Legion battling to help veterans cope with war injuries

April 27, 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Pickford

The Royal Canadian Legion is ramping up  efforts to help military veterans and their families as they seek federal assistance and compensation for injuries sustained while in the line of duty.

With more than 90 years of history in assisting individuals from across Ontario, the Legion’s Provincial Service Office has seen a significant decline in the number of people making use of their services in recent times and is keen to remind the public that they are available all year round for any type of support.

In Orangeville, Ron Simms has been the local representative of the regional service officer for the best part of three years. His role, in his own words, is to be the “driving force” behind a veteran or family of a deceased veteran as they apply for a variety of different disability benefits offered by Veterans Affairs (VA) Canada.

“Our job, strictly speaking, is to assist anyone that has served in the military, RCMP, anything like that, in applying for benefits with VA,” Mr. Simms told the Citizen. “Our services are also available to surviving family members of deceased veterans. A lot of these people probably think they’re not entitled to anything once their partner passes away, but that isn’t true at all.”

Mr. Simms noted there’s no limit to the number of people that can apply for benefits, stating that VA doesn’t typically have a set budget or cap in place when it comes to providing aid to veterans. He also pointed out that there are no regulations regarding the minimum amount of time someone had to spend enlisted to be eligible for assistance.

“Just last month the widow of a Korean War veteran was awarded a settlement of over $300,000 because her husband died of Coronary Heart Disease. His medical records showed the military were at fault,” Mr. Simms said. “One of the big things I hear is ‘oh, I only served for a few months’ – that does not matter. I know of a veteran who served in the Reserves for only 45 days and still received a $64,000 settlement because he sustained some level of hearing loss over the course of those 45 days. As long as you served a day, you are eligible.”

Sherry Culling is the Provincial Services Officer for this region. Operating out of North Bay, she said the Royal Canadian Legion helped just over 3,100 veterans receive some sort of benefit or settlement in 2015. On May 29, she will be travelling to Orangeville to meet with local residents requiring assistance in their VA applications.

“We basically help people fill in their applications. Once people have put everything down on paper we will then register the claim with Veterans Affairs Canada and obtain a copy of the individual’s service health record through the national archive,” Ms. Culling told the Citizen. “From there we hand out another application form, along with a medical questionnaire, that highlights whatever condition or problem people are applying under. That has to be completed by a doctor.”

Ms. Culling noted the entire process takes “roughly” 16 weeks.

“This can be a life changing experience for a lot of people,” she added.

Another potentially life changing program the Royal Canadian Legion is working on is ‘Leave the Streets Behind’ – an initiative designed to help homeless veterans get back on their feet. Established in 2011, the program has so far helped 486 homeless or nearly homeless veterans in 111 communities across Ontario.

“This is our big drive right now, making sure we’re getting out there and letting these vulnerable, homeless veterans that somebody has their back, that somebody wants to help,” Mr. Simms said.

Once they identify someone in need, the Legion makes arrangements to provide an apartment, furniture, clothing and any other typical day-to-day items a person needs to live a comfortable life. Again, just like with Veterans Affairs Canada, the Legion doesn’t have a set budget in place for this initiative, opting simply to help people as and when they learn about them.

“The way we see, we’re not giving these people a hand out, we’re giving them a hand up,” Ms. Culling said.

With over $4 million spent on ‘Leave the Streets Behind’ to date, the initiative has been a resounding success, although Ms. Culling believes there are many more veterans hiding in the shadows for the Legion to help out – some of them maybe residing here in Orangeville.

“We have helped people in Orangeville before now through ‘Leave the Streets Behind’. Whenever people think about homeless people, they think about the big cities like Toronto or Ottawa, but there are homeless people everywhere and more and more we’re getting reports that homelessness amongst veterans is on the rise,” Ms. Culling said. “It’s our job to help these people try to get their lives back on track.”

For more information on ‘Leave the Streets Behind’, visit

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