A veteran and his wife who say they feel forgotten by the federal government are receiving much-needed assistance from a fellow veteran.

Bill MacKay, a 20-year veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces, is in the middle of an ongoing dispute with the government over a disability benefit.

VETS Canada president and fellow veteran Jim Lowther heard of MacKay’s story and decided to help, raising $1,800 for MacKay’s medication, food and other needs.

“It makes a difference. It really does. This is like winning the lottery to me,” says MacKay

MacKay spent nearly 20 years in the Canadian navy. In recent years, the 60-year-old man and his wife Bonny have struggled to make ends meet on his military pension. MacKay is still waiting for Veterans Affairs to recognize a neck injury he says he sustained during his time in the military as a disability.

Their story was heard by Lowther, who served for 15 years and did multiple tours.

“I was basically in my basement, you know, not doing well. I decided to, thanks to my wife and my psychiatrist, to get out and volunteer in my community,” says Lowther. “I ran into a homeless veteran and he pointed out three other homeless veterans.” 

That's how his not-for-profit organization VETS Canada was born. They have helped over 2,000 veterans get back on their feet across the country.

VETS Canada already gave the MacKays emergency help for money, groceries and basic needs, but MacKay says the extra money will dramatically change their holiday season.

“I'm actually smiling for the first time in a long time, and it's genuine,” Bonny MacKay says. “We're having a Christmas turkey. Most people take that for granted. We had Kraft Dinner for Thanksgiving.”

VETS Canada is hoping to raise even more before Christmas Day through a GoFundMe page for improvements to the MacKays' trailer.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Laura Brown.