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Vet struggled to get pension, benefits and 'I enjoy conflict, a good fight'

the 48th regulator

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Vet struggled to get pension, benefits
July 29, 2008

Vet struggled to get pension, benefits

By JOE WARMINGTON

 
KINGSTON -- He has already bravely gone into battle for this country and should never have had to battle against it.

But that's what injured war veteran Petty Officer Robert Leroux, and others, have had to do to get their proper pension and medical care after serving so heroically in Afghanistan.

Their adversary this time wasn't bombs and bullets but red tape and regulations.

"I don't understand it, either," said the 26-year veteran of the Canadian Forces who was medically discharged with honour in March. "I already did my part for king and country."

And he did. Four times in Afghanistan to be exact. He has the medals to show for it. And the wounds. Some physical. Some mental. What he said he didn't have for more than four months after being medically discharged was his financial compensation entitlements that he more than earned.

"For the first time I missed a mortgage payment," said the separated father of three, who hails originally from Burlington. "And now my credit has taken a dive."

He also said because of the same bureaucratic loophole that created the above dilemma, he and his children are not fully covered medically until Nov. 1.

He said upon discharge he had to find his own doctors -- including several specialists like a psychiatrist.

"And I am not alone," he said. "I put this up on my own Facebook site and I found a lot of people have had the same problem."

Now I know what you are thinking: How could this be?

In this specific case, Leroux, 45, did tours in Afghanistan in 2002, '04, '05 and '06.

"As part of signal's intelligence, we were always at the pointy end," he said, adding there was lots of killing.

In many cases, he was the investigator of bomb scenes where his friends were killed by a Taliban IED.

"The only things you find at a bomb scene are hands, the head and feet," he said, visibly tense. "It's a hard job. It's not one of the things you look forward to."

In a small coffee shop, he looks nervously around at each person. "I know everybody's face," he said, adding he understands he's home in Canada but keeping track of faces to stay alive in Afghanistan has proven to be a difficult habit to shake.

As is the memory of Feb. 16, 2006. "The threat was sniper fire. We did a quick turn."

He went flying out of his Bison vehicle and landed on his head. More than two years later he still suffers from post-concussion syndrome, as well as neck, back and leg pain.

But it's the mental part of the package that has him struggling the most.

"I had no idea what post-traumatic stress syndrome would do to you," he said.

"You don't sleep, there is anger, resentment, guilt, sexual dysfunction and fatigue."

This is the guy our country made go "16 weeks and six days" without receiving his pension cheque. There is just no excuse for this. He's already fought the ruthless Taliban. It's not right to make a guy fight to make ends meet upon his medical discharge.

"It has been so hard," he said. "I had to borrow money from family to survive. I literally got down to half a tank of gas and $2 in my pocket."

Now here's what I think should happen today.

Right from the top there should be an immediate investigation into Leroux's claims and those of the others. If there is merit, the resources should be deployed this week to end this humiliation of our courageous veterans.

It's that simple! No need for litigation or inquiry. If there is a backlog of claims, fix it today and don't put another Canadian warrior through this kind of dance.

It may not happen that fast. I have all the appropriate calls out and am prepared to tell the other side if there is one.

No one I spoke with inside the military yesterday wanted to address it -- some citing confidentiality.

"That's what we are running into," said Leroux. "They always say they are sympathetic but they also say there is nothing they can do about it."

Good thing our soldiers never say that when going into battle against the Taliban.

"I don't want this to be negative toward the military," he said adamantly. "They have done a great job and so have the doctors working with me on my specific injuries. I have my pension coming in now. I am doing this for all of the guys coming home who will have to face this."

And so am I. Don't create conflict for people who have had enough conflict.

You can call Joe Warmington at (416) 947-2392 or e-mail at joe.warmington@sunmedia.ca
Copyright © 2008, Canoe Inc. All rights reserved.
Proprietor and Publisher - Sun Media (Toronto) Corporation, 333 King St. E., Toronto, ON, M5A 3X5




And in today's paper;



'I enjoy conflict, a good fight'

Ombudsman ready to take on feds over Afghan vets' benefits

By JOE WARMINGTON

 
Is there anybody in this country who thinks it's okay to have Afghanistan war veterans going for months without receiving their earned pension and medical benefits upon returning home wounded?

