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Veterans deserve better from their government: NDP

Bill Maguire came back from Cyprus a changed man.

Bill Maguire came back from Cyprus a changed man.

Flashbacks to the things he’d seen and done during his 1974 military service gave him post-traumatic stress disorder.

He drank more, and hid from his friends. His wife left him three years later.

But it wasn’t until after his release in 2001, when Ottawa began clawing back $700 of his $1,000 monthly veterans’ pension, that he contemplated suicide.

“I had the methods of my demise laying on the table,” Maguire, who spent 37 years in the military, remembered yesterday.

“(The clawback) ruined me. I said, ‘What’s the sense of living? Every time I get my head above water, I get kicked in the teeth.’”

Maguire spoke publicly yesterday at a news conference calling on Ottawa to include more money for veterans in this month’s budget.

NDP MP Peter Stoffer said vets face waits of up to two years to get benefits. Disabled veterans are handed a lump-sum pension when they’re released from the Forces, and if they’re traumatized from their service, they may not be able to manage it properly.

“In some cases, it’s like giving a bunch of money to a gambler right before he goes into a casino,” Stoffer said.

Stoffer believes disabled veterans should get a lifelong pension in addition to that lump sum.

He also argued that Ottawa should set up clinics to ensure veterans — regular force and reservists — get followup medical care after they leave the military.

“These men and women are willing to put their lives on the line so you and I can have a good night’s sleep,” Stoffer said.

“What they need, we should be able to provide.”

Veteran Gary Zwicker got a $38,000 lump-sum disability payment after he was discharged in 2002. A year later, he was told that money would be clawed back. He lost his house, which he’d used the payment to buy, and ended up $100,000 in debt.

Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty will bring down his budget Jan. 27.

 
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