Dear Editor: I am a veteran who served in the first Gulf War. My son served in Afghanistan and returned missing a leg. I have first-hand knowledge of veterans whose daily struggle with life-altering mental and physical challenges requires more than election talk.
Perhaps you know someone in Grey or Bruce counties like my injured son, or who is still serving in the military. Perhaps you’re a patriot with no military connections, but who cares deeply about the quality of life of the men and women who serve our country. Like me, you may be silently worrying about our veterans’ futures.
In an effort to separate the political wheat from the chaff, let’s set aside the pre-election plethora of promises and instead take a look at how the two leading parties have managed their responsibility for our veterans. The course they chart while at the country’s helm reveals a lot about their true direction.
The current government has made great strides improving our veterans’ financial and health benefits, and easing our veterans’ transition to civilian life.
The callous cuts of the Harper Conservatives clawed back pension entitlements from injured and disabled veterans, closed nine Veteran Affairs offices, and increased wait times for mental health care up to eight months. Almost a quarter of veterans applying for disability benefits were refused.
While veterans struggled to get services they needed, the former Harper gang withheld over a billion dollars (yes, a BILLION) that had been allocated for veterans between 2006 and 2014, returning those funds to General Revenues in their single-minded and ideological drive to cut, cut, cut. (source: Tom Beaver and Ron Clarke 19 Aug 2015 | TheTyee.ca). Sending men and women into battle, it seems, was a hell of a lot easier than looking after them when they returned.
By contrast, the current Government made good on its 2015 election promise to restore funding for veterans, reopen Veteran Affairs offices, and make it easier to access services.
The work continues. The 2019 budget made more investments for veterans:
— $150 million over five years to better process veterans claims;
— $136 million over five years to Veteran Affairs and the Department of National Defence for transition services;
— Expansion of the eligibility for the Education and Training Benefit;
— Funding for a new Centre of Excellence on Chronic Pain Research; and
— Funding for the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research.
The Government of Canada has also introduced the Pension for Life (PFL) that contains adjustments to the benefits available to members and veterans. PFL includes three new benefits that will compensate veterans for disability resulting from service-related injury or illness.
Veterans’ morale increased with the knowledge that the government changed course and substantially increased their support.
So, why am I still worried about our veterans?
Because there is a federal election on Oct. 21 and, if the Conservatives are elected, I’m worried veterans could lose the ground they’ve regained.
Talk is cheap. The previous government demonstrated clearly by its actions that they have little respect for those who had so courageously served our country. Our veterans deserved much better, and the Liberals stepped up and improved the situation.
Don’t turn back the clock. Make the patriotic choice and ensure our veterans continue to receive the support they rightly deserve and will always need.
WRC Little, OMM, CD
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