Rul­ing gives guid­ance on Vets’ cases

Cape Breton Post - - NEWS - OT­TAWA

A Fed­eral Court of Ap­peal judg­ment will force the Vet­er­ans Af­fairs Depart­ment and its in­de­pen­dent ap­peal board to take more care de­cid­ing on men­tal health claims of ex-sol­diers.

In a re­cently re­leased de­ci­sion, jus­tices over­turned a lower rul­ing and re­jected ar­gu­ments from the Vet­er­ans Re­view and Ap­peal Board in the case of Anne Cole, an of­fi­cer dis­charged be­cause she suf­fered from de­pres­sion.

She had ap­plied for a dis­abil­ity ben­e­fit say­ing her mil­i­tary ser­vice was the cause of her men­tal health is­sues, but the Vet­er­ans Af­fairs Depart­ment, the ap­peal board and the Fed­eral Court said her con­di­tion was not di­rectly re­lated to mil­i­tary ser­vice.

In their rul­ing, the Fed­eral Court of Ap­peal sided with Cole and said she should only have to demon­strate her ill­ness “arose out of or was di­rectly con­nected with” her time in uni­form.

Stephen Aker, one of the lawyers rep­re­sent­ing Cole, says the rul­ing — which is still sub­ject to ap­peal — should make both the depart­ment and the in­de­pen­dent board think twice about re­ject­ing claims.

Mil­i­tary law ex­pert and re­tired colonel Michel Dra­peau agrees and says it should lead to fairer, faster and more ef­fec­tive res­o­lu­tion of dis­abil­ity claims.

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