N.B. veteran wins fight for Agent Orange compensation
Published Friday, December 12, 2014 7:03PM AST
Last Updated Friday, December 12, 2014 7:15PM AST
For nearly a decade, veteran Basil McAllister has fought for compensation after claims that the spraying of Agent Orange negatively affected his health. He appeared before several boards and represented himself in court, only to be denied each time, until now.
The deadly dioxin Agent Orange was sprayed at CFB Gagetown during the 1960s while McAllister worked on the base.
Since then, the Burton, N.B. resident says he had skin cancer and prostate cancer, which has spread to his bones.
A Type 2 Diabetic, he also needs to take four needles a day.
In 2007, McAllister, his wife, and one of their children received a one time, lump sum of $20,000 in Agent Orange damages. However, McAllister says he worked shoulder-to-shoulder with other veterans who were receiving monthly payments in damages.
“There’s no difference, if we're both working in the same place and get hurt by the same thing, there is no difference,” says McAllister.
After the fifth denial, McAllister decided to take the case to court. He couldn’t afford a lawyer, so he defended himself.
Officials with the federal government said that in order to receive a pension for Agent Orange compensation, a claimant must prove there was direct exposure to the chemical.
In court, Veterans Affairs argued that McAllister’s direct exposure evidence was insufficient and not credible, adding that decisions made about other pensions were irrelevant to his case.
But in June 2013, federal judge Cecily Strickland ruled the federal government did not prove there was never any spraying of Agent Orange in training areas and agreed to reconsider his compensation.
While the judge ruled in McAllister’s favour, she did not have the authority to grant compensation. Her decision meant the case would go back to a new board for consideration.
McAllister represented himself again in July. This time, the Veterans Review and Appeal Board agreed, awarding him compensation.
“I don’t think we could believe it,” says McAllister’s wife, Betty. “We never got anything like that before. Everything we got was just denial, denial, denial.”
The judgment said the court understood McAllister's frustrations after all these years. While a monthly disability pension has been granted, an apology has not.
“It would be nice if after 10 years someone said listen, we made a mistake,” says McAllister.
It's still unknown how much money McAllister will be receiving in compensation, but says he expects to find out in a few months.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Nick Moore.