How unfair is this?
Ottawa - 14 September 2010
Here is a situation that just came to my attention. It’s an indicator of all the things that are wrong with the “system” and shows how the “system” just steam rolls over those in the way and ignores those that are trying to make a difference.
An aging Veteran in his mid 90’s applies for a Disability Award. Almost six months later a favourable decision is made, but the Veteran dies two weeks before the decision is rendered. In the meantime, while the family is dealing with the Veteran’s death, they receive the Disability Award cheque in the mail. Shortly after, the executor of the estate receives a letter that the monies have to be returned to Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) because the Veteran has to be alive when the decision is made in order to receive a Disability Award. This office is contacted by the executor of the estate to see if it could help resolve the problem. The Office asks to meet with VAC and is told that VAC is seeking some additional guidance and would get back to it. In the meantime, the “system” approaches the bank directly, follows normal collection practices, and demands its money back. The bank returns the money in question from the beneficiary’s personal account. VAC finally informs our Office that they have solved the issue and, therefore, there was no longer a requirement to talk.
If VAC communicated and reached out to Veterans better, Veterans would apply for benefits before they are in their mid-90s. If VAC didn’t have such ridiculously long turnaround times (24 weeks for a first application that is straight forward) the above-described Veteran would have received his benefit before he died! If VAC provided better case management, they would have tried to expedite the process for someone who is in their mid 90’s. And, despite VAC’s mandate to collect the “overpayment”, if VAC had any empathy for the family they should have sought a compassionate resolution to this issue. VAC should have worked with the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman if it was struggling to find a solution. All it did was use the long arm of government to rip away what truly belonged to the Veteran and his family.
Why is there no recognition that the Veteran, in his 90’s, did his part of the application process the right way? Why are he and his family penalized because he dies before VAC’s cumbersome adjudication process is completed? In this case, the result of VAC’s inability to process applications and issue cheques in a timely fashion is that he and his family are denied what was his and his family’s in the first place. Yet VAC doesn’t have any timing problems collecting so-called “overpayments”. It’s incredible how efficient and effective VAC is in that regard in comparison to its inefficient track record on processing applications and delivering benefits.
This aging Veteran should have had the comfort of knowing that he would be able to leave a small amount of money to his family when he died. He earned it through his service to country. Why did they take it back? What is their legal basis for creating an overpayment in the first place? The opinion of this Office is that there is no legal requirement for the Veteran to be alive on the date of decision.
You wonder why I am frustrated and speaking out? This is just one more instance of the often irrational bullheadedness with which I have to deal with on a daily basis. And, this is why I continue to fight for Veterans and their families and why you need to become involved. The “system” has to change and with your help, it can be changed!
Date Modified: 2013-02-07
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The beaurocracy that is being used to sheild people who should be able to make reasonable and sensible decisions on policy should be dismissed by approximatelly 60%. They merely waste tax payers dollars and make proper policy decisions impossible. It would be best for them to get a job.
September 25, 2010 2:04 AM
A VETERAN. said:
This is a terrible discrace, everybody involvedwith this travisty should be put on the unimployment line.The minister of this department should be demoted,if not booted out of goverement all together. this money should be returned to this veterans estate.
September 21, 2010 10:12 AM
Jim in Ontario said:
Thank you for your perserverence Pat even though most times, unfortunately, it turns into a head banging expereince. We appreciate you being there for us. I don't know what the answer is other than making a clean sweep of the bureaucrats and their pig headedness. I'm sure their political masters don't have a clue of what they are doing to us veterans. So it goes, on and on, after the next election and then the next .......
