Veterans: heroes, not burdens
By GARY ZWICKER
Wed, Aug 10 - 4:54 AM
If you have ever travelled abroad, you have probably noticed that foreign cultures are often very friendly toward Canadians, a result of generations of good men and women willing to don a uniform and assist our world neighbours. When they come back under a flag, they are automatically considered a hero; however, when one returns broken, he becomes a burden.
A disabled, sick or wounded veteran should become the responsibility of all Canadians: We must undertake to ensure his or her well-being. After all, these men and women deployed gallantly throughout the world, protecting the civil rights and equalities of other cultures as well as defending Canada’s global interests. Never do they get to pick their mission or comment on the policy.
Canadian military members are currently the only armed forces in the world who are forced to purchase their own life and disability insurance. When they return home, the Canadian government, Veterans Affairs and the insurance company often deny rights and equality to the injured veterans. What irony!
Lately, there has been much confusion over what constitutes a homeless veteran. They are damaged men and women who have served in uniform. Most are ordinary Canadians who wanted to make a positive change in the world and joined the Canadian Forces or RCMP. Many are not considered heroes at home; however, throughout the world, our men and women in uniform are looked at as just that.
VETS (Veterans Emergency Transition Service) assists all veterans in need, regardless of their medal status, rank, disability, time served, addiction, age, race or religion. The only criterion is that the veteran is having problems adjusting to civilian life. Sadly, most of the adjustment problems lead to addiction, homelessness and even suicide.
VETScanada.org is currently serving nine homeless veterans in Nova Scotia. We have so far found 22 others requesting other types of assistance, and there are seven others whom we have helped integrate back into society, to a certain degree, with strong support from the local staff of Veterans Affairs Canada.
Currently, 20 per cent of retired Armed Forces personnel require social assistance for at least two years following their retirement, because of the complicated hoops they must jump through to get the pensions and other help they deserve. Seventy per cent of veterans’ widows are still denied benefits, and there is a growing number of home foreclosures among veterans. Even the Royal Canadian Legion has found the voice to call the New Veterans Charter discrimination.
If you happen to be a veteran of sound mind, body and finances, be thankful. However, consider this: When a sailor falls overboard, even if because of his own stupidity, you still turn the ship around to recover and treat him. When a soldier is injured in the field, you still recover him as a brother. What changed when we took off the uniform?
Gary Zwicker lives in Halifax.