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EQUITAS

justice - fairness - equity Equitas Society – January 2012 Update
The Equitas Society: formed in September 2011 to provide the legal disbursement costs for an intended law suit to be conducted, pro bono, by the law firm Miller Thomson to challenge the 2006 New Veterans Charter and the reduced disability benefits this new Act provides compared to the previous soldiers’ Pension Act, or other provincial worker compensation programs. 1) Miller Thomson’s New Disabled Soldier Clients With a real sense of thanks to all the assistance from a number of established on-line veteran’s originations, the response has been overwhelming with soldiers who are willing to be part of this legal action. There is now a significant list of soldiers negatively affected by the New Veterans Charter who have expressed interest and are at various stages of joining. Due to the “know your client rules” and the need to establish a relationship with clients before sharing sensitive medical files, the sign up process is going to take awhile to complete, especially in Ontario. From a law suit perspective, having a large response is good and demonstrates that these reduced settlements are the rule not the exception. However, having twice the disabled soldiers in the system as planned at this stage does cause some initial contact delays. Therefore, we are asking any soldier in the “queue” wanting any update to call Miller Thomson lawyer, Mr. Greg Cavouras (604 643-1297). It should be noted that the Miller Thomson legal action is on a global scale, challenging the New Veterans Charter as an Act. They do not handle individual soldiers’ claim processes with Veterans Affairs Canada. 2) New Veteran Charter Reduced Benefits Based on the information these soldiers have provided, it is clear that disabled soldiers have been financially disadvantaged by the New Veterans Charter. In support of this finding, a 2011 Queen’s University study found Canada’s most severely disabled soldiers will only receive 64% of the disability compensation under the New Veterans Charter as compared to the previous Pension Act, and this amount is reduced to 22% at age 65. The situation seems worse for partially disabled soldiers and disabled reserve soldiers who can, at times, only receive 10% of what other provincial worker compensation programs would provide. It is hard to believe that these new conditions-of-service were arbitrarily imposed on our soldiers in the middle of the largest armed conflict in recent Canadian history. These soldiers don’t see other federal employees having their disability benefits reduced by one Act of Parliament and the soldiers ask how it could be that many of them signed an employment contract under a set of conditions just to have a new reduced disability program in place when they actually needed help.

3) The New Veteran Charter’s Affect on Disabled Soldiers For those disabled soldiers who shared their stories with the Equitas Society, it is heart wrenching. The lack of financial support is causing stress on the whole family, and families are breaking apart. Soldiers find themselves fighting an invisible enemy of bureaucratic wrangling leading to sub-standard settlements; a fight they never wanted. These soldiers are looking to move on with their lives, but find themselves trapped in a new form of welfare where their low lump sum payments require them to participate in newly made minimum income guarantee programs that claw back any additional income they earn, leaving them constantly at a minimum income level - a sad cycle of “federal welfare” for disabled soldiers. This is not how other employee disability programs work. Other worker compensation programs provide a tax free structured payment schedule, which disabled workers keep as a ”base”. These disabled workers are then allowed to earn additional income with no claw back; thus, these disabled workers have a fighting chance of maintaining an income level similar to what they would have had without their injury and disability. 4) The Way Forward Everyone is hoping that with the same speed our soldiers had their disability benefits reduced; the government will change, or replace, the Act once again to make their disability benefits the same as other federal employees and provincial worker compensation programs. Unless, these improved benefits come in the next couple of months, the law firm Miller Thomson plans to begin the legal action on behalf of our disabled soldiers. The details of the filings are currently being worked on. In anticipation of going to court, the Equitas Society is focusing on building a “war chest” of funds to engage in this lengthy and costly legal challenge. This is the time when Canadian organizations, companies and individuals are being asked to support our disabled soldiers in real terms – with donations toward their legal disbursement costs. Therefore, the coming months will be focused on fund raising for these soldiers’ legal disbursement costs, including asking for help from those organizations that raise funds in the name of disabled soldiers, or veterans. Sincerely,

Jim Scott President Equitas Society

526-15216 North Bluff Road White Rock, BC, V4B 0A7 Phone: 604-970-7884 info@equitassociety.ca