VVi 25 Jun 2020
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Twice-forgotten soldier sues Veterans Affairs over 'abandoned'
Critics say Charles Scott's
case describes an overwhelmed VAC unable to keep up with veterans'
pleas for help
Murray Brewster · CBC News ·
Posted: Jun 23, 2020 4:00 AM
ET | Last Updated: June 23
VVi 25 Jun 2020db
Former master corporal Charles Scott in Kabul in 2004. 'I missed out
on a lot, just like a lot of other Canadians.' (Contributed)
When former master corporal
Charles Scott left the army in 2008, a note was scribbled in his
Veterans Affairs file warning that he faced a significant risk of
developing post-traumatic stress disorder.
The warning was never followed
up on by the department; no one ever contacted him about it and no
one ever arranged for treatment. Scott himself didn't know about the
assessment until more than a decade later, after he applied under
privacy law to see his file — and several years after he had sought
treatment for PTSD on his own.
It wouldn't be the last time
the former combat soldier and army intelligence operative, who
served with the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry in
Bosnia and Afghanistan, fell through the cracks of the bureaucracy.
Scott launched a lawsuit in
Federal Court last month accusing Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) of
negligence and of violating federal law (the Veterans Well-being
Act) in its handling of his file.
"It gives me no pleasure to
sue Canada, a country that I joined to serve for benefits that
impact me and my very young family," Scott, 45, told CBC News.
Scott said that his Veterans
Affairs case manager stopped returning his calls and emails in the
winter of 2019, just as the Liberal government was preparing to
launch its long-awaited pension-for-life plan for Canada's former
Buried and forgotten
What Scott didn't know at the
time — and what it took an access-to-information request filed by
him with the federal government to fully explain — is that his case
manager had been gone from the department since early 2019. Scott's
file, and possibly those of others, lay buried and forgotten in the
Edmonton VAC office — and no one noticed until Scott called the
veterans' crisis line in late April 2019.
"My file was abandoned and not
handed over," he said. "The veteran team service manager in Edmonton
did not hand over my file to another case manager."
As a result, Scott said, he
missed his chance to lock in the supplementary career replacement
benefits which had been a feature of Veterans Affairs' old benefits
system before being phased out with the introduction of the current
Liberal government's revised system.
He was forced to join the new
system of benefits — a system that, prior to its introduction on
April 1, 2019, the Parliamentary Budget Officer said was less
generous than the old system to the most severely disabled veterans.
Scott's statement of claim
doesn't cite a sum at this point, but he estimates the federal
government's error has cost him as much as $1,000 per month.
Former master corporal Charles Scott in 2019. (Contributed)
Scott, who worked for several
years as a federal occupational health and safety inspector before
PTSD overwhelmed his life, said he did not want to sue the federal
government but was left with no alternative.
"I have made every attempt to
contact the minister of Veterans Affairs. I have made every attempt
to contact members of Parliament without success," he said.
'It's not fair'
Critics tracking the veterans
file — like NDP MP Rachel Blaney — say Scott's experience fits with
what they've heard from other veterans, and describes an overtaxed
Veterans Affairs bureaucracy that can't keep up with veterans' pleas
unacceptable," said Blaney. "We have heard from folks working at VAC
they have a lot of concerns about this very thing happening and that
they're under-resourced in terms of staffing to deal with these
"It's not fair that our
veterans are the ones paying for the consequence of that."
It's also a perfect
illustration of what the Liberal government was warned about when it
implemented the overhaul of veterans benefits, Blaney said, adding
the government should have "listened more closely to the people who
are analyzing the system."
The Liberal government under
Paul Martin proposed in 2005 to replace the decades-old system of
veterans benefits under the Pension Act with a new system called the
New Veterans Charter.
The subsequent Conservative
government under Stephen Harper adopted the charter, then tweaked it
in response to protests from veterans. The campaigning Liberals
promised in 2015 to restore to veterans a choice between a pension
for life and a lump-sum payment as compensation for service-related
But before the Liberal plan
could be implemented, Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux wrote
a report warning that while the plan would be slightly more generous
than the system it replaced, it still would leave many in worse
financial shape they would have been under the old pre-Veterans
"From the perspective of the
veteran, virtually all clients would be better off if they received
the benefits of the (pre-2006) Pension Act," Giroux's report says.
'I missed out on a lot'
Scott is bitter.
"All of my occupational
injuries and illnesses are pre-2006," he said. "I missed out on the
Pension Act. I missed out on those financial services. I missed out
on a lot, just like a lot of other Canadians."
