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Injured Canadian soldiers suing Ottawa over benefits

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Injured Canadian soldiers suing Ottawa over benefits

Post by Teentitan on Fri 11 May 2012, 11:08

A group of injured Canadian soldiers is launching a class-action lawsuit against the federal government over services and benefits for veterans.

The soldiers say Ottawa's treatment of them is shameful, and a newer veterans charter touted as an improvement Is actually worse than the old one.

Maj. Mark Campbell is one of these veterans. He lost both of his legs in June 2008 after an improvised explosive device detonated beneath him during a Taliban ambush in Afghanistan.

His left leg was all but vapourized in the blast. His right leg barely hung on by a few strands of shredded bone and tissue.

Today, he suffers phantom limb pain where his left leg below the knee used to be an excruciating kind of torment so severe, he needs methadone to manage it. He's on maximum allowable doses of other pain medications, and their list of side-effects is long. "But I have no choice," the Edmonton father of two says. "It's that, or I don't want to live."

Campbell also has "severe abdominal scarring, ruptured right eardrum, and traumatic brain injury, which has resulted in short-term memory loss."

He says learned to live with his disability, but not with the way he's been treated by the government.

"I can take being legless. That's not too hard to take," he told Global News. "What's really hard to take is seeing my family falling apart, watch my wife and children my children failing school, because we're looking at no long-term financial security."

Campbell is one of a growing number of veterans discovering their disability benefits are actually lower under the newer veterans charter, which was introduced in 2006. "(There is) 40 per cent less financial compensation over the course of my lifetime, easily."

The Equitas Society, a support group for veterans headed by Vancouver police officer Jim Scott, says the benefits have proven to be woefully inadequate.

"The new veterans' charter has reduced the benefits to disabled soldiers by one-third for severely disabled soldiers, and to up to 90 per cent for partially disabled soldiers," Scott says, whose son was badly injured in Afghanistan.

"They have no remedy other than the courts, because they have brought this issue to Veterans Affairs Canada and have been basically with presented with spin, denial and refusal that there is a problem."

Equitas also says disabled veterans are receiving less than what civilians get under workers' compensation programs.

The group has been working for months on the class-action lawsuit, even persuading national law firm Miller Thomson to take the case for free. A suit such as this would normally cost millions of dollars.

"I'm outraged that two young men that I actually know, were so badly treated after serving our country so bravely," says lawyer Don Sorochan in Vancouver. He believes the government is not upholding its end of the bargain with veterans who risk life and limb for Canada.

"There's a social contract which, put very simply, is to look after (soldiers), to make sure they're looked after. Now, people say what does that mean? And I'm trying to say that there's a constitutional aspect to that social contract."

The lawsuit will cite Section 15 of the Charter of Rights, which provides every Canadian with equal protection and benefit of the law, without discrimination.

Campbell says there's no other option than the lawsuit, and is optimistic about the outcome. "We're gonna win this one too, because we're talking about natural justice."

But that success could be years away as the case winds its way through the courts. In the meantime, it will take several more weeks for lawyers to compile the lawsuit.

To avert another legal war, Equitas says it would prefer Ottawa to replace the veterans' charter.
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