It certainly doesn't sit well with Canada's new veterans' ombudsman.

In fact, straight-talking retired Col. Patrick Stogran said yesterday if Canada is going to put its troops in harm's way, it then can't leave them stranded upon coming home wounded.

"If you are going to ask them to put their lives on the line, there has to be proper compensation in a timely manner," Stogran said in an interview.

"For somebody who has done the hard yards, we need to cut through the lines of bureaucracy quickly."

This hasn't been happening. On the fact that many recent Afghanistan veterans have been caught in limbo waiting for their entitlements, he said, "I am disappointed."

But not surprised.

In fact, when the ombudsman himself retired from serving this country in wartime, he also had to wait and wade through months of red tape for his military pension.

Turns out he is one of dozens and perhaps even more who have been faced with the humiliating experience.

"Some get medals for their military service; the bureaucrats behind this should get a badge of shame," said popular Corus Radio talk show host Roy Green. "Where are the protests like there was for the American army deserter?"

He is so right. This can't stand. This can't be too difficult to solve.

A special fund can be created and all returning troops can be given a stipend to tide them over until their pensions kick in.

Problem solved, free of charge with no need for a consultant.

We need unique thinkers because these brave warriors are completing unique tasks.

The one-size-fits-all approach does not work here.

Although warning his "recommendations are not binding" if Stogran gets his way, those loopholes that delay earned pension cheques will be closed.

"I'll get aggressive if I have to," Stogran said, adding that will be his strategy to convince Ottawa to ensure seamless medical and financial transition from war zones to civilian life.

"I know all about it because I had to wait six months for mine."

Not a very nice way to treat a guy who was "shot at, shelled upon and pissed on" during several tours, which included commanding troops in Afghanistan in 2002! If they would do that to a colonel, the ranks don't have a chance.

That's a caution for politicians who think they'll just slip this national disgrace under the carpet.

When they get back from their summer vacation, this tough former commander may not only be on their back -- he may be in their face, too.

"If you speak to my colleagues from when I was in the military, they'll tell you I was a pain in the ass," he said. "I don't see that changing. I enjoy conflict. I enjoy a good fight."

He will make "pragmatic recommendations" to caucus this fall on a variety of issues, including soldiers being "caught in no man's land" and who feel they are out there "alone." They, he said, are not alone.

"It's not going to be too long before we stand up for these issues," he said. "There is lots of talk going on. The proof will be in the pudding. I fully intend to keep a scorecard."

Such backing was music to Robert Leroux's ears. He's the 45-year-old medically discharged petty officer who after four tours in Afghanistan and 26 years of service missed a mortgage payment and had to borrow money while veterans affairs took almost 17 weeks to process his military pension.

He had no food in the fridge while he waited -- not long after being shot at by the Taliban.

Suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and headaches from a concussion suffered after he was thrown from his vehicle, he recounts on his Facebook site similar stories of warriors coming home to no pay cheque and no medical insurance coverage.

He believes in Stogran and says, "He is one of few officers I would truly follow ... He is a good man in a position where he can do the right things."

Stogran has actually been on this issue since being appointed to this new position late last year. In fact his "Leave Nobody Behind" campaign is intended to help out all veterans.

"We don't leave our wounded on the battlefield, so injured veterans should not be left to care for themselves. I will leave nobody behind," he said.

"We have to reach out and identify homeless vets. Everyone should feel that they can come to us and be confident that we will follow up."

Getting results, he said, is the only thing that will instill that confidence.

Attention to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and cabinet: Retired Col. Patrick Stogran, who has led successful missions against the Taliban, is planning on getting results.

You can call Joe Warmington at (416) 947-2392 or e-mail at joe.warmington@sunmedia.ca
Copyright © 2008, Canoe Inc. All rights reserved.
Proprietor and Publisher - Sun Media (Toronto) Corporation, 333 King St. E., Toronto, ON, M5A 3X5



dileas

tess
 

geo

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It's good to see someone of Col Strogan's calibre in the ombudsman's position
 
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I got out last year and it took 3 and a half months for my first Cheque to show up. I'm glad I had a job and let my friends know that are getting out that it takes awhile to get the cheques to come in.  I don't think its a Govt thing but more along the lines of the military pension office, as we had a public servant get retire and she had a cheque with in 30 days.
 

