People Collaborating

Military and RCMP Veterans Facing Delays With Government to Receive Foundation’s Help

Halifax, NS – Canada’s veterans, who face ongoing delays accessing the support they deserve, will gain extra help from the Veterans Legal Assistance Foundation (“VLAF”), as it expands its reach. Honouring new funding from the Toth Class Action award, VLAF now will offer free advisory services to military and RCMP veterans and their families.

VLAF previously paid for veterans’ eligible legal bills up to $10,000, often for disability-related or other claims that benefit veterans broadly. Going forward, VLAF also will help navigate the administrative hurdles veterans face when trying to access support for things like treatments and living expenses. These services will be provided by former Member of Parliament and current VLAF Board Chair, Peter Stoffer. 

“The wellbeing of Canada’s veterans should be a top election issue,” said Stoffer. “Veterans shouldn’t have to navigate complex processes just to obtain the benefits they deserve. That’s why we need to help.” 

Legal efforts take time and money, while many veterans continue to live in poverty – plagued by physical and mental health issues, homelessness and food insecurity. 

“We have always focused on helping veterans pursue disability claims,” said Peter Driscoll, lead counsel on the SISIP Class Action and founding VLAF Chair. “With the new funding, we can do even more.” 

“We want to help veterans beyond paying legal bills,” said Dennis Manuge, VLAF Ambassador and Representative Plaintiff for the SISIP Class Action. “Veterans need help with forms and documents, especially if they are dealing with physical or mental health disabilities. Sometimes a veteran doesn’t need court. Sometimes a veteran needs help just navigating the VAC website.”

“We must keep pushing for justice, and we want to hear from federal leaders on this need,” said Stoffer. “But in the meantime we’ll do as much as we can to give veterans the front-end support they need now.”

About Veterans Legal Assistance Foundation: VLAF is a charitable organization established to provide Canada’s veterans with access to justice by reducing the burden of legal fees associated with administrative tribunals and courts. VLAF funding originated from the SISIP Class Action settlement, with a goal to help veterans obtain the disability payments they had been denied, and rightfully deserve. VLAF’s support is available to members or former members of the CAF and the RCMP, and their family members. https://veteranslegalassistance.ca/

About Toth v. Her Majesty the QueenThe Toth class action lawsuit challenged the validity of offsets made by the Government of Canada to the Disability Pension before May 29, 2012. It ended with a $100-million settlement agreement. The court decided on January 6, 2021 that the unclaimed ‘residual funds’ would be paid to four charities: 1) Bursary Fund (Manuge); 2) the Royal Canadian Legion Poppy Fund (Poppy Fund); 3) the Veterans Legal Assistance Foundation (VLAF); and, 4) Ottawa Inner-City Veterans Outreach and Support. https://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/help/faq/toth-settlement

Media Contact: Sandra Goodwin sandra@vlaf.ca

Les vétérans des Forces armées canadiennes et de la GRC font face à des délais avec le gouvernement pour obtenir de l’aide de la fondation

Halifax, N.-É. – Les vétérans canadiens faisant face à des délais constants pour obtenir le soutien qu’ils méritent pourront recevoir du renfort de la Veterans Legal Assistance Foundation (« Fondation ») alors qu’elle étend son impact. Suivant le règlement du recours collectif Toth, la Fondation s’engage maintenant à offrir des services consultatifs aux vétérans des Forces armées et de la GRC, ainsi qu’à leur famille.

La Fondation voyait aux paiements de frais juridiques admissibles encourus par les vétérans, jusqu’à 10 000 $, souvent pour des demandes d’indemnité d’invalidité ou d’autres cas dont l’ensemble des vétérans pouvait bénéficier. À partir de maintenant, la Fondation aidera également les vétérans à franchir les obstacles administratifs auxquels ils sont confrontés lorsqu’ils tentent d’obtenir de l’aide pour des frais médicaux et frais de subsistance. Ces services seront fournis par Peter Stoffer, ancien député, et président actuel du conseil d’administration de la Fondation.

« Le bien-être des vétérans canadiens devrait être un enjeu électoral prioritaire », dit Stoffer. « Les vétérans ne devraient pas avoir à naviguer des processus complexes simplement pour obtenir les prestations qu’ils méritent. Voilà pourquoi nous devons les aider. » 

Les efforts sur le plan juridique demandent du temps et de l’argent alors que plusieurs vétérans continuent de vivre dans la pauvreté – confrontés à des problèmes de santé physique et mentale, d’itinérance et d’insécurité alimentaire.

