Federal government unprepared for influx of wounded soldiers - Macleans.ca

Federal government unprepared for influx of wounded soldiers

Veterans Affairs minister admits his department is scrambling to meet demand

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Veterans Affairs Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn has admitted that his department wasn’t prepared for the large numbers of wounded soldiers returning from Afghanistan and is now scrambling to meet their new demands. The department was born to meet the needs of veterans from previous conflicts, he said, and was ill-equipped for the influx of soldiers suffering the scars of Canada’s current war. “This department was functioning with traditional veterans. With the Afghanistan situation, this department was not ready,” Blackburn said. “Now we are doing those changes to be sure that our new modern veteran will obtain all the services that they should obtain.” As such, Blackburn says he will introduce a “second chapter” to the charter as early as next week, which includes a package of improvements meant to address these complaints. The changes will include guaranteeing financial support for wounded veterans during their rehabilitation. For example, all wounded veterans will now be guaranteed a minimum annual income of about $40,000, instead of 75 per cent of their salary. More veterans will also be allowed to tap into a permanent monthly allowance for seriously wounded veterans, worth between $536 and $1,609. More than 3,500 veterans are expected to be eligible for this allowance over the next five years. These changes mean that most seriously wounded soldiers in Afghanistan will be guaranteed a minimum yearly income of $58,000.

Toronto Star

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