Day: May 16, 2020

Federal government tosses dozens of claims from vets who died without survivors

It wasn’t the phone call Robert Nordlund’s family had been expecting but one that dozens of other families across the country receive each year: Veterans Affairs Canada was tossing the deceased Mountie’s application for disability benefits because he didn’t have a surviving spouse or dependant child.

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Federal government tosses dozens of claims from vets who died without survivors

OTTAWA — It wasn’t the phone call Robert Nordlund’s family had been expecting but one that dozens of other families across the country receive each year: Veterans Affairs Canada was tossing the deceased Mountie’s application for disability benefits because he didn’t have a surviving spouse or dependant child.

That was despite the fact that his application had sat in a backlog for two years, during which time both he and his wife died.

Nordlund had spent 36 years in uniform before retiring about nine years ago as a sergeant in the RCMP. A former rugby player for Team Canada in the 1970s, he was a tough, quiet Mountie who had loved nothing more than being in his cruiser patrolling the roads of British Columbia.

Following his retirement, however, Nordlund had started to experience mood swings and depression. There was also growing hip pain, which doctors later traced to either one of the two car accidents he’d had as a Mountie or from sitting in his car for years with a holstered gun.

“He was not sort of the type to make (disability) claims,” Scott Nordlund recalls of his father. “He was kind of a tough old guy. So we always thought his hip was hurting but it got really evident about five years ago and he was like: ‘Oh, it’s fine. Don’t worry about it.’”

Nordlund did eventually submit a claim to Veterans Affairs Canada for assistance and compensation for post-traumatic stress disorder, which was approved. Then, more than two years ago, he submitted a claim for the hip.

And then he waited. And waited.

When Nordlund died of lung cancer in November at the age of 72, his application was still waiting to be assessed by Veterans Affairs. Initially, his family was told that it would continue to be processed. But then came the call on April 21: the claim was being tossed out.

“When my sister got the phone call, she said: ‘I guess they were just waiting for him to die off before they put the claim through,’” Scott Nordlund says. “It’s a unique situation obviously, but at the same time, you just have to wonder.”

Veterans Affairs would not comment on Nordlund’s specific case, citing privacy laws.

However, it confirmed that 95 applications for disability benefits were withdrawn in the last fiscal year with similar circumstances to Nordlund’s claim: the military veteran or retired RCMP officer had died without an eligible surviving spouse or dependant child.

“If a veteran or RCMP member with an eligible survivor or dependant applied before their death, the application would continue and a decision would be rendered,” Veterans Affairs spokesman Marc Lescoutre said in an email.

“If the applicant dies before a decision is made and there is no eligible survivor or dependant, the estate is not entitled to be paid and VAC stops processing the application.”

The rule, which Lescoutre said is contained in legislation, applies even if the application has been sitting in the queue for longer than 16 weeks, which is the standard by which Veterans Affairs is supposed to complete 80 per cent of all applications.

Forty-one of the 95 applications that were withdrawn last year had been waiting more than 16 weeks to be processed. The department had a total backlog of 44,000 applications for disability benefits at the end of September, a number that has continued to increase every year.

Scott Nordlund questions why claims that have been waiting years to be processed are treated the same as those only recently submitted.

“Obviously it makes sense if the person is on their death bed and they decide to put a claim in at the last second,” he says. “But not if the person has been sitting in the queue for X number of years, right?

“When my dad put the claim in, he had stage 1 cancer. So between the claim and his death obviously from cancer, you had a full cancer illness that went through its entire course before they even touched (the application) and it was still in the queue. So it’s like, ‘Come on, give me a break.’”

The fact that his mother Elizabeth Nordlund was alive when his father initially applied for compensation for his bad hip also raises questions and concerns. She died of cancer in July.

“So if she was still alive and had held on, they still would have processed that claim,” says Scott Nordlund. “So it’s seems a little bit arbitrary.”

Lescoutre said when the department learns a veteran is facing medical risks, their claim can be fast-tracked.

Scott Nordlund, who can appreciate the difficult task Veterans Affairs staff face in assessing claims, says his family did not expect much money from his father’s claim for a bad hip. Perhaps enough to help with the funeral costs. But at this point, it’s a matter of principle.

“Our situation is a little bit easier where it wasn’t going to be probably a significant amount of money,” he says. “I feel more bad for a situation where the person dies suddenly and their kids just turned 18 and entered university and are no longer a dependant.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 16, 2020.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

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AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EDT

Democrats push new $3T coronavirus relief bill through House

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats powered a massive $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill through the House on Friday, an election-year measure designed to brace a U.S. economy in free fall and a health care system struggling to contain a pandemic still pummeling the country.

