Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Thoughts About Canadian Veterans - Why I'm Bothered

Be forewarned; this is a rant.

I haven't posted here in a long time. During my blogging break, my friend, The Bear, died. There was a fair bit to do after that, including sorting through more of his personal papers. He had been just a little too young to enlist in World War II, but his older brothers had both served in the Canadian forces. One was killed overseas and one returned. The Bear said his mother's grief for the lost one never abated. I was thinking about them again this morning, and about all our  Canadian Veterans*, especially after hearing the latest federal budget news.

Before I talk about my budget concerns, I'd like to say: I wish our military could only be used for peace-keeping. In an ideal world, we wouldn't need to have a military; but that is not the world we live in. Like many Canadians, I have military connections. My grandfather was a World War I Veteran, my former husband is a World War II Veteran. For many years, I  worked with  Veterans at Sunnybrook Medical Sciences Centre and later, I worked for them in various social service capacities.

I care.

When I see Veterans being patronized by the Minister of Veterans' Affairs Canada - I see red, and it's not the red of the maple leaf. And I turn red - with shame. We have enough money to keep all the Veterans' Affairs offices open - in fact, we have enough money to add more offices. It could be done, but it won't be done while the Harpercons are in office. Of course online services should be increased, but they are not accessible to all Veterans. Of course there should be more trained professionals to work with the men and women who suffer from severe physical and mental stress due to previous combat or peace-keeping traumas.  But, that is not enough support. A lump-sum payment based on what Veterans refer to as the "meat chart" for body part injuries is also not enough support. The long-term costs of caring are not always predictable. What happens when the lump sum is used up? Go ahead and guess. We have homeless Veterans. We have Veterans who commit suicide. We have dead Veterans whose families do not have enough money to bury them. The federal government has added some money to the Last Post fund to help the families of indigent dead Veterans (a needs test must be passed).  Gee, I'm proud. But - what about the living Veterans?

Don't the men and women who served in the Canadian Armed Forces deserve better services and lasting first-quality care? The only ethical answer to that question is - yes.

* I have capitalized Veterans throughout this piece as a mark of respect.