Of all the various injuries or conditions that a Canadian Forces member might suffer as a result of their service, it is the chronic conditions that are most difficult to directly attribute to military service.
A former member suffers from arthritis in a single joint, yet suffered to recorded injury or trauma. Tinnitus causes distraction and loss of sleep, yet there is no mention in the service or medical records.
To be sure, the pain and suffering endured by such people pales beside those who came home from battle with physical or emotional wounds. And yet, such folks do suffer, often unrecognized, as a result of their service. Such lack of recognition often serves as additional injury to our veterans. They know the source of their pain, but nobody will say “Yes, your quality of life is less than what it might have been had you not served.”
So, given the well-established bureaucracy of VAC, how do we provide some measure of relief and recognition to such Veterans?
Streamlining VAC procedures, and removing the often adversarial attitude that many Veterans have encountered would be ideal. In a perfect world, a young man with arthritis in a single joint, who has a logical explanation for a service linkage, and a doctor’s opinion that such linkage is possible won’t have to fight for recognition. Benefit of the doubt would apply.
Waiting for a perfect world would seem a long wait though. Bureaucrats exist to manage an imperfect world, with the predictable result that where one does not exist… they create it. Too many successful claims? Standards are too low. Too few successes means standards are too high. Standards will shift to meet desired levels of service, not Justice.
Perhaps there is another route. A route that acknowledges the lessor, but no less real, injuries. A solution might be found in the tax system.
My possible solution lies in non-refundable tax credits for disability.
For members who are non-medically released and in receipt of a pension we grant $125/year-served as a tax credit.
Members medically released would see an amount of $250/year-served. Both amounts would be periodically reviewed to maintain relative value. Right now it would require roughly 30 yrs of service to max out the disability amount allowed under tax laws.
Obviously this scheme provides no income, instead reducing tax costs to the veteran. It acknowledges all the various less-serious issues currently covered by claims, at about same as the old pension value. It would serve to remove many smaller conditions from VAC’s workload, although members would be free to make claims if they thought it was still warranted.
It might, perhaps, result in some ‘over benefits’, this is acceptable as VAC’s mandate is benefit of the doubt. For too long this has been read to be ‘we will provide you the benefit of doubting you.’
So we may have a scheme to address the fiscal side of the equation, how does this address recognition?
Imagine, if you will, the average Canadian taxpayer in spring. They are filling out, and complaining about, their tax forms. They come to a section that tells them:
Are you a Canadian Forces Veteran in receipt of a Pension? If medically released enter number of years of Service on Line XX1, if non-medically released enter number of years of Service on Line XX2…
Can there be any better time to remind Canadians that the price some paid was not in cash?