HALIFAX – A frail 94-year-old Canadian who was decorated while serving with Allied naval convoys in the Second World War has been struggling to gain entry to a Halifax hospital that cares for veterans.
Petter Blindheim’s son Peter says he has been informed by Ottawa that it won’t fund care at the Camp Hill Veterans’ Memorial hospital under regulations that provides care for Canadians who fought with allied nations against Nazi Germany.
Veterans Affairs has sent the family a letter saying that because Blindheim signed up with the Royal Norwegian Navy based in Britain after the date on which the German army occupied his homeland, he doesn’t qualify for benefits as an “Allied Veteran.”
The refusal letter says Petter would need to have enlisted between April 8 and June 9, 1940, to qualify. Sailors who signed up with the Norwegian Armed Forces — which had shifted to London, England — after that date, were considered to be in the “resistance service” and aren’t eligible for the Canadian support programs.
Peter Blendheim, whose last name was changed slightly by his mother, says the department is being overly bureaucratic in denying the care to his father, who he says was decorated for service on merchant marine vessels and corvettes.
“It’s rigid, bureaucratic, and inflexible and also incorrect on a number of levels,” Peter said during an interview Friday.
He says at one point his father was commended by the Royal Norwegian Navy for his courage when a torpedo sank a vessel he was serving on in November 1942.
“After the torpedoes hit the ship, he selflessly ran to the deck and removed the primer from his depth charges so they wouldn’t go off as the ship sank,” said the son.
“He imagined in his head the men surviving in the water … but shockwaves from the depth charge killing, injuring or maiming more people. … So he went and removed the primer and was recognized by the supreme commander of the Norwegian forces based in London, England.”
Blendheim says his father, who lives in an apartment with his wife Marilyn, is struggling to look after himself and the family has tried for over a year to bring him into a care facility where he can be supported.
“My mother has reached a breaking point in her own health and her ability to deal with this. My father has fallen down three times over the past year, once bumping his head, once spraining his back and once breaking his arm,” he said.
He said he’d believed the Camp Hill programs would be an option when the time came for his father to receive care, and as a result Petter isn’t on a lengthy waiting list for a provincially funded nursing home.
The son is appealing to the federal minister of Veteran Affairs, Kent Hehr, to make an exception and allow his father to enter the hospital.
Hehr declined a telephone interview, but an aide sent emailed quotes saying he understands “the frustration of veterans and families facing such circumstances.”
“I have directed the Department of Veterans Affairs to reach out to this individual and his family and work with the Nova Scotia Health Authority to ensure that all options for care are explored,” the email said.
A regulation in the Veterans Health Care Regulations says that the benefits are extended to members of Allied forces that fought in the Second World War, “other than resistance groups.”