Veteran tired of government making him prove he lost his legs
Published Monday, February 9, 2015 8:51AM EST
Last Updated Monday, February 9, 2015 12:03PM EST
Retired Master Cpl. Paul Franklin, who lost both legs in in Afghanistan, says every year he has to prove to Veterans Affairs that he still has no legs and needs a wheelchair. Now, he’s waging a fight against the department on behalf of all veterans.
Franklin says his fight with Veterans Affairs is typical of so many of the bureaucratic battles that thousands of injured veterans have with the department, and he wants them to end.
Franklin lost both his legs in a January 2006 suicide bombing. After his injury, he had no trouble receiving help from the Department of National Defence, he says. But things went downhill when he chose to retire from the Canadian Forces.
"It's been an ongoing battle ever since my retirement in 2009," he told CTV's Canada AM from Edmonton.
Franklin feels that Veterans Affairs treats him and other vets as though they are trying to cheat the system. Every year, he says he has to prove to the department that he still qualifies for home care services and income replacement because of his disability. And every year, he runs into arguments and headaches about paperwork.
Franklin has even had his wheelchair taken away from him twice because of disputes over which department should pay for it and which doctor's notes were needed.
"Every year, there are annual assessments that are done through (the insurance agency) and through Veterans Affairs in which you actually prove your condition. And unfortunately for me, I have to prove that I still have no legs, every year," he says.
When TV comedian Rick Mercer recently highlighted Franklin's story in a rant, Franklin wrote a blog post about his experience. The new minister of veterans affairs, Erin O'Toole, immediately reached out to him and asked if they could speak by phone.
But Franklin says he turned him down.
"I refused not for any other reason than these issues are veterans-wide. We have to solve not just my problem but all the problems for everybody," he said.
Franklin believes that if he accepts help for himself, things might change for him but not for the 700,000 other injured Canadian vets who are facing the same bureaucratic battles.
What Franklin wants instead is to see the system overhauled so other vets don't have to go through similar struggles.
O'Toole has responded to Franklin's blog post with a post of his own, in which he writes that he agrees that it is not right that veterans are running into administrative hurdles.
O'Toole says when these battles worsen the troubles for injured vets, "there is something seriously wrong because everything VAC is structured to do is to help ease the burden of transition for a veteran after their service injury."
O'Toole added that he is committed to reducing the administrative burden of veterans and to reducing administrative processing times.
Franklin says he wants to see more from the minister. He wants a resolution to the ongoing lawsuits between veterans and the federal government. And he wants to see the new veterans charter scrapped, which ended the monthly pension for disabled veterans in favour of a lump-sum payment.
"I want (O'Toole) to know that I appreciate that he is willing to have this conversation in public with me and with others," Franklin said. "I think that's great. But we do need to have some action."
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