September 18, 2010 1:54 PM
Clarification to William ... to be clear. Firstly, given the circumstances of the dying veterans as the Ombudsman referred to in this article when I suggested his pension should have been "red" circled I suggested this not to offend any veterans but as a suggestion that VAC staff themselves should have assigned a higher priority to this veteran's issue and application - he was dying. By their blatant lack of adjudication he died without acknowledgment for his service related injuries this is fundamentally wrong and offensive. Pensions for veterans can be "red" circled by VAC under certain circumstances including financial hardship, palliative situations and other issues. The issue or suggestion or criticism I was intending to make is that VAC should take responsibility for assigning and referring these cases for adjudication as a priority. The offense is that they didn't. Veterans themselves cannot, yourself included, be expected to know all of the nuances of the department and what is possible or not possible. We, you and I, as veterans should be able to trust that VAC staff will advocate or at the minimum facilitate our issues in priority PRIOR to any situation that forces us to appeal. All injured members and the family members of deceased veterans are at the mercy of a department which in my opinion has lost sight of what their mission and client population is. As a former serving member you are like myself, at the mercy of the documentation that exists or doesn't. Depending upon when you served or where you served their will be gaps that exists on your medical file. Trust me I know that when you are in the middle of a battle or an exercise is a CF 98 filled out? No! Historically, did most soldiers take the time to till out CF 98's that somehow in the minds of VAC employees is the only proof of injury. NO! There has and continues to be a huge stigma associated with injuries and events. All you have to do is look at the Supreme Court webpage to realize their are problems. Personally speaking, I can also attest to the callousness and absurdity of the appeal system. I attended my spouses appeal hearing for a shoulder condition. VAC said because he only had a diagnosis in one shoulder given it was "a paired organ they could not find any reason for his OA in his shoulder" He appealed at my urging ... well he was not successful except for the benefit of the doubt was applied and he received a NIL assessment for as they could accept that the schrapnel found on X-ray could not be explained by any other means and that his explanation of an injury on a grenade range was "credible" Trust me William I have first hand knowledge of your issues, concerns and frustrations with the appeal system. However, reflect again on this posting by the Ombudsman which is about a veteran who applied, time was not on his side and the department failed to adjudicate in a timely fashion. Focus thus on the tragedy of being reliant on a department which has lost focus and respect and doesn't believe us ... I agree with you. If you have a pre-existing condition, legislation provides that if service related factors aggravate your condition then you should be entitled to a pension. We are not however, dealing with a system that respects the work we have done in our service of Canada. I totally agree with you ... filling out more forms participating in appeals ... adds insult to injury. William I am on your side! Again .. for the deceased veteran and his family the lack of timely adjudication is a travesty.
September 18, 2010 12:40 AM
This is a reply to "D.D" I have badgered, and red circled everything, and the Dept, and the Ministers that I have dealt with over the last 10 years, know that this is wrong, but they refuse to pay us what we are "legally" entitled to, or what we deserve! When I signned up, I was given a medical, chest xrays, and was given a clean bill of health. I choose to become a Combat Engineer, and after topping my course with a 98.2% average, I was offered the jump course. After 30 jumps, and a number of exercises, and a lifting accident in the Arctic, I started with back problems, was sent to NDMC in Ottawa, and the Doctor asked me,"has your back ever been sore?", and I said that the first couple of days of doing hay on the farm, when I was 15, it would be sore, but fine after that. We did 50,000 small squares a year!!! He wrote in his report that I have had back problems since the age of 15! You go out and rake leaves for a day, and use muscles you haven't for a while, and your arms will be sore...right? Does that mean you have arm problems?? I sat at a school desk all year, then started throwing a thousand bales a day! Of course my back felt it, and so did the rest of my body! I was being honest!!! It was sore, but I still was able to do the job for months, and years after. It is a game they all play, when employed by the Dept, or associated with it! Medical investigation a NDMC showed that I was missing part of my spine, that the muscle held onto, to hold it in place. DND doctors, said that my spine didn't develope properly, therefore it was a congentital defect. My spine had shifted forward 6mm, at the L5,S1 level, putting pressure on a nerve root. I didn't develope properly they said, so after fighting for 5 years, they gave me a 3/5 entitlement to a 10% disability pension, and the Doctors statement, that I had back pain from the age of 15, has always come up. $80 a month! If this is true, that my spine didn't develope properly, how could they let me sign up for the most physically demanding trade of all, and then allow me to parachute?? It would have been cheaper for them, and better for me, if they had done more xrays, at the time of signning up, than me suffering, and them paying. After working 10yrs, after my release, I started with spasms in my arm and leg. I had emergency surgery done, and guess what they found in my muscle???? The piece of bone, that DND doctors said didn't develope! It is a game right from the start! I never would have thought about applying for a disability pension, if it haddn't been for the Padre that came to see me, when I was clearing base, on my release. He said maybe not an issue to you now, but it may come back to haunt you later. He was so right! We Veterans do all we can, but dealing with them, is like slamming your head into a wall, when you already have a headache, and the Dept knows it, and won't change! We can only deal with so much, and the more we "hurt" the less we will fight. We can only take so much stress when hurting! Others think it is so easy to keep filling out forms, but it isn't when you know what the answer will be! Appeal! Well..that is standard on all letters, even when the issue cannot be Appealed, my issue for example! I guess what I'm saying is that it is easy for some to sit back and type, and suggest things to us, but until you are in our position, and have had to deal with the Dept, and their arrogance, or the Media not wanting to cover stories that effect us, please keep pushing for change in other ways, but please don't suggest that we fill out another form, or ask for special attention, becauce that doesn't WORK!! Been there, done that, and have the expenses for it, still to pay!!