VAC spokespeople won't speak
to the particulars of Scott's case, citing privacy protections. They
also haven't explained why Scott's file was allowed to languish, or
say how many other soldiers might be affected by forgotten files.
VAC spokesperson Marc
Lescoutre told CBC News in an email that, normally, the department
"proactively" reassigns files as required — when a case manager is
set to retire soon, for example.
When a case manager leaves
unexpectedly, or calls in sick, the on-duty case manager is supposed
to take over the manager's files.
The Forgotten: Afghan-Canadian
combat advisers seek help and recognition
As for the problems with the
department's services for veterans and the pension plan, another VAC
spokesperson, John Embury, issued a statement noting that the
"Pension for Life" program represented a $3.6 billion federal
investment, and citing the government's promise to review how the
"Pension for Life" plan is being administered.
"As directed by both the prime
minister and the minister of Veterans Affairs, VAC is thoroughly
reviewing the implementation of Pension for Life, and may recommend
changes, where needed, to improve the outcomes and experiences of
veterans and their families," said the statement.
Federal government tosses dozens of claims from vets who died
Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press
Published Saturday, May 16, 2020 8:41AM EDT Last Updated
Saturday, May 16, 2020 9:04AM EDT
VVi 25 May 2020 db
A sign is placed on a truck windshield as members of the advocacy
group Banished Veterans protest outside the Veterans Affairs office
in Halifax on Thursday, June 16, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew
It wasn't the phone call Robert Nordlund's family had
been expecting but one that dozens of other families across the
country receive each year: Veterans Affairs Canada was tossing the
deceased Mountie's application for disability benefits because he
didn't have a surviving spouse or dependant child.
despite the fact that his application had sat in a backlog for two
years, during which time both he and his wife died.
had spent 36 years in uniform before retiring about nine years ago
as a sergeant in the RCMP. A former rugby player for Team Canada in
the 1970s, he was a tough, quiet Mountie who had loved nothing more
than being in his cruiser patrolling the roads of British Columbia.
Following his retirement, however, Nordlund had started to
experience mood swings and depression. There was also growing hip
pain, which doctors later traced to either one of the two car
accidents he'd had as a Mountie or from sitting in his car for years
with a holstered gun.
"He was not sort of the type to make
(disability) claims," Scott Nordlund recalls of his father. "He was
kind of a tough old guy. So we always thought his hip was hurting
but it got really evident about five years ago and he was like: 'Oh,
it's fine. Don't worry about it."'
Nordlund did eventually
submit a claim to Veterans Affairs Canada for assistance and
compensation for post-traumatic stress disorder, which was approved.
Then, more than two years ago, he submitted a claim for the hip.
And then he waited. And waited.
When Nordlund died of
lung cancer in November at the age of 72, his application was still
waiting to be assessed by Veterans Affairs. Initially, his family
was told that it would continue to be processed. But then came the
call on April 21: the claim was being tossed out.
sister got the phone call, she said: 'I guess they were just waiting
for him to die off before they put the claim through,"' Scott
Nordlund says. "It's a unique situation obviously, but at the same
time, you just have to wonder."
Veterans Affairs would not
comment on Nordlund's specific case, citing privacy laws.
However, it confirmed that 95 applications for disability benefits
were withdrawn in the last fiscal year with similar circumstances to
Nordlund's claim: the military veteran or retired RCMP officer had
died without an eligible surviving spouse or dependant child.
"If a veteran or RCMP member with an eligible survivor or
dependant applied before their death, the application would continue
and a decision would be rendered," Veterans Affairs spokesman Marc
Lescoutre said in an email.
"If the applicant dies before a
decision is made and there is no eligible survivor or dependant, the
estate is not entitled to be paid and VAC stops processing the
The rule, which Lescoutre said is contained in
legislation, applies even if the application has been sitting in the
queue for longer than 16 weeks, which is the standard by which
Veterans Affairs is supposed to complete 80 per cent of all
Forty-one of the 95 applications that were
withdrawn last year had been waiting more than 16 weeks to be
processed. The department had a total backlog of 44,000 applications
for disability benefits at the end of September, a number that has
continued to increase every year.
Scott Nordlund questions
why claims that have been waiting years to be processed are treated
the same as those only recently submitted.
makes sense if the person is on their death bed and they decide to
put a claim in at the last second," he says. "But not if the person
has been sitting in the queue for X number of years, right?
