Vets’ group say soldiers deserve better benefits

Wed Nov. 15 2006 7:32:15 PM

Canadian Press

OTTAWA — A group of veterans says Canadian soldiers killed and wounded in Afghanistan deserve the same benefits as senior civil servants, who don’t put their lives on the line.

Retired captain Sean Bruyea and retired navy nurse Lt. Louise Richard issued an urgent plea Wednesday for the Conservative government to live up to its pledge to create a ombudsman for veterans.

“We urge you to ensure that our soldiers, who are performing the highest form of public service — and their families — are treated at least as well as we treat our civil servants,” Bruyea said on behalf of the group Veterans and Concerned Canadians.

He outlined what the group considers the discrepancies between benefits given to bureaucrats and soldiers.

The widows and widowers of soldiers killed overseas are entitled to a $250,000 lump sum payment, while the families of senior bureaucrats receive between $600,000 and $1.25 million, Bruyea said.

He added that civil servants who become disabled are eligible for a medical pension after only two years of employment, while serving military members have to wait 10 years.

And, Bruyea noted, disability benefits for soldiers are taxable, while they’re not for civil servants.

“For these soldiers and their families, we are talking about life and death,” he said. “For those left behind after the ultimate sacrifice, we talking about preventing a life of unnecessary suffering.”

Harper promised to create a veterans ombudsman — a pledge Bruyea says needs to be fulfilled right away given the over 200 soldiers wounded in Afghanistan.

In a Parliament Hill news conference, Bruyea claimed the Veterans Affairs Department designed the Veterans Charter and the benefits program to save money, not help those who’ve served their country.