Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Veterans Support Lawyers' $66.6-Million Legal Fee in Pension Clawback Case

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Veterans Support Lawyers' $66.6-Million Legal Fee in Pension Clawback Case

Article excerpt

Judge reserves decision in veterans lawsuit

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HALIFAX - Federal lawyers argued Friday that attorneys who won a class-action lawsuit for disabled veterans shouldn't get $66.6 million in fees despite criticism from the former military members that Ottawa alone caused the case to drag through the courts.

Dozens of veterans and their spouses listened to final arguments in Federal Court on the proposed $887.8-million dollar settlement between the former military members and the federal government over their clawed back pension benefits.

Judge Robert Barnes reserved his decision on whether to approve the deal, which was reached last month after a five-year legal fight.

The Crown argued that the three lawyers who took on the case on behalf of 7,500 veterans were charging 21 times the normal hourly rate for their services over five years.

But one veteran dismissed the claim, saying the federal government challenged the case every step of the way and rejected repeated attempts to settle it without going to court.

"The federal government took our money from us and now they're trying to tell us how to spend our money," Steve Dornan, who has post-traumatic stress disorder and incurable cancer, said outside the hearing room.

"So, you didn't want us to have the money in the first place. Now you're telling us that we're spending too much on our lawyers that got us the money. It's ridiculous."

Dennis Manuge launched the lawsuit in 2007 on behalf of himself and other disabled Canadian veterans whose long-term disability benefits were reduced by the amount of the monthly Veterans Affairs disability pensions they received.

The federal government fought the initial class-action certification, appealed a certification decision in 2008 and didn't alter the clawback after it was condemned by the military ombudsman, the Senate and through a motion in the House of Commons that said the offset should end. …

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