Bruce Monkhouse

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Northern Ranger said:
I got out last year and it took 3 and a half months for my first Cheque to show up.

This just blows my mind.........brutal.
 

dapaterson

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I know of one guy who retired last fall and has yet to get a formal payment - they`re still giving him advances, pending resolution of his case.  Yes, he`s a reservist, buying back his service.  Even getting advances took several months of effort.
 

2 Cdo

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Northern Ranger said:
I got out last year and it took 3 and a half months for my first Cheque to show up. I'm glad I had a job and let my friends know that are getting out that it takes awhile to get the cheques to come in.  I don't think its a Govt thing but more along the lines of the military pension office, as we had a public servant get retire and she had a cheque with in 30 days.

Retired in Nov and got my first pension cheque mid-April. Good thing I had a substantial nest egg and started a new job in January. The system is broke and needs fixing.
 

karl28

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                  This is most definitely shamefull on the governments part .  The Canadian government has asked these men and women to go overseas in a war zone and serve there country and than when these soldiers  either through injury or by time in get treated like this when they need there pention is  just disgracefull .            I hope that they can get this issue solved quickly and that these soldiers  can start getting what they have earned .           
 

Kat Stevens

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Took 4 months for me to get a cheque, too.  If it hadn't been for the retroactive VAC cheque showing up at the 11th hour, my kids and I would have been severely hooped.
 

Jammer

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I know Bob very well. He and I were on the same team in '06 and believe me I know what he has gone through. Both in theater and back home.
Hang tough Bobby...
 

retiredgrunt45

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I've seen this happen a few times when I was in, actually worked for a WO who retired in Gagetown and he ended up waiting 3+ months for his pension. After an inquiry of "What the hell is going on" by him and his former CO, he found out that his file had been sitting in a file cabinet of the release section for over 30 days after he had been released and hadn't yet been forwarded to Ottawa to be processed.

We had no ombudsman back then, so we just had to find a good senior officer who was willing to step on some toes to get things rolling. Sometimes it worked and sometimes you got lost in the quagmire of  shrugged shoulders, bullshit and redtape.

I see not much had changed.

 

Edward Campbell

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I hope some flag and general officers are reading this thread because it is symptomatic of a system that is in need of considerable reform, beginning with some swift kicks to the arses of some colonels and senior civil servants - those to be reapplied down the admin chain as required.

There is no reason for this sort of thing. I can attest to the fact that the system used to work quickly and efficiently - I even got a phone call from some clerk or another, a few weeks after I retired, enquiring re: had I received my pension. (Now, someone in the same office overpaid me by about $10,000 on release but both she and I thought there was an error so I just sat on that money for a few weeks and, sure enough, I got a letter saying, “Whoops! Sorry! Please send the money back.” I did.)

When soldiers suffer (or are even inconvenienced) unnecessarily by the system it is failure in leadership. Leaders, starting at the top, can and must fix it - or make way for someone who can and will. So, generals and admirals lurking on army.ca: fix the f'ing system or join the line at the release clerk's office door.
 

geo

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Heh... remember my Nth job,..
I accepted the job, reported in & started work... +/- 10 days later, when I inquired about payday, I was told that the pay went into the bank like clockwork.... on the 23rd of every month !!!
 

Retired AF Guy

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E.R. Campbell said:
... someone in the same office overpaid me by about $10,000 on release but both she and I thought there was an error so I just sat on that money for a few weeks and, sure enough, I got a letter saying, “Whoops! Sorry! Please send the money back.” I did.

Hope you got to keep the interest. ;D

I work with a guy who has been officially released for about six months now, and waiting for his severance cheque to show-up. So he phones up Ottawa and gets told that there is no record that he is entitled to severance pay! This from a guy who's got about 25+ years in the service. Go figure.
 

riggermade

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I've got a friend who has been out almost 3 years and he got a call saying that records show he is still in and he would have to write a letter confirming his release or they would be looking at recovering money
 

CBH99

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I'm slightly confused, please forgive me...

Is this article about how long it takes for retiring members to receive their pensions??

OR...

Is it about how long it takes to receive your pay after coming home from deployment?? 

*Sorry, I know its a silly question....just need a bit of clarification*
 
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