Thursday, July 5, 2007

Veterans denied extra money for mishandling of pension benefits

This is the same pattern as emerged in the US. In spite of all the calls for supporting the troups medical care for returned troops was lacking etc. Now in Canada older disabled veteran's and their families are denied extra pension money and benefits that they would have had if the government had properly invested their money. I wonder what the government will do? Will it pass legislation or just claim that it must await the court processes? Probably the latter I should think.

Vets vow to take pension lawsuit to Supreme Court

Don Lajoie
CanWest News Service

Thursday, July 05, 2007

WINDSOR, Ont. -- Lawyers for thousands of disabled war veterans and their families who claim the federal government owes them between $4.6 and $5.2 billion for mishandling their pensions are "angered" by an Ontario Appeal Court decision dismissing their case and vow to pursue it to the Supreme Court.

Windsor lawyer Ray Colautti said Wednesday's appeal court decision infringes on his clients' constitutional rights and vowed to continue the fight. "We are upset, angry and extremely unhappy with this decision."

He is acting for an estimated 30,000 clients - including soldiers and their descendants - in a class-action lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs.

In a 24-page decision, the panel of three Ontario Appeal Court judges in Toronto ruled that Windsor Superior Court Justice John Brockenshire, who originally heard the case, made four errors in handing down his liability judgment in 2005 on behalf of the soldiers.

Appeal Court Justices Michael Moldaver, Robert Sharpe and Robert Blair ruled in favour of the Crown's appeal of the earlier Brockenshire award stating: "there was no basis in fact or law for the class to pursue its claim" and that Brockenshire's assessment of damages "failed the reality test."

Colautti said the legal team would meet with participants in the lawsuit during the next two weeks. They have 60 days to file an action, beginning Aug. 1, after the court's summer recess. Then it would take three to six months to argue for leave to appeal to the highest court in the land.

The issue is that the appeal court failed to take into account the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in its deliberations, the legal team argued. Instead, the court interpreted the Bill of Rights and agreed with the government's lawyers that legislation enacted in1990, the Department of Veterans Affairs Act, barred all claims against the Crown for breach of duty to invest prior to 1990.

The original lawsuit, launched in 1999, alleged the government held the benefits and pensions for 4,600 disabled and "shell-shocked" soldiers, deemed incompetent to handle their own affairs, in trust. But the trustees never carried out the duty of investing the money or accumulating interest to maximize the return for the men or their descendants.

Brockenshire agreed and, using a series of complicated formulas, arrived at an ever-growing award amount of $4.6 billion in compensation.

Peter Mountney, nephew of the deceased Canadian veteran who began the class-action lawsuit, was shocked.

"I don't believe our government, which I voted in, (looked) after those poor lost souls today," he said Wednesday. "They say support the troops. Well these are the troops. They may not be 18 years old anymore but they will always be the troops."

He said his uncle, Joe Authorson of London, Ont., came home from the Second World War "shell-shocked," a term for what is now known to refer to post traumatic stress disorder, and spent the rest of his life in hospital. Authorson died in 2002 at age 88.

Janice Summerby, spokesperson for the Department of Veterans Affairs, directed all media inquiries to Justice Canada. Lawyers for the Department of Justice did not return media phone calls Wednesday.

Windsor Star

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