Sunday, September 19, 2010


*** Aint gonna happen. Speaking truth to power is a big no-no with this meanie government. I do not hide my disdain for this style of administration and this is why I too, have paid the price. MS ***

OTTAWA - Former Canadian soldiers don't want the voice of war veterans silenced just yet.

A petition circling some legion halls urges the Conservative government to keep popular veterans ombudsman Pat Stogran on the job awhile longer.

The Tories have said the retired colonel's three-year contract won't be renewed this fall.

But the petition makes it clear the veterans want Stogran to stick around. Among other things, it calls on the government to "renew the mandate of the Veterans Ombudsman, Col. Pat Stogran"

The petition will be sent to Parliament once it makes its way through the legions.

Stogran, a former ground commander in Afghanistan, has been speaking out in public and on Twitter to highlight the plight of many veterans and wounded soldiers.

He held a news conference last month, flanked by wounded veterans, and blasted government officials and bureaucrats for letting down those who put life and limb on the line for their country.

Stogran accused Veterans Affairs of adopting a "penny-pinching insurance company mentality" toward its clients.

The ombudsman was grateful when told about the petition.

"I'd be the first one to say that it's not about me." Stogran said, noting what matters to him is that veterans get what they deserve.

"I'm really thankful to everybody for doing it, but what it demonstrates to me is that Canadians are concerned about our veterans."

The petition also calls on the Tories to address a central complaint of veterans, the new system of lump sum payments and income replacement. Veterans want the government to restore the post-Second World War practice of granting them lifetime pensions.

A study commissioned by the veterans ombudsman and obtained by The Canadian Press last month, took aim at existing lump sum payments, which can be up to $276,000 for the most severe injuries.

The study concluded that the one-time payments — the hallmark of the New Veteran's Charter — unfairly treated low-income soldiers and the most severely disabled veterans.

Injured soldiers are given a lump sum cash payout and a monthly income replacement cheque while they are in rehabilitation. The cheques stop when they transition to a civilian job.

It's been suggested in order to help soldiers of the lowest rank, the size of the monthly income replacement could be increased. The replacement cheque amounts to 75 per cent of a soldier's pre-injury salary.

On Sunday, Veterans Affairs Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn and Defence Minister Peter MacKay held a news conference where they announced a plan to boost monthly payments to seriously wounded soldiers.

The five-year plan includes an additional $200 million over the next five years for the most seriously wounded troops.

The improved benefit package would see the most seriously wounded veterans get an additional $1,000 each month for the rest of their lives. That amount will be on top of 75 per cent of their salaries and a permanent monthly allowance of $536 to $1,609.

But despite the announcement, some veterans said they're still waiting for the Tories to address their main complaint about the lump sum payments.

Liberal MP Dan McTeague, who fought for improved benefits for wounded soldiers, accused the Conservatives of fumbling the veterans file.

"There's a lot of issues out there dealing with the walking injured, as well as those who have injuries that don't just involve body, but also mind," he said.