Veterans group attacks benefits bill


OTTAWA — A group of veterans is appealing to Stephen Harper’s government to halt changes to their disability benefits, which they claim will penalize sick and injured Canadian soldiers.

Retired Cpt. Sean Bruyea, who fought in the Gulf War, warned that if the new Veterans Charter kicks in April 1 it will make it more difficult for soldiers to get benefits and will shrink the size of allowances available.

Bruyea said if Harper’s cabinet signs off on the bill it will put an end to lifelong monthly disability allowances in favour of a lump-sum payment and will require sick soldiers to work in civilian jobs in order to continue to receive their benefits.

He said that without due consideration to the effect of the measure, the Liberal government before the election rammed through the legislation, which had been drafted by Veterans Affairs officials.

“What they presented to the public does not match with what is in the actual legislation,” Bruyea said.

The Veterans Charter received support from all political parties in the Commons and the majority of Canada’s veterans associations.

Retired Sgt. Tom Hoppe, a 20-year veteran, said Canadians are being duped into believing that soldiers will continue to be well looked after when they’re hurt.

“It seems to be all about the money,” he said.

Opposition Leader Bill Graham said if the bill has shortcomings, his party is willing to take another look at it.

The majority of the large veterans’ organizations support the bill, which will provide veterans help in finding work.