Military veteran frustrated he has to annually fill out form to say his legs are still missing

Retired Master Cpl. Paul Franklin lost both of his legs from just above knee when a bomb hit the vehicle he was driving during a Canadian Forces tour in Afghanistan in January 2006.

Ten years later, he is getting ready to fill out yet another set of forms to tell the Canadian government that, in fact, his legs are still missing.

“It’s insane,” Franklin 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.”

When a veteran wants to fill out disability and pension forms, it can sometimes involve multiple applications to several bodies, including insurance companies, even for permanent injuries like Franklin’s.

He said veterans should deal only with Veterans Affairs and the process should be far more simple. If medical status has changed, he said, a doctor’s note should suffice. If it hasn’t, no forms should be needed, he said.

The ministry has improved in some ways in recent years. It has updated the Veterans Independence Program to one application every three years instead of every year. But for his general pension, Franklin said he is still sending a yearly set of forms.

Further, the government has also gone from a standard monthly pension for veterans to a system that pays people for lost income depending on their injury, putting a premium on rank.

Master Cpl Paul Franklin in 2006, following his injury in Afghanistan.

Master Cpl Paul Franklin in 2006, following his injury in Afghanistan.

For example, if you have a disability that is deemed to decrease your income by 25 per cent, you get 25 per cent of the income you made in the Armed Forces. As such, people with higher rank end up getting more for their injuries.

“The problem is a corporal’s injury is worth less than a captain’s injury,” Franklin said. “That, for us, is brutal.”

Since his injury makes him eligible for 100 per cent of long-term disability, he is technically not losing income.

“Because I make too much money, they won’t give me the income loss,” he said. “It’s such a silly thing. All this paperwork and silly time wasted just so that I get nothing. That’s the most amusing part to it.”

He would like to see a system implemented where vets whose jobs are statistically linked to certain injuries — back problems in paratroopers or hearing loss for artillery, for example — are just given the disability support without a long and costly application process.

He said  he has had long conversations with former Veterans Affairs Minister Erin O’Toole, but hasn’t heard much from the new federal government.

“It’s been 10 years and they still haven’t figured out I’m an amputee,” he said. “It’s more for the dudes that can’t do it … I don’t want this to be a hindrance to someone getting the care they need.”

Veterans Affairs spokeswoman Janice Summerby said the “minister has been mandated to work with the Minister of National Defence to reduce complexity, overhaul service delivery, and strengthen partnerships between Veterans Affairs and National Defence. This means clear guidance, timely access to benefits and services, and co-ordinated case management between both departments.”

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