Disabled veterans feel abandoned by government
Published Thursday, November 8, 2012 12:00PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, November 8, 2012 10:00PM EST
A group of veterans gathered on Parliament Hill Thursday to tell their stories of neglect and frustration as they try to navigate the bureaucracy that’s supposed to take care of them.
They were joined by partners and widows of other men who died or were injured while serving their country.
Retired master corporal David Desjardins, who is paralyzed from the waist down, said he felt like he had no choice but to go public with “serious concerns” about how Veterans Affairs and other federal agencies treat injured ex-soldiers.
He told a news conference that he’s been struggling to find a job because of his disability.
“For some of us, the term meaningful employment is equivalent to any employment,” he said.
“There’s a number of able-bodied people in expensive suits that will go on the record and state that there are all sorts of wonderful programs and employment opportunities for persons with disabilities, especially those that served in the Canadian Forces. Well, I’m here to ask those suits one simple question: Show me. Show me where those opportunities and jobs are.”
Desjardins said he has submitted “countless resumes” since leaving the army, only to be met with “prejudice” and physical requirements not mentioned in the job postings.
He said the phrase “priority hiring” is “tossed around like it’s a gift to the troops…until you read the fine print.”
Tracy Kerr, the wife of Cpl. William Kerr, who was injured in a blast in Afghanistan and lost three limbs, said the federal government has been dragging its feet in helping Kerr’s rehabilitation and even providing basic needs like a bath lift.
“I just want a quality of life, happiness for my family and when we make requests for his needs to get them, we’re told constantly told: ‘We’re waiting for signatures,’” Kerr said. “If I don’t get the help, I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
The Kerr family wanted to share its struggles with others, so it produced an online documentary called A Soldier’s Family and uploaded it to YouTube.
A group of former soldiers is challenging the New Veterans Charter legislation in court, which overhauled the way ex-soldiers are compensated. Many of them now get lump-sum compensation payments as opposed to pensions.
Other veterans have also been sounding alarms over privacy breaches, saying their confidential medical information was divulged to various federal bureaucrats.
The federal government responded Thursday by saying it’s doing everything it can to address veterans’ needs.
“Our government has improved response time and cut red tape for our veterans,” said Eve Adams, parliamentary secretary to Minister of Veterans Affairs Steve Blaney.
With a report from CTV’s Daniele Hamamdjian and files from The Canadian Press