September 16, 2010 11:32 PM
D. D. said:
My heart goes out to this family and indeed I concur their story is compelling and must be told. The treatment their father received was calloused and caused by a department that has lost sight of its mandate and objective in formidable policy and process. Through no fault of the veteran he was denied a benefit which he had applied for. Too bad he and his family didn't badger and banter and have his pension red-circled. Funny how that is when one is dying they take their dignity with them and we are generally none the wiser which is how this abuse continues. I don't know what to suggest except to say that we as Canadians should be calling for for full disclosure and audit of the frequency of overpayment or lack of payments and updates on the status and backlogs of appeals & benefits through the Auditor General of Canada. How is it that a system which pays for the salaries of individuals in an adversarial process far exceed the basic level of compensation the average veteran will ever receive? Acknowledging that disability payments are only 1 aspect of VAC's issues even that acknowledegement in the twilight of a veterans life can be meaningful. I daresay that in his youth he too experienced evidence of the callousness and contempt which precluded an earlier application. This trend continues and manifests itself in a variety of ways not the least of which is illustrated in the horrible correspondence which flows from the "Island of Ill repute". I have seen many examples of poor correspondence personally & for others. Imagine a letter that states "we acknowledge your intent to apply for all VAC benefits effective 08/08" however, as we did not officially process your application till June 2010 we can only pay you retroactive allowance for 12 months. Or even better "we know that you have been prescribed this medication for your pensioned condition but we recommend you try a trial of over the counter medications which are more effective and within our spectrum of care. Of course that same letter comes with the statement you are welcome to appeal our decision to our special authorization centre but you will be responsible for the costs of all medical reports from your physician. Hello ... did you bother to look at the 12 page report you used to adjudicate the pension in the first place? You have to wonder. You also have to wonder why there is extra staff devoted to addressing the most complex and highly injured Afghanistan veterans issues? Perchance there is a quiet and virtual mine field of despair? And so it goes without say that our elderly veterans and our youngest veterans do have something in common they & their families have little time, patience or energy to fight and complete a myriad of paperwork that is time sensitive when their is not time left. How exactly are the elderly and dying veterans ... benefiting from layers of middle management and obtuse policy? Imagine further the tragedy for families with their unmarried son or daughter deceased in combat or service related deaths ... zippo ... just like our elderly friend ... nothing. And yeah you can just tell how heart warming it is that the sum total of compensation for the most disabled veteran is a mere $267,000 +/- presently. Why is it that we allowed a price tag to be placed on the value of service and in compensation? Let us not forget if VAC was providing appropriate support then no CF mbr would have to worry about LTD and paying for it. VAC policies and the notion that it is a "living charter" is a flagrant lie. Yup there really is no life like it. Kick em hard and hope they remain silent and god forbid that you would ever be injured as a military Reservist that would be whole other vent. My suggestion is we wear our poppies and black armbands in protest for all the veterans like this elderly gentleman and so many more who paid and continue to pay a huge price for their service. My sympathy to the family of this deceased veteran. He deserved so much more.