The 208-199 vote, with all but one Republican opposed, advances what boils down to a campaign-season display of Democratic economic and health-care priorities. It has no chance of becoming law as written, but will likely spark difficult negotiations with the White House and Senate Republicans. Any product would probably be the last major COVID-19 response bill before November’s presidential and congressional elections.

The enormous Democratic measure would cost more than the prior four coronavirus bills combined. It would deliver almost $1 trillion for state and local governments, another round of $1,200 direct payments to individuals and help for the unemployed, renters and homeowners, college debt holders and the struggling Postal Service.

“Not to act now is not only irresponsible in a humanitarian way, it is irresponsible because it’s only going to cost more,” warned House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. “More in terms of lives, livelihood, cost to the budget, cost to our democracy.”

Republicans mocked the bill as a bloated Democratic wish-list that was dead on arrival in the GOP-led Senate and, for good measure, faced a White House veto threat. Party leaders say they want to assess how $3 trillion approved earlier is working and see if some states’ partial business reopenings would spark an economic revival that would ease the need for more safety net programs.


Pandemic planning becomes political weapon as deaths mount

WASHINGTON (AP) — For the first three years of his presidency, Donald Trump did not publicly utter the words “pandemic” or “preparedness.” Not in speeches, rallies or his many news conferences, planned and impromptu.

But on Friday, the White House pointed to extensive planning exercises the administration conducted and reports it wrote warning of the threat in 2018.

Still, Trump has repeatedly said that the blame for the federal government having inadequate stockpiles of crucial supplies and machines needed to cope with an outbreak lay with his predecessor, Barack Obama.

Obama has been a persistent foil for Trump on a number of issues, but in the case of planning for the pandemic he has devoted little attention to the 69-page “playbook” from the Obama administration about the threat of a viral outbreak that might include Ebola or an airborne respiratory illness like coronavirus. And the Obama administration could draw from a similar document written during the administration of George W. Bush in 2006.

The politics of pandemic planning have gotten increasingly pitched as the COVID-19 death toll continues to mount in the United States.


Most US states fall short of recommended testing levels

WASHINGTON (AP) — As businesses reopened Friday in more of the U.S., an overwhelming majority of states still fall short of the COVID-19 testing levels that public health experts say are necessary to safely ease lockdowns and avoid another deadly wave of outbreaks, according to an Associated Press analysis.

Rapid, widespread testing is considered essential to tracking and containing the coronavirus. But 41 of the nation’s 50 states fail to test widely enough to drive their infections below a key benchmark, according to an AP analysis of metrics developed by Harvard’s Global Health Institute.

Among the states falling short are Texas and Georgia, which recently moved aggressively to reopen stores, malls, barbershops and other businesses.

Also Friday, Democrats approved a massive $3 trillion coronavirus response bill in the House over Republican opposition. It aims aims to prop up a U.S. economy in free fall and a health care system overwhelmed by a pandemic. But the measure has no chance of passing the GOP-controlled Senate and has already drawn a White House veto threat.

As health authorities expand testing to more people, the number of positive results should shrink compared with the total number of people tested. The World Health Organization and other health researchers have said a percentage above 10% indicates inadequate testing. South Korea, a country praised for its rapid response, quickly pushed its positive cases to below 3%.


What you need to know today about the virus outbreak

Defying a wave of layoffs that has sent the U.S. job market into its worst catastrophe on record, at least one major industry is making a comeback. Tens of thousands of auto workers are returning to factories that have been shuttered since mid-March because of fears of spreading the coronavirus.

The auto industry is among the first major sectors of the economy to restart its engine.

About 133,000 U.S. workers — just over half of the industry’s workforce before the pandemic — are expected to pour back into assembly plants that will open in the coming week, according to estimates by The Associated Press. A staggering 36 million people have now sought jobless aid in just the two months since the virus first forced businesses to close and shrink their work forces.

Here are some of AP’s top stories Friday on the world’s coronavirus pandemic. Follow for updates through the day and for stories explaining some of its complexities.



Pandemic claims another retailer: 118-year-old J.C. Penney

NEW YORK (AP) — The coronavirus pandemic has pushed the storied but troubled department store chain J.C. Penney into Chapter 11 bankruptcy. It is the fourth major retailer to meet that fate.

As part of its reorganization, the 118-year-old company said late Friday it will be shuttering some stores. It said the stores will close in phases throughout the Chapter 11 process and details of the first phase will be disclosed in the coming weeks.

Penney is the biggest retailer to file for bankruptcy reorganization since the pandemic and joins luxury department store chain Neiman Marcus, J.Crew and Stage Stores. Plenty of other retailers are expected to follow as business shutdowns across the country have evaporated sales. In fact, U.S. retail sales tumbled by a record 16.4% from March to April.

