Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Vets Worry Settlement in Clawback Case Could Be Chewed Up by Legal Fees

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Vets Worry Settlement in Clawback Case Could Be Chewed Up by Legal Fees

Article excerpt

Pay clawback legal fees separately: Vets

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OTTAWA - There's growing concern among veterans that a big chunk of a planned multi-million settlement over the clawback of military pensions could be gobbled up by legal fees.

One member of a class-action lawsuit has written to Defence Minister Peter MacKay, asking that the federal government pay the cost of lawyers over and above any out-of-court compensation that arises from upcoming negotiations.

"I hope that you make a separate reasonable payment to lawyers in accordance with the reasonable fees set by precedent in the courts," wrote Louise Gagnon, a retired major.

"This payment should not come from the monies contractually and honourably owed us."

The federal government announced in June it would not appeal a Federal Court of Canada ruling that rejected clawbacks from the pensions of disabled veterans. Defence Minister Peter MacKay ordered a stop to the practice on July 1.

A class-action lawsuit was filed in March 2007 on behalf of Dennis Manuge and 4,500 other disabled veterans whose long-term disability benefits were reduced by the amount of the monthly Veterans Affairs disability pension they receive.

He argued it was unfair and unjust to treat pain and suffering awards as income.

The federal government recently appointed Stephen Toope, the president of the University of British Columbia, to lead the discussions with Manuge's legal team to arrive at a settlement, including retroactive payments.

Internal government estimates have suggested that the settlement could run as high as $600 million, depending upon how many years back the federal compensation plan will go.

Gagnon told MacKay that settlement scheme was proposed by the government and "it would seem reasonable that you repair this tort out of your own funds."

Information from Veterans Affairs Canada suggests legal fees could be included in whatever final agreement is made. …

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