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Class Action Law Suit Reinstated - Clawback Disability Payments Veterans'

Attn:   All RCMP Veterans for your information as this has impact on RCMP Veterans' who served in Peacekeeping as well:   From the Montreal Gazette:

OTTAWA — A class-action lawsuit against the federal government for clawing back the disability payments of injured military veterans can go ahead after the Supreme Court of Canada on Thursday refused to throw out a legal challenge from a former Nova Scotia soldier.

"We're one step closer to having our day in court," said Dennis Manuge, the lead plaintiff in the suit, who served in Bosnia before he was released from the military on medical grounds.

The former corporal received the high court's unanimous approval for up to 6,500 veterans — more than half of them with mental-health problems — to sue the federal government for millions of dollars.

Their victory comes at the end of the year in which the government was under attack from the former veterans' ombudsman, Pat Stogran, who spent his final months in office, chastising the federal government for what he described as a "long-standing and deeply rooted" practice of treating veterans unfairly.

Manuge of Musquodoboit Harbour, N.S., a recipient of a Canadian Forces Peacekeeping Medal and NATO Services Medal, was a military mechanic when he injured his back at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa, Ont., and suffered subsequent depression.

He began receiving a monthly pension for pain and suffering from Veterans Affairs Canada while he was still in the Forces.

When he was medically released in 2003 after nine years of service, he was eligible for long-term disability insurance benefits comprising 75 per cent of his pay — but the government deducted the almost $400 for pain and suffering he was receiving each month.

The deduction does not apply to military members who can still work. They collect their salary on top of their injury supplement.

Veterans say that no other disability plan in Canada deducts the veterans pension. The military insurance policy for long-term disability benefits dates back to the 1960s.

The federal government argued in the Supreme Court that the clawback for those receiving other disability payments was designed "to keep premiums as low as possible" and that such deductions were a common feature of public and private plans at the time.

Veterans estimate that repealing the clawback would cost about $275 million — about $75 million retroactively and another $200 million for the next 20 years.

The case does not affect veterans who were injured after 2007, when Veterans Affairs began awarding lump-sum pain and suffering payments that are not deducted from long-term disability.

The Supreme Court rejected the government's bid to stay the class-action suit, overturning a ruling in the Federal Court of Appeal.

"In my view, with respect, the discretion to grant a stay should not be exercised in this case," wrote Justice Rosalie Abella.

Stogran, a parliamentary committee and the House of Commons have all denounced the clawback as unfair and discriminatory.

The government had argued that the proper legal venue to challenge the policy is through a judicial review in Federal Court.

Veterans contend that judicial reviews rob them of their ability to challenge the government as a class, and that many would be powerless because they cannot afford to launch challenges individually.

The Harper government, stung by criticism that it has shortchanged veterans by making them fight for their benefits, has announced several concessions in recent months, including a package to help those injured in Afghanistan.

Read more: http://www.canada.com/business/Supreme+Court+reinstates+veterans+class+action+suit/4019143/story.html#ixzz191oJyypD

Alex Geddes
National Secretary
RCMP Veterans' Association