NEWS

Injured vets sue Ottawa over benefits

05/11/2012 11:21 EDT | Updated 07/11/2012 05:12 EDT

An Edmonton soldier is among those launching a lawsuit against the federal government over changes to veteran benefits.

In 2005, Ottawa made changes to the way that it calculates compensation for soldiers who are wounded in battle. Veterans say that, because of those changes, those who have been wounded since will receive much less over their lifetimes.

“The government changed the rules on us halfway through the war,” said Major Mark Campbell, who is involved in building the lawsuit.

“It’s the families. It’s not just me, this is about my family.”

Campbell lost both his legs when Taliban fighters detonated an explosive that had been buried in the dirt in June 2008.

Aside from being confined to a wheelchair, Campbell says he suffered brain trauma and lost sexual function. While he has adjusted to his injuries, he said wasn’t prepared for the fight to get his benefits.

Campbell says the changes could mean soldiers wounded after 2006 would receive cuts of around 40 per cent to their lifetime benefits. He fears it would have the greatest impact on younger soldiers who find themselves wounded.

“I wouldn't allow my own son to join the armed forces … because he isn't going to be properly cared for if he gets hurt serving the people, the government .. the nation of Canada,” Campbell said.

Lawsuit a last resort

The suit is being brought by the Equitas Society, a BC-based veterans rights group.

Brian Archer, executive director of Equitas, said that the lawsuit isn’t an ideal solution but they felt they’ve been left no choice by the government.

“The political decision is not that complicated and not that difficult. And the legal solution is not in the best interest of the government,” he said.

Equitas said a Vancouver-based law firm has agreed to take on the case pro bono.

Veterans Affairs responds

Verterans Affairs sent an email response after CBC News reported Campbell's story.

"Our government is providing our Veterans with the support they need to successfully transition from military to civilian life," wrote ministry press secretary Jean-Christophe de le Rue.

"That's why our Government implemented the New Veterans Charter in April 2006. The New Veterans Charter, which was supported by all parties in the House of Commons, is based on the fundamental principles of wellness and reintegration."

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