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News - Afghanistan - 17 Jan 2017

News Item 10 of 652 

Afghanistan: 17 Jan 2017
Veteran's file fast-tracked after emotional plea to Trudeau in London, Ont.

Veteran Joseph Angelini tells Trudeau his father pays for groceries because his pension cheques have not arrived. (Amanda Margison/CBC News)

A recently retired Canadian veteran who had to rely on his parents to buy groceries while waiting for pension cheques to arrive is seeing his file fast tracked after he stood up to the Prime Minister.

Joseph Angelini made an emotional plea to Justin Trudeau at the London, Ont. town hall forum last Friday, telling the prime minister it is unacceptable to make veterans suffer months of undue financial and emotional stress.

"It took everything I had to be there," said Angelini, who suffers from PTSD. "I forced myself to be in a crowd at the town hall and I think it was worth it."

On Monday, less than 72 hours after the forum, Angelini received a call from his case manager with news that an inquiry had been launched into the status of his file.

"Had I not said anything, I don't believe it would have moved this quickly."

The 33-year old retired from service in August 2016 after serving two tours in Afghanistan. He survived a roadside bomb attack in March 2008 that killed follow Canadian soldier Michael Yuki Hayakaze.

Angelini suffered neck and back injuries that required surgery and have left him in chronic pain.

The night of the town hall meeting, Angelini told Trudeau and an audience 1,500 strong that it took four months before any money arrived from Veterans Affairs following his July retirement.

Angelini started receiving pension cheques in early November but he said he is still owed money.

Visibly shaking while holding the microphone, he also questioned why he was denied the Family Caregiver Relief Benefit.

"My father is there for me everyday to help me with my medications and to do things a father should never have to do for a 30-year-old," he told Trudeau, explaining that his father retired early to take on caregiving duties.

Trudeau promised to look into Angelini's situation the night of the town hall and he thanked the veteran for continuing to do his duty by pointing out how to make the country better.

'Veterans Affairs needs to get fixed'

Speaking from his home in London, Angelini said he is relieved but still concerned about other veterans he knows who are also experiencing major problems with pension payments and benefits.

"I think it's getting worse," he said. "Veterans Affairs needs to get fixed with proper funding and proper training."

Veterans Affairs is unable to comment on specific cases but spokesperson Marc Lescoutre said the department is working to make the benefits process easier and faster for veterans.

He said while the department has hired more frontline staff, Veterans Affairs saw a jump last year in the number of disability claims submitted.

​Angelini is hopeful a review of his file will address his pension issues, as well as an earlier decision denying him the Permanent Impairment Allowance, a benefit issued to soldiers no longer able to work after an injury.

Amanda Margison, CBC News/AA

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