Bruyea makes a sound case: VAC and VRAB are broken

By Don Leonardo-THE HILL TIMES-February, 13, 2012.

Re: “Veterans Board responds to Bruyea,” (The Hill Times, Jan. 30, p. 8, by John Larlee, chairman of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board). I find Mr. Larlee’s letter troubling for a number of reasons. He completely sidestepped the statistical evidence in Sean Bruyea’s article about the Veterans Review and Appeal Board failing to provide substantive avenues of reconsideration by the minister as well as compassionate awards under Mr. Larlee’s tenure as chair, “Just one more reason for a commission of inquiry into veterans’ issues,” (The Hill Times, Jan. 23, p. 10).

However, what I find perhaps more disturbing is that the chair responds in a public forum to a matter that could have been dealt with in a telephone call or, better yet, a meeting with Mr. Bruyea. Being a chair of one of Canada’s few federal administrative tribunals is a great responsibility with much power over the lives of some of Canada’s most noble heroes: military members injured in their duty to Canada and Canadians.

As the chair, Mr. Larlee should not be picking a public fight with a highly-respected veterans’ advocate, academic, and newspaper columnist. That Mr. Larlee picked a fight is unfortunately not surprising. His letter reflects the widespread attitude in our federal governments’ senior bureaucracy, especially at Veterans Affairs Canada, who believe that any critic of the performance of our bureaucracy, however, well-justified, means that it is fair game to take a fight into the public arena rather than actually work with those insightful enough to provide evidence of unmet needs. The privacy scandal which held Mr. Bruyea and his young family hostage for five years is a clear example of such belligerence and arrogance in our bureaucracy.

Mr. Bruyea is not paid close to $200,000 annually like Mr. Larlee. In fact, Mr. Bruyea, as he has done over the past 12 years, is a purely volunteer advocate for improving the lives of injured veterans and their families. I find it extremely unbecoming of a governor-in-council appointee, as with any senior bureaucrat, who is legally mandated to show veterans dignity and respect, to openly pick a public battle with a veteran. The truth is, Mr. Bruyea makes a sound case that VAC and VRAB are broken and clearly require a public inquiry to fix them. Mr. Larlee’s letter only reinforces this.

Donald J. Leonardo CD.

Founder, chief executive officer

Airdrie, Alta.