Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Guest Blogger With an Important Message About the Treatment of Some Military Personnel

On Remembrance Day we do our duty by wearing our poppy, attending a special service and paying homage to all veterans and those serving in the Armed Forces.  Little else can generate such passion, as witnessed every November 11.

Politicians of all stripes often exploit this emotion, especially when garnering support for war, and photo-ops with uniformed troops is money in the bank.

The Conservatives even hid behind our troops to avoid answering questions about Afghan Detainee abuse, allowing them to shoulder the blame.  Veteran Ombudsman Pat Stogran, was fired by Stephen Harper for speaking out against the treatment of Vets.
Stogran hit out at the Department of Veterans Affairs for being "deliberately obstructionist and deceptive," rather than helping injured soldiers. Stogran also said one government official told him that soldiers were less of a liability if they died in war, rather than coming back to Canada injured.
So given the attitude toward those injured in war, it should come as no surprise that military personnel, not injured in war, but still hurt in the line of duty, could expect even less.

I was contacted by Brian C. Bradley, a Veteran of the Canadian Forces, who wanted to share his story, so the following comes directly from him, an honoured guest on my blog.

My name is Brian C. Bradley. I am a Veteran of the Canadian Forces.

In 1966 I completed my army reserve basic training. In 1989 I completed my army reserve officer training, and began nearly five years of service in the Canadian Navy training as a Combat Systems Engineer (CSE, or 044A in Canadian military classifcations). This same ‘five years of service’ began with basic officer training at Chilliwack, B.C., continued with second-language training at St. Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, and a year in Esquimalt, followed by just under three years of service in Halifax, NS.

While training in Esquimalt, I was billeted to the HMCS Qu’Apelle, where I suffered a fall in the shower onboard that warship, injuring my spinal cord at three levels.

Because the accident occurred while the HMCS Qu’Appelle was away from her home port, I was confined to my rack, and provided with painkillers until returning to Esquimalt five days later. On arriving there, I was rushed by ambulance to the base hospital.

In March 1996 I applied to the Veterans’ Review and Appeal Board (VRAB; a division of Veterans Affairs) for a disability pension. On three separate occasions within the first year of application (refer to Table ‘A’ on next page) the VRAB ruled against my application for a disability pension. I then obtained a ruling from the Trial Division of the Federal Court (Fed. Ct.) that the matter be referred back to a differently-constituted panel of the VRAB board (Fed. Ct. case T-157-98).

In the next year, the allegedly differently-constituted VRAB panel ruled twice more against my claim. The matter was once again brought before the Trial Division which ruled that the matter be referred back to a differently-constituted panel and awarded me costs (Fed. Ct. case T-2137-99).

Because this next allegedly differently-constituted VRAB panel failed to provide a decision within the next year, I filed a motion of Contempt of Court with the Trial Division. While the Trial Division (i.e., the Hon. Mr. Justice Martineau) would not grant this motion by citing the VRAB in contempt, it did again award me costs, even though none were requested, and supplied a step-by-step procedure to obtain justice in my case.

With no legal training, I attempted to bring the VRAB before the Trial Division again, after being once again denied a disability pension by the VRAB’s next (and sixth) decision. I lost this decision despite having provided professional testimony from a neurosurgeon, an orthopaedic surgeon and a general practitioner with more than 35 years of experience.

Other than being supplied with additional pain killers and 3 or 4 brief sessions of physiotherapy, my real injuries were not treated at that base hospital, nor at the base hospital in Halifax, where I was sent about two months later as part of the next phase of training.

Upon release from the Canadian Navy in 1993 I was assessed by a civilian general practitioner in Lower Sackville, NS, who immediately identified a C5/C6 radiculopathy (upper spinal cord condition), along with indications of other potential spinal cord level involvement, that had resulted from the accident onboard the HMCS Qu’Appelle.

This same GP initially referred me for assessment to a diagnostic service in Halifax (i.e., spinal cord MRI), an orthopaedic surgeon, and an internal medicine specialist. All of these physicians agreed that the three levels of spinal cord injuries (i.e., C5/C6; T11/T12 & L2/L3) were most likely the result of the accident that had occurred while I was serving onboard HMCS Qu’Appelle

None of these submissions by physicians were contradicted by testimony from similar professionals on behalf of the VRAB, yet the Trial Division of the Fed. Ct. ruled against my claims.

I was encouraged to re-approach the Trial Division based upon the experience of a lady who won her case in the Appeal Division in Ontario using my first two cases (i.e., T-157-98 & T-2137-99) as precedents.

To render such a re-approach at such a late stage in the events, I was encouraged to concentrate on my lower back injuries .... thereby, allegedly attesting to settlement for the upper back injuries .... with neither of these settlements ever occurring!

Not more than four years ago, The Trial Division ruled again in my favour (T-401-05) and referred the matter back again to a differently-constituted panel of the VRAB board. That same board ruled on four more separate occasions against my application for a disability pension, forcing the matter back to the Trial Division for ultimate resolution (T-617-09).

The VRAB fully exhausted the total number of decisions to which they were entitled in my application, recognizing that an award to me of a disability pension would mean financial ruin and subsequent political suicide for the government ‘in charge’ at the time of such a decision, given the tens of thousands of other veterans who remained deprived of such benefits.

The Hon. Mr. Justice Phelan (T-617-09) decided: "THIS COURT'S JUDGMENT is that the application for judicial review is granted and the Appeal Board's decision is quashed." Unfortunately, such a ruling does nothing more than refer the same matter back to the Respondent (e.g., Veterans’ Affairs), thus prolonging the history of my claims and thereby moving the VA's actions from the ridiculous to the sublime.

While Canadian governments over the past 80+ years have continued to disregard their legislated obligations to veterans of the CF and Mounted Police, how do you think these same governments are treating(?) the remainder of Canadian citizens?

On top of all of this, I have had to represent myself in the Trial Division of the Fed. Ct. on several separate occasions with at least 6 of these applying to my claims with the VRAB [refer to case numbers: T-157-98, Bradley v. Canada (Attorney General), 1999 CanLII 7476 (F.C.) or; T-2137-99, Bradley v. Canada (Attorney General), 2001 FCT 793; T-2137-99, Bradley v. Canada (Attorney General), 2003 FCT 12 (CanLII); T-67-03, Bradley v. Canada (Attorney General), 2004 FC 996 or; T-401-05, Bradley v. Canada (Attorney General), 2005 FC 1470; and T-617-09, Bradley v. Canada (Attorney General), 2011 FC 309 or]

In all of these decisions (including the latter two), the Hon. Justices supported my claims and rejected the VRAB's decisions. The greater weight of factual evidence by specialists in the fields of medicine applicable to my spinal cord injuries supported my claims, as did the greater majority of the above-listed decisions.

Who but a politician who allegedly represents his electorate but didn't see 'adequate votes' in seriously supporting this applicant's claims, would ignore these facts and not attempt to ensure this applicant receive something resembling the actual service of justice .... not to mention the adherence to legislated laws by a Fed. government dept. (i.e., VRAB)?

History has been written, how more often do we have to ignore it before learning our lessons? To support our (i.e., all veterans') efforts 'click on' the following and join our group:

Email author:
Yours truly,
Brian C. Bradley

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