Feature Story Friday, January 6, 2016
A Lump of Coal Again for Vets
Veterans and RCMP retirees want claw backs gone
Staff/Voice file photos
WWII veterans march on MP Mark Strahl's office in 2014.
Most war vets are in their 70s and 80s
now. Some older. Even though they’re from different branches of the
military, RCMP and public service, all have one thing in common; they want the claw back of
funds terminated. It's money they say is owed to them.
Veterans can't wait forever for the government to help.
What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. Veterans have had enough. For decades they’ve been embroiled in a pitched battle with the government over clawbacks from their CPP super annuity payments. Retired RCMP officers are also affected by Bill C-201.
John Labelle, veterans advocate, living in Nova Scotia, says the claw back is “unfair and unjust” and government has a moral imperative to address their concerns in a more meaningful ways. Simply put, they want the CPP benefit reductions to their pensions at age 65—or sooner if disabled, terminated. The vets feel they’ve paid for their benefits in more ways than one. The Bill affects former retired RCMP members as well.
Over the holiday season, PM Trudeau and GG David Johnson thanked current troops and veterans for their efforts.
"I ask you take a moment to remember the brave women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces – and their families – who make incredible sacrifices to protect our country,” said Trudeau in a Christmas Eve statement.
Trudeau does seem to sympathize with veterans. In his statement he added: “Veterans and their families have earned our respect and gratitude. Veterans should not have to fight our Government for the support and compensation they have earned and paid for in so many different ways.”
This was followed up by a statement from David Johnson, Governor General.
“We know how committed you are to your work and we recognize the many sacrifices that this requires, from you and from your loved ones. No matter where you are, please know that you are in our thoughts,” said Johnson in his Christmas Eve release. “Whether you are answering the call of duty in Canada, or abroad, whether you are working in the Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Army or Royal Canadian Air Force, we are always impressed by your professionalism and the dedication with which you assume your responsibilities.”
When The Voice asked Labelle if he thinks the Liberals will do anything to change its policy, he said he's got little faith and fears all they’ll get is lip service.
Veteran sing the National Anthem outside MP Mark's Strahl office in 2014.
“I'm not very confident that the Prime Minister will do anything to support the Veterans, and will of course praise us and say thank you to our veterans, and do very little to support their issues,” he said.
Claude Latulippe, Chilliwack resident and also a veteran, says they’ve had enough empty gestures. So far, it’s all just rainbows and unicorns.
“If one believes what Trudeau is saying, and the marching orders he gave Minister Hehr, I think our chances have improved greatly for many issues affecting veterans,” Labelle said. “In regard to the claw back, Bill C-320 may be our last chance for it to pass. The liberals seem to be more inclined to understand, but it's yet to be seen if they will walk the talk of their leader.”
Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper refused the Royal Recommendation allowing Bill C-201 to stand, and as a result it died on the order table. This is what’s created the current toxic environment between the government and veterans.
Vets say that during Stoffer’s 18.4 year political reign, he served Military/RCMP veterans and Canada well, and they’d like to see him with a seat in the senate.
“He is a most respected individual and his record indicates that he was an honest, knowledgeable, dedicated, and tireless Member of Parliament. Mr. Peter Stoffer has earned the respect and dignity of all Military/RCMP veterans and Canadians and will serve Canada very well as a Senator.”
“With a recorded CPP surplus of over $219 billion dollars and a forecasted CPP surplus of one trillion dollars by 2050, why not give the CPP recipients a bonus, why not terminate the CPP claw back to Veterans Annuities?” says Labelle.
Veterans point to how the previous Conservative government’s approach was — and still is, out of step by ignoring the complex issues associated the CPP enactment.
Chilliwack-Hope MP Mark Strahl shrugs off criticism echoing his party’s line by indicating that there isn’t going to be any pretty little package with a bow on it for anyone.
According to the former member of Canada’s Standing Committee on National Defense, Strahl says veterans actually have fewer deductions for the Canada Pension Plan.
“Military pensions like many other pensions, including those for the RCMP, federal public servants and now Members of Parliament, are reduced by the amount of CPP an individual receives,” said Strahl in an email from his Chilliwack office to The Voice last week. “Since the cost of the pension deduction is lower the soldier, sailor, police officer or civil servant has less deducted from their pay cheque to pay for their pension and is left with more take home pay every month.”
Strahl added: "Stacking" military pensions on top of CPP payments would hurt existing military personnel who would receive smaller pay cheques and taxpayers across the country would have to make up the difference for the “unfunded benefit out of general tax revenues.”
“I will continue to advocate on behalf of veterans to ensure that they get every penny that they are entitled to. If any local veteran believes he or she is not receiving their full benefit entitlement, they should contact my office and we will be happy to intervene on their behalf,” he said.
Veterans responded to Strahl’s comments with a volley of their own.
“Veterans are not entitled to benefits that they were never promised and never paid for is disgusting. Veterans have never asked for pension benefits that they have not paid for. We live in a free Country today because over 100,000 Canadians members died on the field of battles since 1911,”explains Labelle. “Some Veterans shed some blood and some did not return. But all were prepared to give the ultimate sacrifice and some families gave it their all. Read our campaign paper before you engage in unacceptable comments.”
Eileen Booth marched in support of vets.
Labelle, who currently lives in Nova Scotia, says there should be "National Remembrance Day" for our disabled veterans. They and their Families have given so very much for our Country Canada,” stated Labelle who currently resides in Nova Scotia.
According to Labelle, disabled veterans and their families must wait and see if more funds will be available for their needs in the 2017 budget.
Movements of resistance have been happening in communities across the country, with vets incensed at what the Harper reign did.
In 2011, local vets held a demonstration in the Cottonwood Mall parking lot. In July 2014, they marched en masse to MP Mark Strahl’s office where they stood shoulder to shoulder and sang the national anthem.
John Labelle, National Veterans Advocate (centre/above)
Veterans say that prior to the establishment of the CPP plan, forces personnel over-contributed to their pension plans. They paid 8.3% of their basic rate of pay, plus 1 per cent towards indexing adjustments. The over-payments resulted in their pension plan reaching an 80 billion dollars surplus. Instead of returning it all to the vets, the government used 20 billion dollars to pay down the National debt.
Most Forces personnel who retired in 1970-80 receive an average of $15,000 per year which is just slightly above abject poverty, and peanuts compared to an MP who decides to retire after only 6 years. They win the lotto with a annual $100,000 package (indexed to inflation) for life.
Veterans won’t live forever. All they want is just a little comfort in the last segment of their lives.
There was an online survey which is now closed and will be presented to the House regarding Stouffer’s appointment to the senate.
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