« Notre objectif a toujours été d’aider les vétérans à donner suite à leurs revendications concernant leurs prestations d’invalidité, » dit Peter Driscoll, avocat principal du recours collectif SISIP et président fondateur de la Fondation. « À l’aide des nouveaux fonds, nous pourrons déployer encore davantage d’efforts. »

« Nous voulons aider les vétérans, au-delà de payer les frais juridiques », dit Dennis Manuge, Ambassadeur de la Fondation et représentant des demandeurs dans le recours collectif SISIP. « Les vétérans ont besoin d’aide avec les formulaires et la documentation, surtout s’ils sont atteints d’incapacité physique ou mentale. Dans certains cas, les tribunaux ne sont pas requis. Parfois, le vétéran nécessite simplement de l’aide pour naviguer le site des ACC. »

« Nous devons continuer de demander la justice et nous voulons connaître les pensées des dirigeants fédéraux à ce propos, » dit Stoffer. « Mais entretemps, nous déploierons tous les efforts pour offrir le soutien initial que les vétérans nécessitent maintenant. » 

À propos de la Veterans Legal Assistance Foundation: la Fondation est un organisme de bienfaisance fondé dans le but de fournir l’accès à la justice aux vétérans canadiens en réduisant le fardeau des frais juridiques associés avec les cours et les tribunaux administratifs. Le financement de la Fondation provient du règlement du recours collectif SISIP et a pour but d’aider les vétérans à obtenir les prestations d’invalidité qui leur avaient été refusées et qu’ils méritent. Le soutien de la Fondation est disponible aux membres et ancien membres des FAC et de la GRC, ainsi qu’à leur famille.  https://veteranslegalassistance.ca/

À propos de Toth c. Sa Majesté la Reinece recours collectif remettait en question les déductions faites par le gouvernement du Canada à la pension d’invalidité avant le 29 mai 2012. Le recours a mené à une entente de règlement de 100 millions de dollars. Le 6 janvier 2021, la Cour a décidé que les fonds non réclamés « non dépensés » seraient versés à quatre organismes de bienfaisance : 1) Fonds de bourses (Manuge); 2) Fonds du coquelicot de la Légion royale canadienne (Fonds du coquelicot); 3) la Veterans Legal Assistance Foundation (VLAF); et 4) Ottawa Inner-City Veterans Outreach and Support. https://www.veterans.gc.ca/fra/help/faq/toth-settlement

Personne-ressource pour les médias : Sandra Goodwin sandra@vlaf.ca

The Basics On How VLAF Works For You

We’ve been receiving a lot of inquiries from veterans and their families seeking help with potential legal issues. We have a great deal of respect for Canada’s veterans, and we’re ready to help. Here are the basics on how we go about that.

What we can do: 

The VLAF can help Canadian veterans with disabilities obtain the benefits they deserve. We do this by paying veterans’ legal bills up to $10,000. For example, if your disability claim with Veterans Affairs Canada (“VAC”) is denied after an appeal, you may want to hire a lawyer – and the lawyer can apply for our funding.

What we are unable to do: 

We have no lawyers on staff, and we cannot recommend specific lawyers. Our funding is not intended for family law, criminal law or other matters unrelated to disability claims. If pre-approved, we do not pay the veteran – we pay the veteran’s legal bill.

We are dedicated to helping veterans pay their lawyers to resolve disability claims and similar issues that affect veterans broadly. Sadly, this is a significant need in Canada.

If you are having difficulties with a claim for a disability, for example, here are the steps:

1. Talk to your Member of Parliament to see if all the possible steps have been taken, as sometimes, issues can be resolved at an earlier stage. Find yours by typing your postal code into the box at Find Your MP.

2. If all government options have been exhausted, OR if you have a 30-day deadline such as with a VRAB review, you may need to find a lawyer quickly. Look at our list of lawyers who work with veterans, search online or call your Legal Aid office. Note: As most veterans’ matters go to Federal Court, your lawyer can be anywhere in Canada.

3. Your lawyer will send us a funding request with details about the legal issue.

4. If the request is approved, the VLAF will advise your lawyer to proceed.

5. Your lawyer will represent you until a decision is rendered (hopefully a settlement).

6. Your lawyer will send the judgement with an invoice to the VLAF, and we will pay it up to $10,000. (Lawyers often try to ensure their fees come in under that amount.) 

In the meantime, here are additional Resources for Canadian Veterans

We hope this is helpful as a starting point. If you still have questions and want to talk to someone at VLAF before finding a lawyer to apply, just let us know. 

Take care.

Honouring Canada’s Sacrifice in the Netherlands

On May 5, the Netherlands and people of Dutch origin will commemorate the valour of Canada and her allies in the liberation of the Netherlands 75 years ago. It was with incredible courage that those brave women and men would willingly go into harm’s way so people such as my mother and father could be free. 

