A federal judge has upheld a six-year grievance by a Canadian Armed Forces member seeking compensation for injuries. The ruling follows a 2018 federal survey that faulted the Department of Veterans Affairs for poor treatment of soldiers, sailors and air crew.
“Unreasonable treatment,” Federal Court Justice Richard Southcott ruled in the case of an army volunteer denied disability payments for a back injury. The Court ordered the Veterans Review & Appeal Board to reconsider the case after dismissing the claim in 2018.
Gary Crummey, 52, of East Bay, N.S. applied for benefits after suffering a fractured spine in a fall from a rope bridge while training as a peacekeeper in Egypt in 2008. Crummey served with the military from 1983.
Crummey submitted X-rays and a doctor’s report that his injuries were related to military service and likely aggravated by marches and battle fitness testing that required carrying heavy packs over long distances. The Board dismissed the claim as “very speculative”, ruling it “does not have to accept all evidence presented by an appellant if it finds the evidence is not credible,” according to Court documents.
“If a person has experienced more than one-service related incident, each of which could be the cause of the injury under consideration such that a physician cannot identify which of these incidents is the precise cause, surely this cannot be a basis to find the physician’s opinion is lacking credibility,” wrote Justice Southcott.
Crummey could not be reached for comment. The Court noted under the Veterans Review & Appeal Board Act, members are to “resolve in favour of the appellant any doubt in the weighing of evidence as to whether the appellant has established a case.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs in a 2018 in-house survey of the general public found only 15 percent of respondents considered the department’s work as adequate. “There is a strong sense that Veterans Affairs Canada should be doing more,” said the survey report Canadians’ Awareness Of Veterans Affairs Canada’s Benefits And Services. The department paid $102,513 to Earnscliffe Strategy Group to conduct the poll.
“Opinion remains divided over how well Veterans Affairs Canada serves the needs of veterans,” wrote Earnscliffe. “However, more Canadians offer low performance ratings than high performance ratings.”
Data showed 28 percent of Canadians believe the department treats veterans poorly; 32 percent questioned if the department is honest with ex-military; and 39 percent were convinced veterans with medical needs were not getting they help they needed.
The research was prompted by complaints from veterans who “find it difficult at times to navigate the programs and services offered by Veterans Affairs Canada,” said Awareness. The department has had five different ministers in the past four years.