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Don't Give Injured Vets More Paperwork, Give Us Your Trust

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glyn berry paul franklin afghanistanRetired M. Cpl Paul Franklin was injured in a bomb attack on a Canadian convoy in Afghanistan in 2006.

In April 1917, in a place called Vimy, the prime minister Robert Borden and his advisors knew he needed to say a few words to motivate soldiers, engineers, aircrew and medical staff before the battle.

"The government and the country will consider it their first duty to see that a proper appreciation of your effort and of your courage is brought to the notice of people at home that no man, whether he goes back or whether he remains in Flanders, will have just cause to reproach the government for having broken faith with the men who won and the men who died," said Borden.

Those words still resonate with the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces men as they continue the fight in Iraq and Syria. A new government is now in power and promises have been made, and many vets and families are waiting to see if they are all to be followed.

When I was blown up on Jan. 15, 2006 I was lucky enough to have been gravely wounded before the New Veterans Charter came into place. It was hailed by all parties and the Royal Canadian Legion as a living document that would showcase a new way that vets coming from another land filled with poppies would be treated.

paul franklinPaul Franklin at an event in Sylvan Lake in 2015.

At the time, the charter promised that we would receive faster and better service from Veterans Affairs. Instead, we found the opposite as the number of those wounded physically and mentally grew higher and higher in a system that was already cut back as far as it could go.

For myself, as with all vets, we have to continuously prove our injuries and our wounds over and over. Those with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) have to relive the very thing that is causing them trauma. Vets with traumatic brain injury found themselves out on the streets unable or unwilling to fill out the complex forms to get the services they need.

I have had two wheelchairs repossessed because paperwork was not filled out correctly.

With the Service Income Security Insurance Plan (SISIP), there is always a constant threat that they will stop payment of benefits if forms are not filled out in their timeline. Again, for those with anxiety and other issues these time pressures can be intrusive and damaging.

The New Veterans Charter has failed. Almost 700,000 vets from all political stripes agreed for once that monthly pensions have to return to replace this charter.

"... changing back to a monthly pension is a system that reduces the number of hoops the limbless have to jump through, and a system that understands that if your friend dies in your arms there may be days that are difficult."

Veterans Affairs has moved into a complex service where a paratrooper with a sore back can have his or her claim rejected due to lack of paperwork even though they have completed 200 jumps. An artillery officer whose medical file will show degrading hearing loss over his career will be unable to get a pension or buyout because he can't "prove" his hearing loss was service-related.

Vets -- above most of the public -- understand limited budgets. We lived through an entire decade of darkness when as soldiers we would have to run around saying, "Bang bang" and bring our own paper to make a photocopy. The reality though is that changing back to a monthly pension is a system that reduces the number of hoops the limbless have to jump through, and a system that understands that if your friend dies in your arms there may be days that are difficult.

Sometimes vets can sound like pedantic children fighting over what seems trivial matters. The reality is that being in the military we know that it's the little things that matter. It's the details.

Change would save money

We need to look at the reality in this fiscally tight world. Move to a system of reverse onus where Veterans Affairs trusts that the people doing the applications actually have the problems they list.

The government will actually save money as the true costs lie in doctors' appointments, specialists, applying the paperwork, applying the percentage of disability and then sometimes various appeals.

Cutting the bureaucracy by working with the patients and with veterans will make it a co-operative approach, and not a confrontational one.

The goal of Veterans Affairs is to help vets and their families. Those that work there do their best but it's a system with flaws, so any way we can make it easier -- and in fact cheaper -- helps us all and sticks to the principles upon which the department was founded.

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