Ottawa Compensates Veterans Post Pension Clawbacks
Imagine this: your calling in life is law enforcement. You’ve known it since you were young. You don’t want a desk job. You want to become an officer of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. After years of rigorous training you achieve this goal and work for years at a satisfying and challenging career. Then, unfortunate circumstances occur and you are permanently injured in the line of duty and are forced to retire. It happens; it’s a risk you take when entering this field. However, the problem comes when the government – the same one you committed your life to – won’t fairly compensate you for a disability that you assumed while working for them. The feelings of betrayal seem overwhelming. But instead of becoming bitter, you work in accordance with the laws that you helped defend for so many years. Eventually, you receive a glimpse of victory.
This is the story of Gerard Boute and a court case that started in 2008. After being granted involuntary retirement, Boute and other plaintiffs in the lawsuit received long-term disability payments. Before long, the amount they received every month in disability pension payments from the Veterans Affairs Department was reduced. In the case of Gerard Boutes’ successor (the primary plaintiff), the amount adds up to an estimated $130,000 since his accident.
After six years, a settlement has been reached between a group of RCMP officers with disabilities and the federal government. Now, the implications of the suit extend beyond the original members who had their disability payments clawed back. This summer, after granting final approval for the class-action payout for involved parties, the federal government will use the precedent to end the clawback for all RCMP veterans and those officers who have been involuntarily released due to permanent job-related injury.
As a summary of current affairs, the article (to this point) isn’t that bad, but are there additional implications of this suit that need to be considered?
The RCMP lawsuit resembles a class action suit launched by veterans against the government a couple of years earlier. The veterans won and at that time government quietly began examining the RCMP disability leave structure.
The implication of this is that government recognizes the dignity of the aging population and those living with disability. Instead of economically marginalizing officers that become disabled in the line of duty, the government has taken steps to right their wrong.
It is good to live in a country where the powerful make sure the needs of the marginalized are met, even if it is only achieved through due process.