Politics
Class-action deal provides financial relief for disabled vets

Mike Blais, Romeo Daley, Daniel Rodrique stand together before heading to Toronto on Tuesday May 23, 2012.

Credits: Daniel Rodrique

JESSICA MURPHY | QMI AGENCY

OTTAWA - After years - in some cases, decades - of pinching pennies, thousands of disabled vets will be getting payouts as high as six figures from a class-action suit against the federal government.

"I think of all the things that we had to scrimp between myself and my wife in order to provide an education, in order to provide a nice home for our children," said Mike Blais, a former soldier and veterans advocate injured in a UN peacekeeping mission in Cyprus in 1984.

"That money would have equated to all those things that we had to work so hard to provide. And now there's an additional sum coming - I'm not sure how much I'm getting - our quality of life has improved considerably."

Blais is one of roughly a thousand vets who will receive a significant lump-sum under a tentative $890-million agreement announced Wednesday between the vets and the feds.

"Most veterans will probably pay their house off, get out of debt, hopefully have a little nest egg put aside for the future," Blais said.  

About 7,500 disabled former soldiers are eligible for some money following a five-year legal battle that ended deductions of veterans' long-term disability payments when calculating their Veterans Affairs disability pension.
Some of the retroactive payments for vets date as far back as 1976.

Lawyer Peter Driscoll, lead counsel in the class-action suit, said Thursday the benefits clawback many disabled vets' finances.

"All these families and veterans were in very vulnerable financial, emotional positions throughout this litigation," he said. "I don't think the government of Canada really ever grasped the impact of this offset."

A $10-million scholarship fund will also be set up for family members of the veterans involved in the lawsuit.

That scholarship "reflects the struggle some families had over the years," the lawyer said.

But the money isn't everything.

For Canadian Forces veteran Johanne Pelletier, the Federal Court victory last May was more "like winning the lottery" than receiving a cheque in the mail.

"It's wonderful to be recognized by the courts that we were paid for a disability obtained while serving our country," she said.

A hearing for final approval on the proposed deal will be heard in a Halifax court Feb. 14.

Driscoll said cheques should be sent out within six months if the deal is approved.

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