Legion goes to battle over benefits program

Limiting benefits of a new federal program for veterans to personnel who served in Afghanistan is drawing criticism.

Limiting benefits of a new federal program for veterans to personnel who served in Afghanistan is drawing criticism.

 

The Canadian Forces Legacy of Care Program is a five-year, $52.5-million initiative launched in 2010 to help seriously injured and ill combatants and their families.

The program includes: barrier-free transitional accommodation; support services while in transitional accommodation; the Canadian Forces attendant care benefit; Canadian Forces spousal education upgrade program; and enhanced case management support for seriously ill and injured Canadian Forces members.

The Royal Canadian Legion wants all elements of the program broadened to include members serving in all theatres of operations, rather than just Afghanistan.

Retired captain Trevor Greene of Nanaimo served in Afghanistan in 2006 and suffered severe brain trauma when struck by an axe while in a village in Kandahar.

Greene said a veteran is a veteran, regardless of the conflict.

“They face the same dangers and make the same sacrifices,” he said. “I think it’s a mistake to single out the Afghan vets.”

Dave Munro, Royal Canadian Legion South/Mid Vancouver Island zone commander, said the legion initially backed the program, assuming that it covered all veterans.

“We were quite surprised to find it only covers the Afghan veterans,” he said. “We have our airborne guys up in the north and other troops get called out to events like the Winnipeg floods.

“If they get injured or killed doing that, then we depend on the government to make sure the injured parties and their families are covered and looked after.”

Munro met with Veterans Affairs officials in Victoria to express the legion’s concerns and similar meetings took place in Ottawa.

“I know our command service officer and president are in constant meetings to try and get this solved,” he said.

Pierre Allard, service bureau director at the Royal Canadian Legion’s Dominion Command in Ottawa, said the legion is awaiting replies to letters sent to Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, and Steven Blaney, Minister of Veterans Affairs, as well as the Canadian Forces and Veteran Affairs.

“We are not attacking the program per se,” said Allard. “It’s a good initiative, but it’s too circumspect.”

Allard sad the legion has full respect for those who have served in a very difficult theatre like Afghanistan.

“But we’re currently engaged in military operations off the Libyan coast with warships and aircraft,” he said. “Does that mean that service to Canada has a different value than service in Afghanistan?”