Judge says lawsuit accusing government of failing to tell eligible veterans about benefits can proceed

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A choose has dominated {that a} class motion lawsuit alleging Veteran Affairs Canada failed to inform former Canadian Armed Forces members of benefits to which they had been entitled can proceed.

At the center of the case is the division’s dealing with of the previous Supplementary Retirement Benefit, a program meant to compensate for decrease pension and benefits earnings for veterans unable discover gainful employment due to service-related accidents.

Veterans advocate Sean Bruyea — who filed the category motion in October of 2020 — had been eligible for the profit earlier than it was consolidated into one other program by the Liberal government as half of its reform of veterans benefits, which got here into impact in April 2019.

According to the court docket submitting, Bruyea might have obtained a lump sum payout — equal to 69 months of the Supplementary Retirement Benefit (SRB) — “had he been correctly suggested by the Department of the eligibility necessities” of this system.

Retired Royal Canadian Air Force captain and veterans advocate Sean Bruyea in 2013. (CBC)

The lawsuit estimates that as many as 10,000 eligible veterans could not have obtained the profit. It accuses the federal government of not proactively informing veterans of the profit.

In a call on Monday, a Federal Court choose dominated that the category motion in opposition to the government can proceed.

“We sacrificed a lot, and in return, we ask that Canada acknowledge that sacrifice, on the very least, by having an obligation to meaningfully inform our veterans and their households of the benefits they’re entitled to as a result of of these sacrifices,” Bruyea stated in a media assertion.

In a press release despatched to CBC, Veteran Affairs Canada stated it will evaluation the choose’s choice. It stated the division “is dedicated to supporting Canada’s veterans and their households and guaranteeing they’re conscious of all of the benefits they’re entitled to.”

The government’s filings on the case embody an affidavit from Veteran Affairs saying that “veterans are inspired to be proactive within the benefits and companies out there to them.”

“Generally, veterans have the accountability to keep knowledgeable and actively take part of their packages and benefits,” the doc says.

The lawsuit touches on one of the most typical complaints of disabled veterans — that it can be virtually unattainable for them to decide which benefits they’re entitled to when the principles have modified so typically over the previous 15 years.

There have been three main overhauls of the veterans benefits system since 2005 — modifications which have introduced with them some complicated eligibility standards and packages that ran for a number of years solely to get replaced, became one thing else or cancelled outright.

In 2015, the Liberal government promised to repair the system and asserted as a press release of principle that no veteran ought to have to battle the federal government in court docket for his or her benefits.

It additionally pledged to spend extra money on packages and talk clearly with former army members about their choices.

In 2019, the government launched a veterans profit navigator, an internet device meant to distil the federal government’s array of profit packages for veterans into an individually tailor-made readout that means choices.

It took Veterans Affairs virtually a decade to ship the interactive device. It was first really helpful by Canada’s veterans ombudsman in 2010.

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