Soldier with PTSD denounces discharge before qualifying for pension
Published Wednesday, October 30, 2013 10:17PM EDT
A Canadian soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder says he was forced out of the military before he could qualify for a pension.
Cpl. David Hawkins, a reservist from London, Ont., is the latest soldier to go public with his battle over the pension issue.
He told CTV News that he had no plans to leave the military even though he has severe PTSD, but he got a letter last week saying he’s been discharged.
Hawkins says he begged the Canadian Forces to keep him until he hit the 10-year service mark that would make him eligible for a fully indexed pension. He was less than a year away from that mark.
But he says he was pushed out because his condition prevents him from deploying at a moment’s notice.
“If you don't meet the universality of service, you can no longer serve under the military, and basically they don't have any use for you,” Hawkins said.
He said the discharge is a “big life changer for me.
“I don’t really know what else there is.”
Another soldier, Cpl. Glen Kirkland, told a parliamentary committee in June that he was being pushed out of the military before he could collect a pension.
Kirkland, who was seriously injured five years ago in a Taliban ambush in Afghanistan, was also told that he didn't meet the military's universality-of-service requirement.
Kirkland’s discharge was eventually reversed and the government said the same would not happen to other soldiers.
However, Kirkland said this week that he’s quitting the military in solidarity with Hawkins.
"Right there I knew I had to pull the pin because it wasn't fair to my brothers and sisters in arms that I got preferential treatment," Kirkland told CTV News.
In Ottawa, the opposition hammered the government on the issue, demanding that new Defence Minister Rob Nicholson intervene.
But Nicholson insisted that no wounded soldiers are dismissed without their consent.
“Members are not released until they are prepared,” he said in the House of Commons. “That has not changed.”
Late Wednesday, a spokesperson for Nicholson said the military won’t give Hawkins his pension, but is exploring other programs that may be available to help him.
With a report from CTV’s Richard Madan