01 June 2012

Minister Neglects Duty, Vet will lose Home

The ongoing saga of Fabien Melanson hit another low yesterday.  Our appeals to Minister Steven Blaney (VAC) have gone unanswered.  We needed him to act quickly to prevent Fabien from losing his house.

Blaney has mailed us a letter.  Apparently.

So much for today's deadline for saving the house and property.

The situation is very simple: in 2004, VAC made an error and sent Fabien's pension to the wrong account.  It took VAC 5 months to fix, an unreasonable amount of time.  The loss of income halted renovations on Fabien's home and it received significant weather damage.  VAC paid the back-pension but has done nothing about the impact those missing funds had.

VAC admits, in a letter from last June, that they were responsible for the error and the Fabien suffered as a result.  The Department doesn't have a policy for dealing with this.  That means that the Minister is the one who has to make it right.  We've been trying to get the Minister involved for a year.  He still has not responded to any of the emails, faxes, or phone calls made to his office (although, it seems, there is a letter in the mail.)

Minister Blaney had the responsibility and authority to resolve this.  He also has a responsibility to engage with the veterans who need his help.  Not only is it common courtesy, it is also part of his job.

I find that Steven Blaney has neglected his duties to a massive degree.  If he will not perform the responsibilities of his position, then he should have the decency to step down.

If you agree, or if you think what happened to Fabien is ridiculous, so something; write or call the media.  Tell your friends to do the same.  Neve rmind your MPs - government ignores us and Opposition is powerless.  The only way this may be fixed is massive public outcry.

Write a letter to a newspaper.  Phone a radio Call-In show.  Email your favourite news provider.  Call local TV.

Tell everyone who will lister what has happened to Fabien and how you feel about it.

You can include information from this news release:


Veterans Affairs Inaction Costs Veteran Home; Advocate Calls for Minister’s Resignation

St. John’s (Our Duty) – Cpl Fabien Melanson of Cap-Pele, NB will lose his house tomorrow, the end result of a 2004 clerical error by Veterans Affairs, and his advocate is calling for the Minister to resign.

The Van Doo veteran served in Croatia and liberated a hospital in Bosnia. He retired to his hometown when his PTSD prevented him from serving. Then his real war began.

In 2004, Melanson’s pension went missing because Veterans Affairs sent it to the wrong bank account. Despite constant calls, VAC did not correct the error for 5 months. By the time he did get his money, Cpl Melanson’s finances were in ruins. So was his house - the missing pension halted renovations and weather damage rendered the veteran’s home unliveable.

For the next 7 years, Fabien Melanson fought with Veterans Affairs to get them to fix his house. It took a hunger strike last June to get VAC to acknowledge their responsibility. But VAC claimed it ‘had no mechanism” for paying for the repairs.

“That’s highly misleading,” says Melanson’s advocate, Jeff Rose-Martland, “The Department may not have a policy, but it does have a way to do so. The Minister can do it.”

Rose-Martland is referring to ex gratia payments, where a Minister can use discretionary funds to address issues which fall outside of normal procedures.

“We’ve been trying to get the Minister to fix this for a year. We sent our first appeals for help during the hunger strike. We have been emailing, faxing, and phoning regularly since, but the Ministry has been unresponsive. I did speak with an aide in February who said they were looking into it; that’s the only response we’ve had.”

Tomorrow, Bridgewater Bank will proceed with legal action to sell the property. “Fabien’s been doing his best to meet his obligations, but 8 years of being homeless have taken their toll. Most of his income has been going to pay the mortgage on a house he can’t live in, and to store his possessions. He got behind in his payments, Bridgewater discovered the condition of the house, and the clock has been ticking since. We have until tomorrow to provide them with a payment plan and construction schedule.”

As Melanson has no funds for rebuilding, sale of the property is inevitable and Rose-Martland says the Minister is to blame.

“Ever since he was appointed Minister, Steven Blaney has had both the authority and responsibility to fix this,” he says, “VAC admitted their responsibility a year ago; the Minister has a duty to make reparations. The Minister should have been seeking us out, not the other way around. Now, Fabien is going to lose his house and land, and the Minister still won’t act. He won’t even pick up the phone.’

Late today, Rose-Martland received word that the Minister will reply. By mail.

“Since Bridgewater Bank said they were going to sell the place, we’ve been hounding the Minister’s office, begging him to do his duty. He ignored us; no response at all. This afternoon, we found out – through sources other than the Ministry – that they have mailed a letter to us. An 18th century reply to a 21st century problem.”

The advocate is now calling for the Minister to resign. “Since he was appointed Minister, Steven Blaney has had a duty of care to see this issue resolved,” says Jeff Rose-Martland, ”He has willfully ignored that responsibility and is in dereliction of his duty. If he will not discharge his duties as required, then, as a citizen, I ask him to resign his position as Minister Responsible for Veterans Affairs.”

The distraught veteran is unavailable for comment.

Jeff Rose-Martland
President, Our Duty Inc

No comments:

Post a Comment