Military Veterans Challenge Denial Of Disability Benefits In Latest Court Battle

A decorated war veteran in Ottawa said that he never thought of battling against the federal government in court over benefits he and other disable former military veterans claimed they were denied.

Stephane Hebert, who served in the military for 21 years before being released medically in 2007, is the one of dozen veterans who’ve been fighting against the federal government. Hebert was diagnosed with several PTSD after joining the military to serve Yugoslavia in 1992. He did not apply for the disability payments, because he was told wrongly that he would not receive any payments.

Hebert claims that he had missed a 120-day deadline when he eventually learned that he was entitled to receive the benefits that the federal officials denied him.

“I was told I was not entitled to that, so in bouts of anger I just said, ‘Yeah, I’ll just leave it at that,'” the 48-year-old father said in an interview.

Hebert traveled to Halifax from New Brunswick for the certification hearing in Federal Court.

“I had no choice today but to push for this class action for members who have been misled,” he explained.

Most military veterans did not decide to apply for the payments, as the process is lengthy and costly. Oftentimes, they were told that they would not receive any benefits.

However, a federal court judge ruled in another case led by veteran Dennis Manuge together with several other disabled veterans that the formula used to determine the money they would receive is flawed and should be overturned. The case ended when Ottawa settled with about 7,500 claimants in the $887.8 million class-action lawsuit in 2013 over their clawed back pension benefits, reports the Star.

The federal government will oppose certification of the lawsuit, a spokesperson for the Department of National Defense said in an emailed statement.

“The Crown will submit that the common issues as presented cannot be determined on a basis which is in fact common to all members of the class,” wrote communications advisor Laura McIntyre-Grills. “In other words, the facts of this case does not meet the test for certification of a class.”

Another veteran, Fernand Kenney, was rejected for the disability benefits related to post-traumatic stress disorder and his service in Bosnia in 1993 last year. Kenney said that he was provided wrong information by the insurance provider in his four-page application filed in the federal court. The wrong information is what made him not to apply for the benefits.

Kenney had already missed deadlines when he learned otherwise, and he had no options to apply again and receive what he was entitled to.

People in the forces receive several benefits for them and their family, including education, health, and military travel benefits.

Wallace says that it makes no sense that the veterans are denied of what they are entitled to just because incorrect information was used from an insurance provider.

“If you know you’re going to get zero dollars a month, of course you’re not going to go through all the hoops and expenses of filling out all the forms,” he said. “They served for an extended period of time and paid into an insurance benefit and when they needed that benefit, it wasn’t there for them.”

No comments were issued on the matter by the Department of Defense spokeswoman.

Wallace also adds that Kenney, who now lives in Quebec, has not been able to work because of his disability after being released from the military in 2005. Hebert, who stands for the same, also cannot join any other workplace after his release because of injuries and PTSD.

The dollar value of the case is still not known, but Wallace estimates that Hebert and Kenney should receive somewhere around $50,000 each.

“For Mr. Kenny, it probably is maybe $30,000 to $40,000. So, a life changing amount of money that he should have received when he was released back in 2005,” Wallace said.

[Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]