"When my dad put the claim in, he had stage 1 cancer. So between the
claim and his death obviously from cancer, you had a full cancer
illness that went through its entire course before they even touched
(the application) and it was still in the queue. So it's like, 'Come
on, give me a break."'
The fact that his mother Elizabeth
Nordlund was alive when his father initially applied for
compensation for his bad hip also raises questions and concerns. She
died of cancer in July.
"So if she was still alive and had
held on, they still would have processed that claim," says Scott
Nordlund. "So it's seems a little bit arbitrary."
said when the department learns a veteran is facing medical risks,
their claim can be fast-tracked.
Scott Nordlund, who can
appreciate the difficult task Veterans Affairs staff face in
assessing claims, says his family did not expect much money from his
father's claim for a bad hip. Perhaps enough to help with the
funeral costs. But at this point, it's a matter of principle.
"Our situation is a little bit easier where it wasn't going to
be probably a significant amount of money," he says. "I feel more
bad for a situation where the person dies suddenly and their kids
just turned 18 and entered university and are no longer a
Letter - Canvassing Other Veterans
VVi 14 May 2020
the Canadian Veteran community,
Hello, my name is Charles
Scott. I served Canada for eleven years as an infantryman with 1st
Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and also as
an army intelligence operator. I deployed operationally to the
Former Yugoslavia (Bosnia) and Afghanistan. I reside in Edmonton,
Alberta with my wife and young family (2, 6 & 11 yrs old).
The reason for my public post is to canvass other veterans about the
recent Veterans Ombudsman report “ Financial Compensation for
Canadian Veterans, a comparative analysis of benefits regimes”. In
this report, the Veterans Ombudsman identifies the inequality of
receiving a Diminished Earning Capacity (DEC) prior to April 1, 2019
when Pension for Life rolled out (PFL). The removal of the Career
Impact Allowance (CIA) and Career Impact Allowance Supplement
(CIA-Sup) affects the most injured veterans. Perhaps surprisingly to
some, I fall into that statistic. I am also a veteran who has injury
claims under all three of the veteran legislations (pension Act,
Veterans Well-Being Act (NVC) and Pension for Life).
into the category of veterans who are entitled to receive the Career
Impact Allowance (CIA-Sup), however, my case manager mismanaged my
Veterans Affairs Canada file AND terminated employment in the weeks
before April 1, 2019 when Pension for Life was implimented. It was
not until April 24, 2019 that I was informed my case manager had
left Veterans Affairs and my file and all applications were
abandoned (during a legislation change).
assigned a new case manager who worked tirelessly on my file, we
were forced to resubmit a new Diminished Earning Capacity referral
with Career Impact Allowance Supplement under the new legislation.
Since then, I have been engaged in appeal after appeal with VAC to
correct the wrongdoings. I am currently being denied access to the
Veterans Review and Appeal Board (VRAB) as they do not have
jurisdiction over DEC and CIA benefits.
My complaint is
registered with the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman and I await
their analysis. Due to time constraints, my only avenues of approach
are to give up or take the matter to court.
I have obtained
2300 pages of Access to Information and Privacy Act documents
identifying numerous errors. Internal Veterans Affairs Canada emails
identify management personnel who knew of the wrongdoings and placed
the onus on myself to plead my case. Despite the evidence provided
in my appeals, Veterans Affairs Canada continues to gaslight my
concerns and there is no other internal recourses available.
I have exhausted all means to resolve these matters with
Veterans Affairs Canada with no success. Veterans Affairs Canada is
failing to meet my needs as an injured/ill veteran.
am requesting from the Canadian veteran community is to canvass
folks who may have had to fight for lost CIA Sup benefits before the
change to PFL? There is an internal Veterans Affairs Canada email
that was sent from mid-management to all Veteran Service Teams
across Canada (Case Managers) days before April 1, 2019. This email
directed case managers to provide Diminished Earning Capacity
decisions to veterans who were; close to requiring one, were
forecasted to need one in the future and waived criteria such as
being on the Rehab Program as some examples. They did this to secure
the soon to be removed CIA and CIA-Sup. I am looking for a copy of
this email without having to wait for Access to Information.
The current situation; I am consulting with my legal counsel on how
to proceed. We have two weeks left to file a statement of claim in
court. My member of parliament is making a last attempt to reason
with the Minister of Veterans Affairs. If you are able to assist me
obtain the March 2019 email or have fought this battle with Veterans
Affairs Canada, please reach out to me, we are not alone.
Thank you for sharing in my vulnerability.
