Ontario Woman Upset At Veterans Affairs For Denying Payment To Late Father

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The daughter of a Second World War veteran who died before he could receive compensation from Veteran Affairs Canada is angry that Ottawa did not process the paperwork for her father in the time she alleges was promised.

Gail Baker alleges her father, Louis Gelman, may have been eligible for the one-time payment announced by the former federal Conservative government in 2014. The package was meant to offset the changes they made to veterans' disability pensions.

Baker said she mailed the paperwork on her father's behalf in October 2015 and alleges she was told by Veterans Affairs they would process the package within two to three weeks.

But her father died in Toronto on Jan. 7, 2016. The payment had not been settled.

And Baker said she learned from a Veterans Affairs letter in March that any settlement would have been for Gelman, a surviving spouse or dependent child. His surviving adult children are not eligible for the payment now.

Born in Poland, fought for Canada

"I am upset that they did not carry through in a timely manner. I don't think we should be penalized for the fact that it didn't happen," the Vaughan, Ont., woman told CBC News. "Out of respect for a veteran who served his country and who was being offered this package, I think they should make it good and do the right thing."

Gelman, born in Radom, Poland, came to Canada as a child, and grew up to serve in this country's Central Ontario Regiment. He joined the army "because I felt they needed help," he told The Memory Project as a younger man.

He was wounded in the leg by a hand grenade and was held as a prisoner of war in Hamburg, Germany. In the same battle in which he was injured, the rest of Gelman's company was killed, he said.

Gelman was liberated on April 12, 1945, and returned to Canada to start again. He was 21 at the time.

His spent his civilian life working in a garment factory in Toronto after the war. And before he died, he was cared for at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

Baker said that her father's sacrifices for Canada should be recognized. In April, she appealed the decision denying the payment of compensation to surviving family members.

She said that she does not know how much money her father was to receive. When she first learned of it during his life, she said she wanted to use it to take him on small trips.

Veterans Affairs reviewing Gelman's case

Janice Summerby, spokesperson for Veteran Affairs, said Monday that her department is reviewing the situation.

"It is always difficult to hear of any individual who does not feel their family is receiving the support they need," the department said in an email. "The department is in contact with the family and the situation is being reviewed."

Baker said she learned in 2014 that her father might qualify for a payout after the change to the disability pension program. She did not send in the paperwork, however, until October 2015.

"I phoned regarding this, and asked, 'Are you in a hurry? Is there a timeframe?' They said, 'No, it was open for now, send it when you can.' I left it for a period of time. They said they are so busy right now with everybody was sending it in that, if you wait, it's not a big deal."

To qualify for compensation, Ottawa asked veterans to send in tax returns from 2010-2012. Baker said she sent those by registered mail and was told by Veterans Affairs that it would take between two and three weeks to process them.

"The deluge was done," she said. "It wasn't backed up anymore."

After her father died in January, she received a letter from Veteran Affairs that said he was no longer eligible because he had died.

That's because the one-time payouts — which are considered voluntary compensation for earnings loss, Canadian Forces income support and war veterans allowance benefits dating back to May 2012 — are available only to veterans, their spouses and dependent children.

Baker said that it's been hard for her since losing her father, saying he was always a positive person.

"He was a fun-loving kind of guy that everybody would love to have as a dad," she said. "I miss him very much."