Seeing red: An open letter to Prime Minister Trudeau about our veterans.

Prime Minister Trudeau assures us he cares about our veterans – but does he really?

Although we live in Canada, I normally try to maintain a global focus on this blog. However, every once in a while something will come up that is so important to us I just have to address it on this blog.

After watching a video of yesterday’s town hall meeting in Edmonton where Prime Minister Trudeau was questioned by a severely disabled veteran, I became very angry.

Immediately, I began drafting the following letter. I have already sent it directly to the Prime Minister’s email, am now posting it on this blog, and intend to promote it on Facebook, Twitter and all my other social media.

Here is the link to the video of the veteran’s questions and Prime Minister Trudeau’s response. I highly recommend seeing it. Is it just me or does Prime Minister Trudeau look frustrated and uninterested while listening? 

This video is of the entire town hall meeting. To watch just the portion with the veteran’s questions and answers, go directly to 17:53.

 

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,

I am writing this to you while feeling extreme disappointment over the treatment our veterans are receiving from our own Canadian government – despite your past promises.

I was too young to be a supporter of your father during his tenure as Prime Minister, but I always admired him. Upon seeing his pirouette when I was very young, my attention and admiration were captured and, despite the fact that I didn’t always agree with some of his politics, for the most part I feel he was a great Prime Minister – polarizing, yes – but he made some decisions and took some actions that changed our country for the better.

I realize I was biased, but I staunchly supported you during your campaign and was delighted when you won the election.

However, since then, I’ve been seeing an increasing number of petitions being circulated online demanding you keep your promises to veterans.

My father was an air force veteran who served overseas; my husband served 21 years in the Air Force, including a stint overseas and is still permanently employed – working for a DND contractor maintaining DND aircraft; and his father was an army engineer for over 30 years. I also have two family members who were killed in WWI. No one can claim that we haven’t been there for our country.

(Scroll to the bottom to see a list of our family members who served, including those who died in service.)

Both my husband and his father suffer disabilities resulting from their service. My father-in-law is over 80 and has been retired for years. My husband was only 45 when he left the military and he’s lucky – his physical impairments don’t affect him so much that he can’t work.

But what about those veterans who have lost limbs, or have permanent, serious, mental and physical disabilities that make it impossible to work? The majority of those suffering these kinds of wounds are young men and women, single and with families, who now must support themselves and their families on what they’ve received, with no prospect of improvement of circumstances in the future. In fact, their circumstances will most likely deteriorate as time goes on.

These men and women deserve to be well looked after. Ideally, if they are unable to work at all due to the injuries, they should receive their full pay for the rest of their lives. For the few there are, I doubt it would have that large an impact on our fiscal budgets – and I’m sure the funds could easily be found somewhere else that is less deserving.

I, myself, have experienced a lot of what these veterans describe going through. I was a federal employee with Corrections Canada and my disability includes: chronic migraines, PTSD, chronic depression, anxiety, agoraphobia and OCD.

These are so severe that I can never leave the house, visit family or friends, no longer drive, don’t shop (use delivery), periodically self-harm, suffer nightmares and flashbacks causing poor sleep, and my husband is left to look after everything else. We have to hire outside help for the housekeeping and yard work because of disability issues. The only way I can communicate with people without suffering debilitating anxiety is through email or chat. I cannot even use a telephone – either receiving or making calls.

After my breakdown at work in 2011, I was never able to return to work. I’m limited to a small “cocoon corner” in our home where I can be comfortable and where my therapy and sole source of pride, accomplishment, and general well being are obtained from part-time blogging and doing almost full-time genealogy research. I have not been on the lower level in our home since my breakdown because doing so causes me great anxiety.

Some may think of blogging as an income, but nothing can be further from the truth. I manage to make just enough to cover the overhead of running the blogs, but there are months when I have to cover the costs myself.

Since my breakdown, I have jumped through all of the hoops that have been asked of me by my employer, the medical and psychiatric community and our government and believe me, they have been too numerous to count. The fact that I and so many military veterans have to be put through the stress and turmoil considering the type of disability we live with is unconscionable.

A few years ago, I was denied a provincial disability pension because they considered me fit for work because of my blogging and genealogy work. Recently, I discovered that there is a federal equivalent disability pension and applied, only to be denied for the same reasons.

I have tried to get meaningful work at home where I can use only email and chat. At one time I thought I had a good chance with Rogers as they have a home worker program, but they require the use of telephones, as do any other companies I’ve contacted online.

When I received the denial for federal pension a few days ago, I fought back the tears, but decided to give it up – not appeal. As much as we could use the small pension I would get in our retirement, my anxiety makes it very difficult to go through the process again.

I’m sending this letter after seeing the video of the town hall where you are addressed by the young veteran who has lost a leg and most use of his other leg – and your response was that they’re asking too much. That was the last straw for me and, despite the usual constraints of my anxiety, my anger is carrying me through.

I understand budget limits, but if our government can’t look after those who truly deserve it, such as the disabled vets, then we have a problem.

Despite my circumstances as mentioned above, I’d gladly give up any pension I might be able to receive from the federal or provincial governments (if I were able to appeal and be approved) if I knew it was being given to a deserving veteran such as that young man.

Would it not be feasible to appoint disability advocates who can visit those of us so disabled in our homes, relieving some of the burden? They could ensure we are aware of and apply for everything we are entitled to and act on our behalf, including completing the paperwork required.

Please rethink your position on disability benefits for military and federal government employees as a whole. Also, please ensure those assessing our applications do not use the very few positive things we are able to do and handle in our own homes against us to deny our applications.

Our homes and ‘out there’ are two very different worlds, and it would be like ‘jumping off a cliff into a fog’ to anyone else not suffering from these disabilities.

My Signature

Family members who served since WWI are listed below. Those who died in service are followed by an ‘X‘.

  • Hervé “Hervey” Turmel (1894-    ) – First World War
  • Private Luther Gummeson (1895Luther Gummeson-1934) – First World War X
    • Before enlisting for military service on December 10, 1917, he was a Lutheran and a farmer in Vancouver, BC. Rumour had it that his early death was attributed to being gassed during WWI. Before his death, Luther was living in the Peace River area…
  • Joseph Antonio Turmel (1896-    ) – First World War

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