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article imageCanada: Ex-Canadian Veterans Ombudsman treated for PTSD

By Karl Gotthardt     Mar 6, 2013 in Politics
Ottawa - Colonel Pat Stogran (retired) is a long time advocate of veterans rights. He was appointed Veterans Ombudsman in 2006, but his contract was not renewed in 2010. Stogran says that he is being treated for PTSD as a result of Ottawa's treatment of veterans
Retired Colonel Pat Stogran says that he is being treated for PTSD as a direct result of the shock he felt over Ottawa's treatment of disabled soldiers.
The most traumatic experience that I had was the aftermath of my experience as veterans ombudsman. I find it very, very difficult to take the situation sitting down."
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is common among Canadian and US veterans that have served in Afghanistan. It often goes unnoticed and politicians and military leaders have paid lip service to it. US and Canadian veterans have paid a high price for the adventure in Afghanistan.
CBC in its series "Battle Scars" highlighted the stories of soldiers that fell between the cracks, with their cries for help remaining unanswered.
And the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder can be as deadly as combat. A recently released U.S. study revealed last year, more soldiers died from suicide than in combat.
In Canada, retired colonels and ex-reservists have warned Canadian soldiers are not far behind, and military brass refuses to recognize the problem.
In 2006 the conservative government in Canada placed a high priority on changing veterans benefits and passed the "New Veterans Charter and the Veterans Bill of Rights" in 2007. Part of the new charter was the establishment of a Veterans ombudsman. Stogran was given a five year contract to be Canada's first veterans ombudsman, but his contract was not renewed in 2010.
Colonel Pat Stogran is a combat veteran, who commanded Canada's first contingent, the Third Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry to Kandahar. The unit suffered it first four casualties due to a friendly fire incident, while conducting a live fire exercise in an official training area near Kandahar airfield.
Pat Stogran is a personal friend, whom the author has known for 30 years. During a cross country trip with his dog, Pat dropped by the farm and we had an opportunity to talk about old times, the Afghanistan tour and his treatment as veterans ombudsman.
Pat is dedicated to the cause of making life easier for his former comrades in arms and is relentless in his advocacy for improved treatment of veterans by those that send them to war. One of the biggest controversies in the new charter has been the settlement of lump sum payments, in lieu of monthly payments for disabilities. To say the least this is an easy way for a government to settle with veterans without the long term obligation of a disability pension, which is tied to the consumer price index (CPI).
Stogran calls the system an empty shell of treatment and services. Being a long time advocate for PTSD sufferers he says without federal support more soldiers will commit suicide, especially with the return of Canada's troops from Afghanistan next year.
Does the government have a quota that they're going to fill before they react? We should be doing everything we can to stop that kind of a trend …. Let's not wait until the requisite number of suicides occur before they flick the switch.
There have been a number of horror stories during the past few years on the government's treatment of veterans. There were cases of suicide, which have questioned the military's and governments receptiveness to the pleas of those suffering. As is often the case the department has responded to Stogran's comments as well.
The department pointed to transition interviews it conducts with released veterans and their families as well as a suicide prevention network and to highlight programs that might help, including mental health.
This is the type of rhetoric that is heard from the department constantly, yet many people fall between the cracks. The fact that retired Colonels and Generals are speaking up should be a red flag to politicians and bureaucrats.
Regardless of rhetoric the system is broke and needs fixing. The sooner the government and its bureaucrats realize that the sooner the path to healing can commence. How many more veterans, who did what the government asked them to do, have to die before the light comes on.
More about Pat Stogran, Ptsd, Mental illness, Canadian forces, Veterans affairs
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