MOD Squad move if needed.
Joseph (Joe) Hawco is frustrated his dad doesn't qualify to live at the Department of Veterans Affairs' Caribou Pavilion in St. John's. - Photo by Steve Bartlett/The Telegram
'He deserves to die with some dignity'
Veteran not eligible for DVA Pavilion; concerns raised program being phased out
Joseph (Joe) Hawco may have served his country, but if you ask his son, Canada isn't doing much in return.
Hawco, 74, was a member of the Canadian Forces from '55 to '72 and has developed dementia in recent years.
His family is trying to get him into the Department of Veterans Affairs' Caribou Pavilion in St. John's.
They've discovered he doesn't qualify because he didn't serve in one of the World Wars or the Korean War.
"I'm embarrassed about the way he is being treated," says Hawco's son, Wayne. "I'm appalled by the way he's being treated. I think he deserves to die with some dignity. He served his country with dignity, integrity, respect, and for a man to get sick after all these years and not to have any help from the federal government and Department of National Defence, or anybody for that matter ... he's caught in the cracks."
Joe - who spent time in Germany, did two tours in Cyprus and reached the rank of corporal during his military career - has been at the Waterford Hospital for five weeks.
He had lived in a seniors' home with his wife until March, when his illness reached the point he could no longer stay there and he was moved to St. Luke's Home.
The decorated veteran and once-active Legionnaire was later sent to the Waterford for a two-week assessment. He's been there ever since.
Wayne says his dad has now gone into a major depression.
The Caribou Pavilion is a more appropriate place, the concerned son says, noting the facility treats dementia patients, has a first-class staff and would allow his father to be around peers.
"I want to see him respected in the final years of his life, not lying in bed at the Waterford Hospital because they got nowhere else to put him."
Wayne has contacted numerous government departments and other agencies about getting his dad into the pavilion.
Wayne says the legislation has to change for anything to happen.
He's working with St. John's East MP Jack Harris on the matter.
NDP lobbying for changes
Harris, an NDP member, says his party thinks all veterans should be treated equally.
He says his colleagues have raised the issue in the past and he intends to lobby on Hawco's behalf in the coming weeks.
"It seems like Veterans Affairs doesn't want to continue that service for all veterans," Harris says.
"It certainly seems that they would prefer to try to phase this out and not have the DVA Pavilion as the eligible people die off."
Carlos Lourenso is director of continuing-care programs with the Department of Veterans Affairs.
He wasn't able to specifically speak about Hawco's situation, but he explained DVA Pavilions - or contract beds, as he calls them - were set up decades ago when there were few options in Canadian communities for veterans requiring chronic care.
Different benefits for Canadian Forces veterans
He says veterans who served after the Korean conflict - who he terms Canadian Forces veterans - have different benefits available, if their eligibility is determined through an application for a disability pension.
If their need for long-term care is linked to military service, Lourenso says, they could be eligible for supportive care in a nursing home.
"We can and do support CF veterans with their full costs of care in a broad range of community facilities."
Lourenso says the department is not engaged in expanding eligibility for Pavilion beds to Canadian Forces veterans.
Asked if the program is being phased out, he says that as the number of World War veterans decreases, if there isn't a demand, the "department will need to transition with respect to those beds."
He indicates the department will continue its full support of veterans requiring beds as a result of military service.
That's all little comfort to Wayne, who says his dad was turned down for disability benefits in 2008.
He says an appeal requires his father's signature and he is facing power of attorney hurdles in his efforts to try again.
Wayne is at a standstill about what to do next.
"What I am very, for want a better word, ticked off about is that he's not dying with any dignity. It's like the government has just shut him out."email@example.com