‘A slap in the face’

Scots­burn se­nior fight­ing Vet­er­ans Af­fairs for hear­ing aids

The News (New Glasgow) - - FRONT PAGE - BY ADAM MACINNIS

Stan Jones couldn’t help but feel frus­trated when he heard news re­ports that the Depart­ment of Vet­eran’s Af­fairs was cov­er­ing the cost of Christo­pher Garnier’s PTSD treat­ment.

For him, it was more than the fact that Garnier never served in the mil­i­tary and has been suf­fer­ing from the men­tal an­guish as a re­sult of killing off-duty Truro po­lice of­fi­cer Cather­ine Campbell in Septem­ber 2015.

What makes it so mad­den­ing to Jones is that for years he’s been fight­ing to get Vet­eran’s Af­fairs to rec­og­nize the hear­ing loss he says he suf­fered from work­ing in en­gine rooms on ships dur­ing his more than 20 years of ser­vice in the Royal Cana­dian Navy.

“That’s an in­sult and a slap in the face,” the 88-year-old says.

Jones lives in a home that he and his wife built in Scots­burn. He’s thankful for the bless­ings he has in his life, but is frus­trated he can’t en­joy them to the fullest be­cause of hear­ing loss.

He uses a set of hear­ing aids the Li­ons Club pur­chased for him, but said he would love to have a bet­ter set. With the ones he has, he can get higher deci­bel sounds, like a child play­ing or a woman talk­ing, but strug­gles with the lower deci­bels.

“I have to pay close at­ten­tion in church,” he said.

For Jones, it’s clear Vet­er­ans Af­fairs should cover the cost of bet­ter hear­ing aids.

He served from 1949 to 1975 with a break of one year in that pe­riod.

“I was in en­gine rooms all my life with scream­ing en­gines,” Jones said. “That’s why my hear­ing is de­fec­tive.”

“There was no ear pro­tec­tion pro­vided what­so­ever,” he said.

Mem­bers of the mil­i­tary reg­u­larly had au­dio­grams done to test for hear­ing dam­age and Jones’ records in­clude those. Some of those records he shared with The News in­di­cate hear­ing loss had started; how­ever, one that is marked as be­ing the fi­nal test shows his hear­ing is per­fect. Jones is cer­tain it’s not ac­cu­rate.

Jones was first de­nied com­pen­sa­tion for his hear­ing loss in a de­ci­sion dated June 3, 2009.

“Their ar­gu­ment was that I had per­fect hear­ing when I got out of the Navy,” Jones said.

He then ap­pealed and went to an en­ti­tle­ment re­view hear­ing in Charlottetown about two years ago with Peter Boyles ad­vo­cat­ing on his be­half.

Boyles has worked with nu­mer­ous peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties over the years and has fought to get them the money he be­lieves they’re due. When he looks at the au­dio­grams from Jones’ time in the ser­vice, he said it’s ev­i­dent from the mil­i­tary’s own tests that there was sig­nif­i­cant hear­ing loss. He said the fi­nal au­dio­gram is dated as be­ing done when Jones was re­leased and doesn’t match up with the ear­lier ones. He finds the re­sults un­be­liev­able.

“A baby wouldn’t have that kind of hear­ing,” Boyles said.

Boyles sug­gests the fi­nal au­dio­gram was doc­tored. Some peo­ple get­ting dis­charged from the mil­i­tary didn’t want to have a dis­abil­ity

on their record so would re­quest the tester not to put down hear­ing loss. The per­son do­ing the test for Jones, he said for in­stance, could have thought he was do­ing Jones a favour by not mark­ing it even if Jones didn’t ask for him to do that.

“There’s no way your hear­ing is go­ing to get bet­ter,” Boyles said.

“Once it’s dam­aged, it’s dam­aged.”

While Boyles is fight­ing to get Jones both hear­ing aids and dis­abil­ity money, he said what Jones re­ally wants is hear­ing aids.

“He wants to be able to hear and he can’t hear.”

Boyles said they will be ap­peal­ing again and hope that maybe this time some­one will be will­ing to lis­ten.

Emily Gau­thier, a spokesper­son with Vet­er­ans Af­fairs Canada, said she could not com­ment on spe­cific cases be­cause of pri­vacy and con­fi­den­tial­ity rules.

“The care and well-be­ing of Vet­er­ans and their fam­i­lies is a pri­or­ity for vet­er­ans Af­fairs Canada, and we are com­mit­ted to en­sur­ing vet­er­ans have ac­cess to the ser­vices and ben­e­fits to which they are en­ti­tled,” she said.

She said to re­ceive a dis­abil­ity ben­e­fit a vet­eran must have a di­ag­nosed med­i­cal con­di­tion or dis­abil­ity and the con­di­tion or dis­abil­ity must be re­lated to ser­vice.

“Each claim for dis­abil­ity ben­e­fits is con­sid­ered on its own merit, based on the ev­i­dence,” she said.

Ap­pli­cants who are dis­sat­is­fied with a de­ci­sion from Vet­er­ans Af­fairs Canada have re­course op­tions she said.

“Free le­gal help is pro­vided by lawyers work­ing with the Bureau of Pen­sions Ad­vo­cates, a na­tion­wide or­ga­ni­za­tion of lawyers within the Depart­ment. Those who have new ev­i­dence or can demon­strate there was an er­ror made in the de­ci­sion can have their de­ci­sion re­viewed by the Depart­ment.”

The arms-length tri­bunal Vet­er­ans Re­view and Ap­peal Board (VRAB) of­fers Vet­er­ans two lev­els of re­dress, she said. If a Vet­eran has ex­hausted all re­dress op­tions at the Board and re­mains dis­sat­is­fied, they have the right to ap­ply to the Fed­eral Court of Canada for a ju­di­cial re­view of the de­ci­sion.

Stan Jones has been fight­ing to get Vet­er­ans Af­fairs to rec­og­nize the hear­ing loss he says he suf­fered as a re­sult of his 25 years in the Royal Cana­dian Navy.

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