By MERCEDES STEPHENSON
Posted March 7, 2011
Steven Dornan battled two monsters in Afghanistan: The Taliban and his cancer.
Dornan, a 25-year veteran of the Canadian Forces, volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan in 2002 where he bravely fought the Taliban, all the while taking
a brutal regime of oral chemotherapy to control his incurable cancer.
Today he is fighting a third battle — for his dignity and what Canada owes him: A veteran’s disability pension.
Dornan suffers from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which is believed to be the result of exposure to toxic substances during his military service.
Dornan served as a weapons inspector in the former Yugoslavia, where he came into contact with sites and weapons that were highly contaminated with depleted uranium.
In a phone interview from his home in Nova Scotia, Dornan explains that he didn’t know depleted uranium was a dangerous substance at the time. No one did.
Today, soldiers doing Dornan’s job would wear protective equipment and have their urine samples monitored routinely to look for depleted-uranium contamination.
Depleted-uranium readings more than 1,000 times the level considered safe for human exposure were found by a UN agency at the sites he inspected a decade after the contaminated equipment was removed, Dornan said.
No less than five doctors, medical experts in the field, wrote letters supporting Dornan’s case for a pension, stating the cancer was caused, or at a minimum aggravated by, his exposure to the uranium.
Yet Veterans Affairs Canada and the Veterans Review and Appeal Board have poo-pooed the experts’ opinions to deny Dornan his pension.
Welcome to the twilight zone where a quasi-judicial body of political appointees can refuse to compensate the injuries of a wounded veteran because they read something in a book.
The appeal board didn’t even present dissenting medical opinions to say Dornan’s cancer wasn’t caused by his exposure to depleted uranium.
The board simply pulled quotes from books in the library and studies found on the Internet to disqualify the medical experts’ testimony. Therefore, one
of Canada’s finest didn’t qualify for the pension that would pay for his cancer treatments. A cancer caused by service to his country, according to medical
Dornan took his case to the Federal Court of Canada, which balked at the appeal board’s way of doing business, basically saying it has no authority to rule on the validity of medical evidence without, you know, real live medical experts.
The bureaucracy has not backed down.
The good news is neither have Steven Dornan and his wife Rosanne.
They are fighting the insurance company-like mentality that treats a man who went to war with cancer like a mooch trying to max out the system.
Perhaps Veterans Affairs is worried about setting a precedent where other soldiers with cancer might try to seek a disability pension, too.
I fail to see the problem.
Nickel-and-diming a veteran on a disability pension is disgraceful.
What sort of moral integrity do we have as a nation if we do not care for our wounded, no matter what form those injuries come, when those wounds were sustained serving our interests?
Stand up for your veterans, Canada. They protected you, now it is your turn to protect them.
— Stephenson will appear regularly on Sun News Network
Article ID# 3008997