Johns addresses veterans issues with pair of bills

Gord Johns in the News

Source: Comox Valley Record, by Scott Stanfield

Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns, along with Veterans Affairs Critic Irene Mathyssen, has introduced a pair of bills to amend legislation concerning veterans and their families.

One of the bills aims to end what they consider to be an "unfair reduction of service pensions" for retired and disabled members of the Canadian Forces, for RCMP veterans, and for first responders.

"For their service and sacrifice, veterans and their families deserve support and to be treated with financial dignity when they retire or become disabled," Johns said in a news release.

North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney, who works on the national defence committee, notes the suicide rate of soldiers after returning home from Afghanistan.

"That tells you there's something happening that we need to be doing better," she said. "Resources at least provide support...This is a group of people who have been willing to make the ultimate sacrifice."

She said a major issue faced by veterans is having to prove their health conditions — a battle with which Chuck Murray is familiar. The Comox veteran suffered three accidents during 23 years of service as an engine mechanic in the Royal Canadian Air Force. He hasn't been able to work after his military career, and feels he's entitled to more than a monthly pension of about $1,000. Veterans Affairs Canada cannot comment on Murray's case due to privacy.

"To get benefits it's a lottery," Murray said. "They have a quota system. Those that get in are very, very fortunate, and those that don't get in are very unfortunate."

Blaney hopes VAC and National Defence will listen to the recommendations forwarded by Johns and Mathyssen.

However, she said the two departments aren't on speaking terms.

"What we're seeing is lowering the services available, and making it harder to access them," Blaney said, noting the challenges that can be presented when provincial and federal jurisdictions intersect.

The other bill addresses legislation that prevents veterans, RCMP members, judges and public sector employees — who choose to marry after age 60 — from providing pension benefits to their spouses when they pass away.