04/11/2013 11:37 EDT | Updated 06/11/2013 05:12 EDT

Veterans groups team up to help soldiers navigate benefits bureaucracy

OTTAWA - Two independent organizations are stepping forward to help disabled veterans navigate the maze of federal government benefits, claims and appeals.

The Royal Canadian Legion and Wounded Warriors Canada announced the partnership today, saying their goal is to better connect ex-soldiers and their families with available programs.

Gordon Moore, the Legion's Dominion president, says the services will be available through each branch.

Together the two organizations will also provide professional counselling, and free representation services at all stages of the disability-claim process, up to and including challenges before the Veterans Review and Appeals Board.

Wayne Johnson, of Wounded Warriors, says troops returning from Afghanistan, particularly reservists, are scattered across the country and often do not access existing support networks when in need.

The federal government recently introduced several measures to better connect with soldiers, including an online benefits calculator, but at the same time cutting Veterans Affairs staff and offices.

Carolyn Gasser, a service officer with the Legion, says many former military members have complex disabilities and could benefit from some direction in the complicated process.