Ruling gives guidance on Vets’ cases
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.