, enhanced monthly income for severely injured Veterans who are unable to return to work, and a boost to the minimum annual income for Veterans released at lower salary levels.” (Veterans Affairs Canada, “The Government of Canada announces significant increase in support for our Veterans,” News Release, 19 September 2010.)

But as Stephanie Levitz of the Canadian Press recently reported, “the pledge is for the lifetime of the program, meaning the program is meant to last until the last veteran alive needs it.” Officials say that the short-term cost of the program will be $189.4 million over five years (Stephanie Levitz, “Apparent flood of aid for veterans revealed as a trickle,” Ipolitics.ca, 19 July 2011).

Pat Stogran, the former Veterans Ombudsman and an outspoken critic of the government, dismissed the promised funds as “smoke and mirrors.”

“I find it all very demoralizing,” he said. “Thankfully it’s not my kid who is suffering, thankfully it is not me who is suffering.”

Sean Bruyea, a veteran whose medical and financial records were improperly accessed by the government, questions the timing of the regulatory changes implementing the program. “They’re doing this in the middle of summer so that no one can respond to [the changes].” Mr. Bruyea noted that an earlier policy change, the switch to a lump-sum payment for disabilities, was announced over the Christmas holidays.

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