War vets fight feds’ court appeal

VANCOUVER – Six veterans and their legal team, with the help of White Rock-based Equitas Society, are fighting an appeal by the federal government to throw out a class-action lawsuit the society filed in September 2013.

The appellant case, which is now being heard in the B.C. Court of Appeal, began on Dec. 3. The veterans were fighting the enaction of the New Veterans Charter that was passed in 2006, which gave veterans of the Afghanistan war one-time lump sum payouts instead of the lifetime disability pensions they had been promised when going into war.

“They (the federal government) asked the courts to strike down the action, saying that it’s a frivolous complaint and action, and the BC Supreme Court did not agree with them and now they’re rearguing it,” Jim Scott, president of the Equitas Society, explained.

Scott’s son, Dan, one of the six representative plaintiffs in the case, received a one-time payout of $41,500 for his injuries, which included a fractured rib, collapsed lung, and damage to his kidney, spleen and pancreas.

“They’re in the courts, they’re getting the best advice and action available in Canada, and that’s all we can guarantee them,” Scott said of the veterans.

“We can’t guarantee they’re going to win, we can’t guarantee the government is going to change it. All we can say is that their rights are going to be represented.”

Veterans Affairs recently announced it would be pouring $200 million into “expanded mental health initiatives” for veterans.

According to Gerry Lenoski, vice-president of Equitas Society, it currently takes Veterans Affairs eight months to pair mentallyinjured veterans with a case manager. That, he says, is a “glacial pace.”

As for the 14 recommendations that were made to the New Veterans Charter, which Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino said the government accepts, Lenoski’s “confidence is not strong.”

Both Scott and Lenoski, however, said they’re not of the population calling for the resignation of Fantino, which NDP leader Thomas Mulcair has done.

“We have no reason to believe that he doesn’t have a soft spot for veterans,” Lenoski said of Fantino.

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