November 9, 2011, Ottawa ON – Canada can and should be doing a much better job in ensuring that Canada's veterans get the help and support their service to our country merits.
That's the central message from retired Brigadier-General James Cox in a new Remembrance Day edition of Straight Talk released by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, where Cox is a Senior Fellow.
In the past decade, there has been a striking resurgence in public and political expressions of support for our armed forces and veterans. But according to James Cox this support, while necessary, must also be reflected in deeds and not just words and a once-a-year poppy on the lapel. In this new interview he asks how well our system is supporting those who have worn Canada's uniform. The answer is disappointing.
He says, "Support is more than just the tools to do the job. It means the nation looks after those who have put their lives on the line defending Canada, and their families that support them, especially including those maimed in body or spirit in the defence of our country. Compared to what it could be doing Canada's performance leaves a great deal to be desired. Fortunately it is clear what needs to be done to fix the problem."
He offers several specific and detailed recommendations:
1) Develop one comprehensive Act to replace the current patchwork of laws and regulations covering Veterans' Affairs.
2) Notify Veterans' Affairs Canada automatically of all retiring Canadian Forces members and ensure veterans know what benefits they are entitled to.
3) Ensure the frontline staff dealing with veterans are themselves retired military people, or qualified members of military families.
4) Give qualified Veterans earnings loss benefits equal to 100% of the typical final pay grade (sergeant for enlisted personnel, major for officers), and ensure that the overall package of benefits is better than any offered elsewhere in the federal or provincial public service.
5) Ensure that veterans needing care are quickly and seamlessly placed in hospitals across Canada.
6) Prepare now for an expected 'bow wave' of Operational Stress Injury (OSI) patients in the future.
James Cox is a veteran and former Brigadier-General in the Canadian Forces with over 35 years in operational command and staff appointments across Canada and abroad with NATO and the UN.