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December 1st, 2011

Investigation needed into government treatment of veterans’ families fighting for death benefit

OTTAWA - Official Opposition Veterans Affairs Critic Peter Stoffer (Sackville-Eastern Shore) called on the federal government to investigate the treatment of families who lost their sons and daughters in Afghanistan and were denied the death benefit under the New Veterans Charter because the soldiers were declared ‘single’ with no dependents. The death benefit under the New Veterans Charter is only granted to the spouses or children of soldiers; the parents of single soldiers are not eligible.

“It is very cruel for the Department of Veterans Affairs to be fighting these families on this death benefit issue,” said Stoffer. “These families lost their sons and daughters in Afghanistan while serving our country. How cold-hearted and mean can this federal government be to refuse this payment to these families?

“We know that it would cost the federal government about $3 million dollars per year to extend this death benefit to the families of single soldiers but that money would only be spent in the event of the death of single soldiers. Why does the federal government insist on short-changing veterans’ families who have lost their loved ones?

Stoffer issued a letter to the Minister of Veterans Affairs today asking him to quickly resolve this issue. He was particularly concerned that this issue was raised well over five years ago and still not resolved.

He also noted that the treatment of the Dinning family, who took their case to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, is especially appalling. The Tribunal was just about to rule in favour of the Dinning family, when Veterans Affairs Canada decided to accept a previously rejected application of a girlfriend as common-law spouse for the death benefit, and the case was dismissed.

“An eleventh hour offer by the Department to recognize Dinning’s girlfriend as a common-law spouse was no doubt done to try to quash the hopes of other families challenging the government on the discrimination related to this death benefit,” said Stoffer.

“Time and time again, the Department of Veterans Affairs, throws up barriers that restrict veterans’ and their families from getting the programs and services they need. Instead, the federal government should do the right thing and offer this death benefit to the families of deceased single soldiers.”