When my father was liberated, he met a Canadian soldier and asked him why Canada would sacrifice so much for his country’s freedom. The soldier replied that he had a job to do. He gave my dad a cigarette, a chocolate and moved on. 

In 1956, due to poor economic opportunities, the only answer for thousands of Dutch families was outmigration. My father then told my mother, if Canada has a military like that, could you imagine what kind of country it is. So, in September of that year, with six children in tow, they sailed to Halifax and then boarded a train to New Westminster, B.C.   

Since the end of the Second World War, Canadians, in a variety of capacities, have been and are still paying the ultimate sacrifice for the protection of Canada and other countries.  

Those who wear the uniform of their municipality, province or country are our true heroes. We should all try to live our lives as worthy of their sacrifices.  

Peter Stoffer
A grateful Dutch immigrant (Sept. 26, 1956, Pier 21) Fall River

Veterans Legal Assistance Foundation to Support Additional Canadian Veterans’ Charities In Response to Covid-19 Impact

Halifax, NS – The Veterans Legal Assistance Foundation (“VLAF”) will donate funding to additional veterans’ charities in response to the effects of Covid-19 on the veteran community.

The foundation will fund Veterans Emergency Transition Services (“VETS Canada”) and Veterans UN-NATO Canada, immediately. Also, by enabling 20 frontline health workers to attend a November gala for the 75th Anniversary of the Liberation of the Netherlands, VLAF will support The Royal Canadian Legion Benevolent Fund, The Society of Atlantic Heroes, Military Family Resource Centres, The Canadian Naval Memorial Trust and Paws Fur Thought. 

“This is a different time in our history, so it requires a different type of support,” said Peter Stoffer, former Member of Parliament and current VLAF Board Chair. “Canada’s veterans have many needs, but right now there is a greater need for the essentials.”

The Veterans Legal Assistance Foundation (“VLAF”) is a charitable organization that supports access to justice for Canadian veterans. VLAF funding originated from the SISIP Class Action settlement. The goal is to help veterans obtain the disability payments they have been denied, and rightfully deserve, so they can receive treatments, pay household bills and even thrive. 

Legal efforts take time and money, while many veterans continue to live in poverty – plagued by physical and mental health issues, homelessness and food insecurity. These conditions have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“We have always focused on helping veterans pursue disability claims, but Covid-19 has delayed most court activity,” said Peter Driscoll, lead counsel on the SISIP Class Action and founding VLAF Chair. “There are veterans who need food and housing even more now, so it’s a good time to redirect some resources.”

“We think these organizations have been doing a great job helping veterans,” said Mr. Stoffer. “We want to keep monitoring needs to see what else we can do.”


About Veterans Legal Assistance Foundation: 

The VLAF was established to provide Canada’s veterans with funding to reduce the burden of legal fees associated with administrative tribunals and courts. VLAF uses the definition of a veteran provided by Veterans Affairs Canada, and additionally embraces RCMP veterans.

www.veteranslegalassistance.ca

Media Contact:

Sandra Goodwin
Media Representative
Veterans Legal Assistance Foundation
sandra@vlaf.ca


About the additional veterans’ charities helped through VLAF donations:

Veterans Emergency Transition Services Canada: www.VETSCanada.org

Veterans UN-NATO Canada: www.veteransunnatons.org

The Royal Canadian Legion Benevolent Fund: www.legion.ca

The Society of Atlantic Heroes: www.atlanticheroes.org

Military Family Resource Centres: www.cafconnection.ca

The Canadian Naval Memorial Trust: www.hmcssackville.ca/the-trust/

Paws Fur Thought: www.pawsfurthought.com

Dennis Manuge on the Pension For Life (PFL)

There is a great deal of stress and anxiety among the Canadian Veterans’ Community right now due to the roll out of the Pension For Life (PFL) by Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC). All the changes to benefits, names, taxation status, and the discontinuing of some benefits are making many of us very nervous because none of us know what our financial situation will look like at the end of April 2019, as compared to today. Social Media is very busy with concerned veterans weighing in. We have no idea what to expect despite VAC’s pitiful attempts at educating us. We received phone calls from staff who could not answer even the most basic of questions, a cookie cutter approach, if you will, and letters that did nothing further to explain anything. We (Canadian Veterans) have no idea what will be deposited into our bank accounts next month. We have no new financial benefits calculations sheets yet showing our new numbers (income) starting next month. 

This is really feeling like government-inflicted harm to me. VAC has done nothing to alleviate my bewilderment, confusion, doubts, and anxiety about my and my families’ financial well-being. Talk about a stress grenade lobbed into the lives of disabled veterans. Many of us suffer from PTSD, depression and anxiety. Of note, our caregivers and spouses are also directly impacted by this callus and insensitive rollout; possibly more so, as they have to watch us veterans try to cope with this mess while managing their own feelings and concerns. 


