Our sacred duty to wounded war veterans

November 11, 2020

Kevin Smith* is one of more than 172,000 wounded warriors in Canada.

“Our government fights the veterans every chance they can get, regardless if they are the Conservatives or Liberals,” explains Kevin.  “They keep changing the financial support making it more convoluted and difficult for those who need support to get it. “ 

Kevin served with 600 Canadian peacekeeping soldiers under Retired Lieutenant-General Roméo Dellaire, witnessing the horrific genocide in Rwanda in 1994. He also served with the peacekeeping force in Sarajevo, another country terrorized by crimes against humanity.

“There are the times I wish I could forget what I remember, and other times, I can't remember what I have forgotten.”

Kevin suffers from debilitating symptoms of PTSD.

If PTSD has a face in Canada, it belongs to General Dallaire. Recently on Twitter, he urged us “to remember the invisible wounds of war.”

General Dellaire has also been critical of the difficulties faced by severely wounded veterans experiencing PTSD accessing services and income support programs to which they are entitled. “We become real cheap-os when it comes time to take care of them and their families," he said in a CBC News interview on February 24, 2015. 

The men and women who have served honourably and valiantly in Canada’s Armed Forces have every reason to believe that they are entitled to these services and supports from Veterans Affairs and the Canada Revenue Agency when they suffer from the trauma of war. Instead, many of them, like Kevin, find themselves in battle mode again, but this time with government bureaucrats.

The exacerbation caused by stacks of paperwork, medical appointments and reports, delays, followed by wrongful denials and then starting all over again with the appeal process, all contribute to secondary traumatization, or more specifically, “sanctuary trauma.”  

Many feel betrayed by government departments and agencies when their applications are rejected. Kevin expresses being disheartened each time he received bad news.  “It was like being told, we don't believe you!”

Accessing the DTC has become a minefield that needs to be carefully navigated to ensure a just result.

Even then, CRA continues to discriminate against people living with PTSD by claiming that the many do not rise to the level of eligibility because the disabling effects are not present at least 90% of the time.

Kevin’s doctor provided a detailed account of the disabling effects of his PTSD in Form T2201 Disability Tax Credit Certificate.

But it was not enough.

The CRA determined that the information was insufficient for the determination of eligibility, and sent a questionnaire to the doctor requesting additional information relevant to the disability.

The doctor provided further details in a follow-up “clarification letter.”

But it was still not enough. 

Kevin was sent a Notice of Determination denying the DTC because his “restriction in performing the mental functions for everyday life is present when performing complex tasks or only during flare-ups or in stressful situations. As a result, we cannot consider that the restriction is present all or substantially all of the time (at least 90% of the time).”

There are no words to describe the callousness of the CRA to unjustly disallow the DTC with a form letter that has no relevance to an applicant who still lives in fear, listening to auditory hallucinations during the day and can’t sleep at night, whose memory has failed and still remembers too much.

Waging a war against the government requires an indominable spirit that refuses to be defeated. Nevertheless, starting the appeal process revs up the anxiety threshold full throttle once again.

The nightmare is never over.

Ask General Dellaire. He used to take nine medications each day to relieve the symptoms of PTSD…now he takes more.

We owe our war veterans much more than pretty wreaths around monuments and memorials to honour those who lost their lives fighting for our freedom.

We need to honour those still with us, who have also fought valiantly on the battlegrounds, ready to sacrifice their lives so that we may be free.

We need to ensure that they access all of the federal income supports they are entitled to without having to keep returning to the same battle ground over and over again to fight for their rights

That is our sacred duty.

*Kevin Smith is a pseudonym