Tease the day: Steven Blaney can’t catch a break

The Veterans Affairs Minister’s problems keep piling up

CP/Adrian Wyld

Steven Blaney just can’t find good press these days. The Minister of Veterans Affairs has spent weeks defending his government’s record of helping the country’s vets, but he barely addresses one barrage before another is unleashed. It came to light in October that the Last Post Fund, a program meant to pay for veterans’ burials, wasn’t coming close to covering the full cost, and funeral homes were paying the difference. Then it was revealed that the same program had rejected two-thirds of the applications it received since 2006. Late last month, the Ottawa Citizen broke the news that veterans who were prioritized for jobs in the federal public service were getting “squeezed out” in the wake of job cuts. Yesterday, a group of veterans and widows complained in a news conference on Parliament Hill that Veterans Affairs Canada has all but abandoned them. And in this morning’s Globe and Mail come allegations of a raft of issues at Canada’s largest veteran-care facility in Toronto. Phew. Not even the most glorious profiles of remembrance could drown out that mounting list of complaints. Remembrance Day in Ottawa is set to be unseasonably warm. How ironic, given the chilly relations between those we remember and the government meant to lend them a hand.


What’s above the fold this morning?

The Globe and Mail leads with a feature about the Schans family, which saw eight of its members enlist in the military during the Second World War. The National Post fronts a Montreal connection to the eventual killing of Osama bin Laden. The Toronto Star goes above the fold with the ORNGE founder saying the organization’s board wouldn’t let him step down. The Ottawa Citizen leads with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s advice to the United States and India. iPoliticas fronts the host of global challenges facing a re-elected U.S. President Barack Obama. National Newswatch showcases an Ottawa Citizen story, written by Stephen Maher and Glen McGregor, about the current whereabouts of the Conservatives’ campaign manager in Guelph in 2011.


Stories that will be (mostly) missed

1. Philippines tease. Postmedia’s Matthew Fisher explains why Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s trip to the Philippines, on the tail end of his tour of India, is so important to both countries. 2. RCMP re-focus. Robert Lunney, a former RCMP superintendent, says the force should focus on combating organized crime and terrorism—and not local police work.
3. Cyber-security. The RCMP warned in its annual report that serious gaps exist in Canada’s readiness to protect its cyber-security. The force is calling for “improved capabilities.” 4. Laval mayor to resign? Reports suggest that later this morning, embattled Laval Mayor Gilles Vaillancourt will resign the post he’s held since 1989 amid corruption allegations.




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Tease the day: Steven Blaney can’t catch a break

  1. “Veterans Affairs alters conclusions of medical reports to deny Disability Benefits”

    Part 1

    Ex Canadian Forces Member. While serving in the Canadian Forces imagine
    16 months away from your family, having occasional numbness in your
    feet after patrolling all day with 40 – 50 lbs of gear, then one
    day you feel a strange sensation in your chest, your heart beat is
    irregular, all of a sudden you feel en enormous weight on every part
    of your body and you collapse onto your knees, unable to lift your
    arms, your breathing slows and blackness begins to narrow your vision
    …. you wake up disoriented and with a sharp pain in your shoulder.
    A few months later your driving to work, you begin to experience
    stabbing abdominal pains, your hands and feet go numb,
    instantaneously sweat begins to pour off your head, you feel
    nauseated and then your breathing slows. Suddenly your entire body is
    charged with electricity and every muscle begins to contract, then
    your head and chest are resting against the steering wheel, you are
    confused and uncertain of your location. 20 months after leaving the
    Canadian Forces you’ve spent more than 4 months in bed, called 911 on
    4 different occasions and spent more than 30 days in multiple
    hospitals while neurologists, cardiologists, respiratory and
    gastrointestinal specialists run hundreds of tests and invasive
    procedures. Without any clear cause you become short of breath just
    standing up, you drop utensils, phones, glasses and other items and
    are unable to button up your shirts because you can’t feel the ends
    of your fingers. You are frequently unable to drive or walk when the
    dizziness and nausea becomes severe. Without any notice you suddenly
    feel extremely fatigued and your legs and arms become weak and you
    have to lye down wherever you are, even in a vehicle. Occasionally
    you feel a strange sensation down your spine and collapse on the
    floor, completely paralyzed. These are just a few of the challenges I
    now face, here is my story:

    I was onduty with the Canadian Forces in 2009 when I received the H1N1 shot
    (AREPANRIX by GSK GlaxoSmithKline) and had a severe adverse reaction
    resulting in PERMANENT symptoms: dizziness, vertigo, irregular heart
    rhythms, shortness of breath, muscle weakness, pain and cramps,
    numbness in hands and feet, vision problems and severe fatigue. My
    physical fitness changed from special forces fit to that of a 70 year
    old in a matter of days. I advised the military doctors that my
    change in health occurred immediately following the H1N1 vaccination
    and although they noted my concerns on 8 different occasions, they
    did not investigate the link or file an adverse reaction report.
    According to CF Health Services (CFHS) they are required to report
    adverse reactions to Health Canada. There was no record of this
    report in my medical file. According to Health Canada there were
    5,712 adverse reactions reported across Canada. The DND and CF filed
    only 9 reports, 5 had neurological symptoms. Due to the severity of
    my symptoms I was unable to continue performing my duties and was
    released from the military. Following my release, the military
    determined I was disabled and altered my release record due to the
    severity of my symptoms. Two years later Alberta’s health officer in
    charge of the Immunization Program for the province reviewed my
    medical history and verified I had a severe adverse reaction to the
    H1N1 vaccine. I applied to Veterans Affairs (VA) for benefits through
    both their pension and rehabilitation programs, providing proof of
    vaccination, a letter from both Alberta Health Services (AHS)
    Immunization and another doctor verifying I had an adverse reaction
    and was denied on 3 separate occasions. Even though I was on duty
    training personnel when I received the vaccination, Veterans Affairs
    stated “There is no evidence that your barriers to reestablishment
    are related to your service time”. In an attempt to understand
    their decision in order to appeal it I asked them why they felt this
    injury was not related to military service. First the case manger
    advised me they did not have the authority to make a decision on my
    rehabilitation application. When I advised the case manager that a
    different case manager and a client service agent both told me they
    did have the authority, she then stated they simply did not want to
    provide rehabilitation benefits in case the pension division denied
    pension benefits based on the same criteria. They advised me to
    appeal to their national office or wait 9 – 12 months or longer
    until the pension division makes a decision. I asked why I should be
    denied rehabilitation and continue to suffer severe symptoms which
    can be treated when they can make a decision immediately. Again the
    case manager did not respond. Since they believe the injury was not
    service-related, I then asked for their definition of “service
    related” so that I could understand how to appeal the decision and
    they refused to answer the question and told me to contact the Bureau
    of Pension Advocates (BPA) who could assist with the appeal process.
    Again I told the case manager that it is difficult to appeal a
    decision if you don’t know why the injury is not considered service
    related. I then advised the case manager that I had contacted the
    Bureau and was told they they are only involved in pension
    applications and cannot review or comment on rehabilitation
    appeals. The case manager then told me she was not aware
    of this and when I asked her who would assist me in my appeal again
    she could not provide an answer.

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