My dad was a World War 2 veteran. He served in theatres of war in Italy, France, Holland and Belgium. He was never physically wounded, but I’ve come to believe that what soldiers experience in war changes them for life. He returned to Canada and after the war went on with the life that he should have been having, getting a job, married and family.
When dad entered his later years, he was able to apply for and receive what was called a War Veterans Allowance (WVA). It was a small pension that those who served in theatre of war was eligible to receive as they aged. That allowance ran in tandem with the Veterans Independence Program (VIP) which provided supports to assist aging veterans to remain in their homes.
The dollar amounts dad received wasn’t much but it was enough to allow him to live out his life with a level of dignity and security. He had a green cross card that gave him access to health services like eye glasses, prescriptions and dental care. He could hire someone to cut the grass and plow the driveway and that would be reimbursed.
When the ice storm hit Ontario in the late 1990s dad was in the area of the storm but not affected. He received a call from Veterans Affairs asking him if he had had food go bad due to the power outages. If he had said yes, they would have sent him funds to cover those losses. When he was diagnosed with cancer within a few days his worker was at the house assessing what supports he’d need to be able to cope at home.
That’s an example of how Canada treated their war veterans from earlier wars. Had dad been injured he would have received supports and pension throughout his life. Wouldn’t have been enough to live on but it would have helped to make up the lost income earning capacity.
Today, under the Veterans Charter, none of those supports will be in place as our current group of war veterans age. Those who have suffered injuries will receive a lump sum payout and then after that they are on their own. Rehabilitation and retraining is not adequate to assist those who put their lives on the line for this country to become self-sustaining.
The Veteran’s Ombudsman has done a detailed evaluation of the Veterans Charter in comparison to the system which helped support people like my dad and it has found the current system in urgent need of change. The more severely injured our current veterans are, the more danger they are in of living out their later years in severe poverty.
This is wrong on way too many levels. The government has announced an immediate review of the system. They need to stop the stall and take a serious look at the recommendations from the Veteran’s Ombudsman and their already detailed review.
This country sent those young people into war zones and as a country we have a duty to support them as they return to ‘normal’ life and into their senior years. We need to be a grateful nation in more than just words.