Charles Scott MCpl (Ret’d)
defends $4M transfer from operating budget amid veterans' backlog
The Canadian Press
Publishing date: March 10,
2020 • 1 minute read
Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National
Defence Lawrence MacAulay responds to a question during Question
Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on January 27, 2020. Adrian
Wyld / THE CANADIAN PRESS
OTTAWA — The Liberal government is
defending its choice to take more than $4 million from Veterans
Affairs Canada’s operating budget at a time when the department is
struggling with a backlog of tens of thousands of disability
applications from injured ex-soldiers.
Veterans Affairs Minister
Lawrence MacAulay says the money moved went mainly to providing
emergency assistance to at-risk veterans, including some who are
homeless or in crisis situations.
But MacAulay, who was
grilled over the transfer during a parliamentary committee
appearance this morning, later sidestepped questions from The
Canadian Press about why the government didn’t add more money from
the federal treasury instead.
The department’s top civil
servant, retired general Walter Natynczyk, told the committee the
transfer did not negatively impact efforts to address the backlog of
44,000 applications, a number that has steadily grown for the past
Conservative and NDP MPs were unimpressed with the
government’s explanation, questioning why it took more resources
from the department’s operating budget as the backlog continues to
grow, instead adding more money to deal with the problem.
Opposition parties also called on the government to produce a
detailed plan for eliminating the backlog, echoing a call from
veterans ombudsman Craig Dalton last month.
This report by
The Canadian Press was first published March 10, 2020.
Veterans ombudsman calls it quits after 18 months
Lt.-Col. Craig Dalton, chief of staff for Task Force Kandahar, tells
reporters in Kandahar, Afghanistan that Canada has given command of
Kandahar city to the U.S., Thursday, July 15, 2010. Veterans
ombudsman Craig Dalton is calling it quits after only 18 months on
the job.Bill Graveland / THE CANADIAN PRESS
Press, Lee Berthiaume
May 11, 2020 2:48 PM EDT Last Updated May
11, 2020 4:35 PM EDT
VVi 14 May 2020
OTTAWA — Veterans
ombudsman Craig Dalton is calling it quits, leaving former service
members without a key advocate at a time when many are worried about
the effect the COVID-19 pandemic is having on their requests for
assistance from the federal government.
Minister Lawrence MacAulay announced Dalton’s departure Monday,
saying the former army colonel was beginning “a new chapter in his
The announcement caught many within
the veterans’ community and even some within the ombudsman’s office
by surprise, as Dalton had spent only 18 months on the job.
It also raised questions about why Dalton, who previously served in
Afghanistan and commanded Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, decided to
The ombudsman’s office said Dalton, the third person
to serve as veterans ombudsman since the office was created in 2007
and whose last day is Friday, was not available for an interview.
Dalton’s predecessors, retired colonel Pat Stogran and retired
chief warrant officer Guy Parent, served as ombudsman for three and
nine years, respectively. Dalton began his time in the role in
While the office has helped some veterans
access services and benefits, it has also been criticized for years
for its lack of independence from government. The ombudsman reports
to the minister of veterans affairs rather than Parliament.
There have also been concerns about the office’s narrow mandate,
which largely focuses on reviewing individual cases in which
veterans are denied benefits rather than studying and addressing
systemic problems in the system.
Dalton echoed some of those
sentiments in a February interview with The Canadian Press, in which
he specifically took issue with the lack of independence within the
office — and worried about the effect that has on its trust and
credibility within the veterans’ community.
“Those that are
recognized as being the most effective and being true ombuds offices
are all independent in their structure,” he said.
true independence. And that really matters when it comes to trust
and even the perception of independence matters when it comes to
He also urged the federal government to conduct a
review of the office’s mandate. He noted it had not been updated
since the position was created, even though the intention at the
time was to take a close look at it every five years.
Dalton’s decision to leave comes at an unusual time, given the
federal government is currently consumed by the COVID-19 pandemic
and Veterans Affairs Canada has been struggling to address a backlog
of 44,000 applications for assistance from disabled veterans.
Many veterans and their advocates worry that backlog has only grown
because of the pandemic.
Brian Forbes, chair of the National
Council of Veterans’ Associations, which represents dozens of
veterans’ organizaton across Canada, nevertheless urged the
government to use Dalton’s departure as an opportunity to finally
review the ombudsman’s mandate.
Dalton “was doing a pretty
decent job,” Forbes said. “He was consulting well with the veterans’
community and stakeholders and put out some pretty decent reports.
But the reality is the veterans ombudsman’s office doesn’t have
This report by The Canadian Press
was first published May 11, 2020.