The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Injured troops booted from military before qualifying for pension

  • Print
Canadian Cpl. David Hawkins poses with children in Afghanistan in a 2008 handout photo. Gravely injured troops who want to remain uniform are being booted from the military before they qualify for their pensions, despite assurances to the contrary from the Harper government. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Cpl.David Hawkins

Enlarge Image

Canadian Cpl. David Hawkins poses with children in Afghanistan in a 2008 handout photo. Gravely injured troops who want to remain uniform are being booted from the military before they qualify for their pensions, despite assurances to the contrary from the Harper government. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Cpl.David Hawkins

OTTAWA - Gravely injured troops are being booted from the military before they qualify for a pension, despite assurances to the contrary from the Harper government.

A former reserve combat engineer was let go last Friday on a medical discharge after begging for months to remain until hitting the 10-year mark.

Cpl. David Hawkins is about a year shy of being eligible for an indexed pension, but was released because his post traumatic stress means he is unable to deploy overseas.

Among those also leaving is Cpl. Glen Kirkland. His plea to remain in the army last June was answered by former defence minister Peter MacKay with an a pledge he could stay until September 2015 — and that no members are released until they are ready.

But the offer turned out to be exclusive to Kirkland, who chose within the last few days to leave rather than be given special treatment.

"I joined as a member of a team, as a family," Kirkland said in an interview from Shilo, Man.

"So, when I was offered an opportunity when no one else was, it just goes against everything I joined for."

He will be formally discharged in March.

Kirkland was left with damaged hearing, post-traumatic stress, and injuries that affect his insulin levels, all the result of the 2008 Taliban bombing that killed three of his comrades.

Both he and Hawkins do not meet the military's universality of service rule, which requires members to be fit to deploy at a moment's notice. They also fall under a system whereby a member must serve 10 years to qualify for an indexed pension. If they don't, they're refunded their contributions.

Hawkins, from London, Ont., spent his tour between September 2008 and April 2009 as a member of a quick-reaction force of soldiers called out of a forward operating base to deal with suicide attacks and roadside bombings.

The stress started creeping up on him overseas, and he went from sleeping in a light armoured vehicle, ready to combat the Taliban, to sleeping in his truck near London, Ont., because it was the only place he felt comfortable.

Hawkins was prescribed 13 medications for his disorder while being processed at the military's operational stress injury centre. He said he wanted to remain in the Forces to re-qualify as a firefighter once he felt better.

But there is a time limit for recovery under universality of service and he was eventually given an ultimatum.

"They were just trying to push me through the system, even though I had told them I wasn't ready," Hawkins said. "I was told, 'No, you're going to have to go back to work, or we can drop your funding right now.'"

As a reservist, Hawkins faces a different set of entitlements and rules than Kirkland, who is a member of the regular force. Now that he is out of the military, Hawkins is eligible for benefits under Veterans Affairs, including retraining.

But he says his PTSD diagnosis will be a black mark as he looks for work.

Last spring, MacKay was emphatic in the House of Commons that no one would be forced out.

"In fact, all injured members are not released from the military until they are prepared to do so. Until they are prepared for release, they work with members of the Canadian Forces on their transition plan, and when it is appropriate for their families and they are ready to make a shift into the private sector," he said on June 11.

A spokeswoman for newly appointed Defence Minister Rob Nicholson said Hawkins' case is under review.

"We thank Cpl. Hawkins for his service and sacrifice for Canada," Julie Di Mambro said in an email. "We are aware of the issue and are looking into it further."

Kirkland said he is disillusioned by his experience with the government, and by what happened to Hawkins.

"I don't have very much faith in the politicians who are pulling the strings," he said.

"There needs to be some serious change. I mean, who would join? Would you tell your kids to join knowing that if they get disabled they won't be looked after?"

The Conservative government has poured millions of dollars into veterans programs, and recently underscored its commitment to ex-soldiers in the throne speech.

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

How Winnipeg's slow growth saved the Exchange District

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS 060711 Chris Pedersen breeds Monarch butterflies in his back yard in East Selkirk watching as it transforms from the Larva or caterpillar through the Chrysalis stage to an adult Monarch. Here an adult Monarch within an hour of it emerging from the Chrysalis which can be seen underneath it.
  • MIKE APORIUS/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS STANDUP - pretty sunflower in field off HWY 206 near Bird's Hill Park Thursday August 09/2007

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

How are you planning to enjoy the unseasonably warm weather? (select all that apply)

View Results

Ads by Google