Section 7 – Life, liberty and security of person

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

“ …There is the right to security of the person, which consists of rights to privacy of the body and its health[9] and of the right protecting the “psychological integrity” of an individual. That is, the right protects against significant government-inflicted harm (stress) to the mental state of the individual. (Blencoe v British Columbia (Human Rights Commission), 2000) “


This PFL fiasco makes the roll out of the New Veterans Charter in 2006 look like a walk in the park. In my opinion, VAC has compromised my psychological integrity and breached my charter-protected rights. I hope to we don’t lose people to suicide over this PFL rollout and the stress it has caused many of us.

Dennis Manuge
Disabled Canadian Forces Veteran (Former Yugoslavia)
Representative Plaintiff, Manuge Vs Her Majesty The Queen x2
Musquodoboit Harbour, NS

References:
1. Government of Canada; guide to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
2. Wikipedia


A Message from Dennis Manuge

Dear Veterans and Family Members:

Wishing you a wonderful and happy new year! I am hopeful that the VLAF will enable vets and our families to pursue justice within the legal system, and enhance our lives while standing up for ourselves and others.

Access to justice is an important aspect of being a Canadian, and the positive legacy of the SISIP LTD Class Action can inspire others and encourage all Canadians to stand proud, while utilizing legal resources that otherwise might not be available.

One person can make a difference and promote a ripple effect than can positively impact many others.

Warm regards,
Dennis Manuge
Lead Plaintiff, SISIP LTD Class Action

Dennis and Dex

A Warm Welcome

Welcome to the Veterans Legal Assistance Foundation (“VLAF”) website. We hope this is a place where Canadian veterans – as well as their families and their lawyers – will visit to apply for funding or simply to stay current on veterans’ rights.  

While the website is new, the fund was announced in 2013 in conjunction with the SISIP LTD Class Action settlement, and made official when the VLAF was established on January 15, 2016. A donation of $1 million was made by firms that received fees in the settlement – McInnes Cooper and Branch MacMaster. 

Since then, the foundation has helped many veterans pursue their claims. Now the VLAF wants to do more by communicating with veterans and their communities, and by raising additional funds to ensure even more support is possible. 

If you are a veteran who needs legal help with your claim for benefits, or a lawyer prepared to assist such veterans, the VLAF is here to help. Click To Tweet

I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,
Sandra Goodwin
Executive Director, VLAF

Honouring “Leave No Vet Behind”

“We are the veterans affected by the SISIP claw back. We are their friends, family and supporters.” 

This statement sat quietly but strongly on the LeaveNoVetBehind website for years. LeaveNoVetBehind was a mass movement to support veterans who were wrongly affected by the SISIP long term disability claw back.

More than 7,500 medically released disabled veterans had their long term disability income replacement payments reduced by the value of their pain and suffering disability pension. This meant that the most disabled veterans received very little or nothing from the SISIP plan, which they had paid into their entire career. It was an insult to our veterans and an embarrassment to Canada.

A Class Action was initiated in March of 2007 on behalf of Dennis Manuge and all other disabled veterans whose SISIP long term disability (LTD) Benefits were reduced by the amount of the VAC Disability Pension they received under the Pension Act. The Government had taken the position that it would see our veterans in court. 

On May 1, 2012, the Federal Court of Canada ruled that the Government of Canada acted illegally in making deductions from veterans’ long term disability benefits. The veterans had won this historic case.

Canada’s disabled veterans counted on the voices of many supporters. The purpose of LeaveNoVetBehind was to provide a website where a supporter from any walk of life, whether disabled veteran, soldier, family member, concerned citizen, political candidate, or member of parliament, could support disabled veterans by taking action or pledging support.

We want to honour the legacy of LeaveNoVetBehind by picking up the baton through the Veterans Legal Assistance Foundation.

The success of the SISIP LTD Class Action is an example of the good work that can be done when veterans have access to justice. But there is more work to do.

Many veterans – both from the Canadian Armed Forces and the RCMP – continue to have legal difficulties with their important claims. They need a voice, and they need legal support. That’s where the VLAF steps in. With the support of community partners and generous donors, we can ensure that the funding allocated to the VLAF can grow to ensure more veterans have their cases heard. We will be grateful for your support. 

“They have listened to Canada’s disabled veterans, and clearly they wanted to do the right thing.”

Dennis Manuge
May 29, 2012
Lead Plaintiff, SISIP LTD Class Action

The VLAF is a charitable organization that supports access to justice for Canadian veterans – it was established to provide Canada’s veterans funding to help reduce the burden of legal fees associated with proceedings before administrative tribunals and courts. 

by Sandra Goodwin (with files from LeaveNoVetBehind.ca)