A veteran in Edmonton reports that in order to get benefits he has to fill out a stack of papers nearly a foot high every year declaring his legs are still missing.
Mast.- Cpl. (Ret’d) Paul Franklin is a former medic who served on the Canadian forces for 11 years. In 2006, he was in the last two weeks of a 6-month mission in Afghanistan when his legs were destroyed by a suicide bomber.
“My buddy Jeff yelled ‘car right,’ so I shifted left and he (suicide bomber) detonated his car,” Franklin told Global News when speaking of the attack. “Boom! We get hit with 56 kilos of explosives.”
Franklin speaks highly of the medical staff who treated him after the attack, which claimed both his legs above the knee, but since his retirement in 2009 the paperwork has been exceedingly demanding.
“You’d think a simple form you have to fill out every year… no problem,” said the retired Master Corporal. But in reality Franklin needs to get himself to a doctor every year for a series of physical tests, and fill out pages upon pages of paperwork there. Then, he has to find and fill out even more forms for various branches of government and insurance agency Manulife.
“Every year I have to sign the forms, find the forms and write the forms saying I have no legs,” he said.
Franklin isn’t just complaining of his own problems, though surely no one would blame him if he did. Other wounded servicemen have injuries and post-war trauma even more debilitating than his own, and if those entail mental impairments by their very nature it’s unreasonable and unrealistic to expect them to work through the mountain of bureaucracy they need to navigate in order to get their benefits.
“It’s insane,” he said. “My problem with all this is if you have someone who has post-traumatic stress disorder or some sort of brain injury, or you have a combination of the two and they’re on street drugs or alcohol or whatever, the chance of them filling out the forms correctly is minimal at best.”
Franklin soldiers on, fighting for a streamlining of the annual process veterans have to go through and asking the Canadian federal government to get its different branches communicating with one another, rather than relying on retired veterans to get the right forms to the right places for them. He wants a more common sense approach where veterans can fill out one simple form for one agency, preferably Veterans Affairs.
“There’s a lack of common sense. The organizations involved have to learn to start sharing information,” Franklin said. “They can send me a form that says ‘in the last year, has your medical condition changed?'” If it hasn’t, he wants it to be a simple matter of checking a few boxes on one form, signing it and mailing it in.
From Canada’s involvement in the Afghanistan war in 2002 to their withdrawal in 2011, over 2,000 Canadian soldiers were wounded there, 635 in battle and 1,412 suffering non-battle injuries. Injuries can include permanent brain damage and spinal cord injuries, missing limbs and amputations, broken bones, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The conflict in Afghanistan has also seen more Canadian casualties than any Canadian military operation since the Korean war.
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