September 16, 2010 12:50 AM
Everyone.. would think... that the media would be interested in stories like this, or other examples of where VAC is screwing us, but ..the media is not! Since 2001 I have been fighting them, and educating them on their own Legislation, mainly section 25, of the Pension Act. The top lawyer, from the Legal Services Division, tossed the ACT back at me and said,"well..it has been done this way for 50 years". This was after I asked her to read the "words", and not assume anything. Our loss of income benefits, paid by a province, are used by VAC to reduce our disability pensions. I agree similar payment of compensation be used, but not income! I have an article from VAC's Salute paper, and it states proudly that disability pensions are not linked to income, yet they use my loss of income benefits to reduce my disability pension to $0. If I could work, and did tomorrow, they would pay me my full disability pension of $620. When only getting 85% of income, $0 from VAC??? I saw Pension lawyers, and they wanted me to start a class action, I have been to PEI, twice, had a number of meetings there, and the Dept still will not pay us, even when their LEGISLATION says that this deduction is wrong! I have been to CTV and CBC Ottawa, twice, A channel, London, London Freepress, and CBC, and CTV, Charlottetown, and they all had no interest. Everyone knows that VAC is screwing us, and it is old news! This issue I'm fighting goes back 50 years, and I alone am out over $70,000! What about the ones that fought in the Korean war, came back, got out, got a job, and then the condition their pensioned for worsens, and they can no longer work? Their disability Pension ended too!! I worked for 10 years, then had to have emergency surgery done. When my symptoms started, VAC sent me to be reassessd, increased my DP to $550, from $220, and I was working 2hrs a day, modified jobs. A year after my surgery, and only getting 85% of my income, nothing more, VAC calls me and tells me I owe them $8600.00, and that my Disability pension is reduced to $0.00! They said that I was now getting more "compensation" for my disability from WSIB, then they were paying me, so they no longer needed to pay me. I said I may get a Non economic loss award later, and that money you can use, but I'm only getting income right now! I have made it clear to VAC that they are wrong, they know it, but... Same shit!! If you know anyone else in this situation, please contact me. The Pension Advocates office told me after one of the meetings that they have wanted this change made for years, and that in the meeting, I gave them more reasons for the change to be made. The word "compensation" in the Pension Act, is not short for"provincial workers compensation benefits", but that is how they have used it! The Media told me that they wanted more than just my face, so if you know of someone, or yourself, please contact me at email@example.com We all must stand strong, and together!
September 15, 2010 9:22 PM
First I am disgusted at how our veterans are being treated by the VAC. Second I am disgusted in our governement for letting this continue. Third, Mr. Stogran, I applaud your efforts in supporting our veterans and speaking out about this messed up "system". I think we all need to speak louder about it and force changes to the NVC and VAC. On Nov. 6 stand up for our veterans!
September 15, 2010 2:56 PM
Pro Patria said:
It is a crime that the VAC would take such has to take such measures. It should look at some of the policies under the Canada Pension Plan, for example benefits payments are made at the end of each month, if a client passes away September 1st they or the estate is still entitled to that last payments. If it turns out there is "arrears" which essentially it was in this case, the Estate should still be entitled to the benefit. I didn't see anything about a spouse, I wonder in this scenario if the spouse would be entitled to a death benefit ?
September 15, 2010 2:31 PM
Katherine Wilson said:
Typical VAC crap. Delay, delay, delay, then blame the veteran - very inconvenient of him to pass away just before they made a decision - forcing them to immediately act to take away the funds belonging to the veteran. I've learned over the past 15 years of dealing with DVA - don't take NO for an answer. For anything. This man's family should (in my opinion) be screaming to the media - it is the only way to get the attention of the bureaucrats - embarrass them publicly, and loudly.
September 15, 2010 1:38 PM
W Callaghan said:
This seems to be just more evidence that they (VAC) would rather we be dead than alive. I often wonder how many soldiers have taken their own lives while waiting for a decision from VAC that would allow them to seek treatment.
September 14, 2010 9:02 PM
Pat this is a situation that needs to have a 'face'. If the family is willing they should come forward, with your assistance, and tell their story to the press. There is no reason for the callous senior bureaucrats in VAC to remain in their holes. Do everything you can to expose these VAC individuals as to what they really are...rats!
September 14, 2010 8:14 PM
Wow, that is so sad... Did VAC at least Pass on the Funds to them for Funeral Expenses Or are they also gonna claim he needed to be alive first to get that. That is so *%^%$ up... Myself it took them 7 or was it 8 months to inform me about I had an over payment with them, and that's probably only because I was getting onto them as to why I was waiting about the same time as to a claim I received during that time and what the status of it was, if I had not a claim, wonder how much longer they would have taken to inform me of the over payment, that happened 7-8 months prior. And to think now they want to cut down on personal Oh man things are gonna get majorly worst and Uglier dealing it them when that happens I dread the day.. Our Condolences to the Family...
September 14, 2010 5:31 PM
Old Silverback said:
Just one more VAC issue. Disgusting the way they would move on the bank account and put the family through distress. VAC needs an overhaul and the focus needs to be on services with a clear and fair service standard. VAC has tried to stall and deflect my file but I am steadfast in my approach and will see this through. All veterans and vet families need to band together to make this an election issue- that is the only way they will make changes that we- the ones they are supposed to be providing assistance- have been asking for.
September 14, 2010 12:24 PM