THE BLOG

Should the Families of Single Fallen Soldiers be Compensated?

12/22/2011 10:53 EST | Updated 02/20/2012 05:12 EST
Ted S. Warren, AP

Be they politicians, media, or just plain folks, most Canadians agree military personnel wounded in their country's name deserve not to be abandoned once fighting is over.

This concern usually translates into financial compensation, or assurances that injuries sustained in war or those connected with war injuries will be treated long after the war is over.

A "one-time, lump sum payment" of $276,000 to wounded vets instead of a lifetime monthly pension for military injuries is superficially tempting, but seems more a gimmick to save money and duck future responsibility.

Former Veterans Ombudsman, retired Col. Pat Stogran, has said it reflects an "insurance company" mentality to save money in the long run.

Virtually everyone who has examined the proposal warns against it. Even the Government is uneasy.

As it stands, a soldier with maximum disability pension gets an indexed $2,400 a month, a spouse an additional $600, and kids from $200 to $300.

Fifty percent disability halves the pension to a soldier.

Whether this is fair depends on the injury, the individual and their outlook.

No amount of financial compensation replaces a lost limb or eyesight.

Veterans groups are effective at lobbying and outlining concerns. Regardless of which political party forms the government, no one wants to shortchange those who've endured life-altering or career-ending injuries -- be they physical or mental.

A new wrinkle has emerged in this ongoing concern about wounded veterans.

There's a new campaign underway, joined by the Royal Canadian Legion, that feels a one-time payment of $250,000 should be allotted to a single soldier -- unmarried or unattached -- who's been killed in Afghanistan.

As it stands now, this payment goes to the spouse or common-law partner of a soldier killed in Afghanistan, but not to single soldiers. James Pentland, whose son was killed in Afghanistan with the Royal Canadian Dragoons, was quoted in the Toronto Star saying such discrimination to an unmarried soldier is despicable: "I find it insulting and degrading that . . . our government is not showing the single soldier the same respect and courtesy . . . they didn't do a damn thing to give equal benefits to the family of the single soldiers."

Speaking for the Royal Canadian Legion, Andrea Siew says: "The Legion believes that all Canadian Forces members killed . . . should be granted a death benefit."

One can sympathize with that attitude as it pertains to a small war with relatively few killed, but it's hard to justify in a large war, like the past two world wars that saw a total of 100,000 Canadians killed.

Single individuals join the military for a variety of reasons -- fully aware that they are putting their bodies on the line and taking risks that are part and parcel of being in the military. It's not a life that appeals to everyone; those soldiers who fear the worst can take out special life insurance.

It could be argued that no one grieves more intensely than a parent who has lost a child in war. It can be a comfort to know that the son or daughter killed in action believed in what they were doing, but parents are usually not financially dependent on them.

I doubt many single soldiers expect payment if they are killed, while a married soldier is reassured to know that his country is concerned for his wife and progeny.

Maybe the issue is as simple as that.