Don’t for­get dis­abled vets

The Sun Times (Owen Sound) - - FORUM - RICHARD KEENAN

Many par­lia­men­tar­i­ans are pre­par­ing this week for what, to me, is a very spe­cial day: No­vem­ber 11. I sur­mise that they will en­sure their best somber suit or dress has been dry-cleaned; their shiny gov­ern­ment limou­sine booked; and a dis­creet bot­tle of skin san­i­tizer avail­able in case they have to shake some hands.

I en­vi­sion that their fi­nal prepa­ra­tions will in­clude stand­ing in front of an or­nate mir­ror in their plush gov­ern­ment of­fices, pin­ning on a poppy and prac­tis­ing their most sin­cere “thank you for your sac­ri­fice,” the de­fault state­ment of car­ing that they will use many times on Re­mem­brance Day.

The gov­ern­ment will spend an enor­mous amount putting on spec­ta­cles across the coun­try (ask any­one the cost to have just one CF-18 do a fly-past). They will take great pride in putting veter­ans on dis­play, march­ing them around like lit­tle toys while pro­fess­ing a very deep grat­i­tude, on be­half of all Cana­di­ans, to the men and woman who have sac­ri­ficed so much for their coun­try.

I am sure that af­ter a few hours of stand­ing in what prob­a­bly will be a nor­mal nippy No­vem­ber day, par­lia­men­tar­i­ans will look for­ward to a hot shower and a de­li­cious Sun­day din­ner, glad that it will be 365 days be­fore they have to do this again.

For me, the week is dra­mat­i­cally dif­fer­ent. You see, I am a dis­abled vet­eran and I strug­gle ev­ery sin­gle day with chronic pain and PTSD as a re­sult of a de­ployed op­er­a­tion out­side Canada. Still, I will en­deav­our to go to the mall for a hair­cut. It has taken me a great deal of time to deal with my is­sues, but now that I have be­come friends with my chronic pain, I am con­fi­dent that I will be able to con­vince my­self to put one foot at a time on the floor and get out of bed, fully aware that my mall ex­cur­sion will be filled with re­lent­less pain. At the mall, I will also strug­gle to over­come my anx­i­ety of large crowds, hop­ing that I won’t find my­self in­vol­un­tar­ily cry­ing, un­able to stop and em­bar­rassed that per­haps I have made a spec­ta­cle of my­self in pub­lic.

On Nov. 11, I will proudly place a red poppy on my chest and go stand with my brothers and sis­ters, who have also served, to pay my re­spect to the he­roes who gave their lives in the ser­vice of this great na­tion.

I am a proud Cana­dian and do not re­gret hav­ing served, or even be­ing in­jured, but I am in de­spair as I deal with an or­ga­ni­za­tion that is clearly not there for me in my time of need. I was ini­tially hope­ful that upon my re­turn to Canada, Veter­ans Af­fairs Canada would wel­come me with open arms and sup­port me as I tran­si­tioned to the new re­al­i­ties of be­ing dis­abled and un­able to con­tinue my ca­reer in the Cana­dian Forces.

I am a proud Cana­dian and do not re­gret hav­ing served, or even be­ing in­jured, but I am in de­spair as I deal with an or­ga­ni­za­tion that is clearly not there for me in my time of need.

To my dis­may, it was abun­dantly ap­par­ent that Veter­ans Af­fairs does not have the struc­ture, poli­cies or pro­ce­dures to of­fer in­jured veter­ans dig­ni­fied, timely and mean­ing­ful sup­port. It took me years of hu­mil­i­at­ing, dis­heart­en­ing and ex­haust­ing in­ter­ac­tion with the depart­ment to fi­nally be granted a small, one­time dis­abil­ity award that is sup­posed to com­pen­sate me for my dis­abil­i­ties and last the rest of my life.

Per­haps the best il­lus­tra­tion of my ex­pe­ri­ence in seek­ing sup­port from Veter­ans Af­fairs is to liken it to the Charles Dick­ens char­ac­ter, Oliver Twist, ask­ing for lit­tle bit of gruel from his evil masters.

At the be­gin­ning of the year, des­per­ate for sup­port, I asked Veter­ans Af­fairs to re­assess my dis­abil­i­ties. Again, I am faced with feel­ings of help­less­ness, de­spair and frus­tra­tion. As I pre­pare for Re­mem­brance Day, 35 weeks have passed in a process that Veter­ans Af­fairs says it strives to ad­dress (dis­abil­ity claims) within 16 weeks. So Sun­day will be a dif­fi­cult day for me. It will be painful to get out of bed, yes, but it will also be rather sad to hear our elected of­fi­cials pro­fess their com­mit­ment to veter­ans and their fam­i­lies.

I ask this of all the par­lia­men­tar­i­ans who will be present dur­ing a Re­mem­brance Day cer­e­mony Sun­day: Take a mo­ment to re­flect upon those who have given so much, and also take a mo­ment to truly re­flect upon what dis­abled veter­ans and their fam­i­lies must en­dure ev­ery day for the rest of their lives. Per­haps, on Mon­day, while you are at work, you can then ask your­self if your vi­sion of care for the veter­ans you rep­re­sent in your rid­ing is the same as what is cur­rently be­ing pro­vided by Veter­ans Af­fairs. Richard Keenan is a dis­abled vet­eran. He lives in Kingston

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.