Support system is broken, veterans' ombud says
Published Wednesday, November 10, 2010 10:04AM EST
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 3:09AM EDT
Canada's outgoing veterans ombudsman says he is leaving his post with serious concerns about the way soldiers in modern conflicts are supported after they return from the battlefield.
Retired colonel Pat Stogran told CTV's Canada AM that his three years as ombudsman have shown him that the support system in place for Canadian troops is not good enough.
"I thought the system was there to look after our soldiers who are wounded and killed in the line of duty, to look after them and their families," Stogran said in an interview from Ottawa on Wednesday morning, the final day that he will serve as the veterans ombudsman.
"I'm sad to say that the system is severely broken and…there's no incentive to really dig in and fix it. It's a very sad state."
Stogran also warns that if the Canadian government does not provide the support its returning veterans need and deserve, there will come a day when it will be too late to help them.
"If we project forward 20 years from now, what is going to be the state of these people who fought in Afghanistan, who were in the fighting in Rwanda and Bosnia?" Stogran said in a separate interview with CTV News.
Tomorrow, Stogran will be replaced by Guy Parent, a retired chief warrant officer with the Canadian Forces.
Stogran said he intends to stay out of the limelight while Parent takes over the role as the chief advocate for Canada's veterans.
"I have to give some room to my successor to spread his wings and make his mark," said Stogran.
"And there's an awful lot of work to be done and I wish him the best of luck and congratulate him on such a meaningful job."
During his three years as ombudsman, Stogran was outspoken in his criticism of the government and the ways he believed it was letting down its soldiers. He made himself available to the media and posted his messages on Twitter.
The career soldier and Afghan veteran quickly won favour with his fellow soldiers and veterans who fought for his renewal as their chief advocate.
Looking ahead to what he may tackle next, Stogran said he is keen on taking on another position that would see him serve as a watchdog.
"What really concerns me greatly is the state of the public service's senior bureaucrats and central agencies, who seem to have their own agenda," said Stogran.
"I'm eyeing the public sector commissioner's job with a view to throwing my hat in the ring when they post that position. To me, that would be another meaningful job that I could take on with the same vigour that I approached soldering and the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman."
In the last few months of Stogran's tenure as veterans ombudsman, it became known that the medical records of several veterans had been illegally circulated among Veteran Affairs staff. And Stogran learned that his own medical records had been accessed more than 400 times.
As a result of these cases, Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart is currently probing how Veterans Affairs handles the personal information of wounded Canadian soldiers.
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