“The coronavirus pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for our families, our loved ones, our communities, and our country,” said Penney’s CEO Jill Soltau in a statement. “As a result, the American retail industry has experienced a profoundly different new reality, requiring J.C. Penney to make difficult decisions in running our business to protect the safety of our associates and customers and the future of our company. “

Many experts are skeptical about Penney’s survival even as it sheds its debt and shrinks the number of its stores. Its fashion and home offerings haven’t stood out for years. And moreover, its middle-to-low income customers have been the hardest hit by massive layoffs during the pandemic. Many of them will likely shop more at discounters — if they shop at all, analysts say.


Coronavirus spreads in Yemen with health system in shambles

CAIRO (AP) — Hundreds of people in Aden, southern Yemen’s main city, have died in the past week with symptoms of what appears to be the coronavirus, local health officials said in interviews with The Associated Press.

The officials fear the situation is only going to get worse: Yemen has little capacity to test those suspected of having the virus and a 5-year-long civil war has left the health system in shambles.

One gravedigger in Aden told AP he’d never seen such a constant flow of dead — even in a city that has seen multiple bouts of bloody street battles during the civil war.

Officially, the number of coronavirus virus cases in Yemen is low — 106 in the southern region, with 15 deaths. Authorities in the Houthi rebel-controlled north announced their first case on May 5 and said only two people had infections, one of whom — a Somali migrant — died.

But doctors say the Houthis are covering up an increasing number of cases to protect their economy and troops. And the surge in deaths in Aden — more than 500 in just the past week, according to the city registrar — has raised the nightmare scenario that the virus is spreading swiftly in a country with almost no capacity to resist it.


Poll: US believers see message of change from God in virus

NEW YORK (AP) — The coronavirus has prompted almost two-thirds of American believers of all faiths to feel that God is telling humanity to change how it lives, a new poll finds.

While the virus rattles the globe, causing economic hardship for millions and killing more than 80,000 Americans, the findings of the poll by the University of Chicago Divinity School and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research indicate that people may also be searching for deeper meaning in the devastating outbreak.

Even some who don’t affiliate with organized religion, such as Lance Dejesus of Dallastown, Pa., saw a possible bigger message in the virus.

“It could be a sign, like ‘hey, get your act together’ – I don’t know,” said Dejesus, 52, who said he believes in God but doesn’t consider himself religious. “It just seems like everything was going in an OK direction and all of a sudden you get this coronavirus thing that happens, pops out of nowhere.”

The poll found that 31% of Americans who believe in God feel strongly that the virus is a sign of God telling humanity to change, with the same number feeling that somewhat. Evangelical Protestants are more likely than others to believe that strongly, at 43%, compared with 28% of Catholics and mainline Protestants.


NOT REAL NEWS: A look at what didn’t happen this week

A roundup of some of the most popular but completely untrue stories and visuals of the week. None of these are legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. The Associated Press checked them out. Here are the facts:


CLAIM: Nancy Pelosi is trying to pass a law called HR6666 which would allow people to come into your home and take your family members for quarantine.

THE FACTS: House bill 6666, the COVID-19 Testing, Reaching, And Contacting Everyone (TRACE) Act, clearly states that individuals who test positive during testing for COVID-19 would quarantine at their residences. Following the introduction of the bill May 1, social media users began misrepresenting components of the bill online. The text posts shared thousands of times across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter said that the bill would remove family members from households and force them to quarantine. “Nancy Pelosi is trying to pass a law called HR6666. If this passes, strangers can come into your house and take (by force if needed) your family members including your children to a quarantined area,” states one widely shared post on Facebook. In reality, the House bill would give $100 billion to local organizations, such as community health centres or nonprofits, to help with testing and contact tracing by funding door-to-door outreach, the purchase of testing supplies and the hiring and training of people to run mobile testing sites. Preference would be given to hot spots and medically underserved communities. The bill states that grants will be awarded for “diagnostic testing for COVID-19, to trace and monitor the contacts of infected individuals and to support the quarantine of such contacts, through mobile health units and as necessary, testing individuals and providing individuals with services related to testing and quarantine at their residences.” U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, a Democrat from Illinois who introduced the bill, said on his website that the bill would not require that anyone be tested for the coronavirus and would not force anyone to quarantine. “I’ve seen these alarming posts as well, but I can assure you that they are completely false,” he says on his website. “This bill does not authorize anyone to enter your home, for whatever reason, without your permission, nor does it allow the government to remove anyone from your home because of the coronavirus.” Posts online expressed outrage and suggested that the bill would allow the government to enter homes and do as they pleased. The post is part of a common misleading theme emerging on social media around government efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus. As of Friday, the bill was in the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.



Lawyer: Security video in Arbery case may show water breaks

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — A young black man filmed by a security camera walking through a home under construction in December and in February may have stopped at the site for a drink of water, according to an attorney for the homeowner thrust into the investigation of the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery.

Arbery was killed Feb. 23 in a pursuit by a white father and son who armed themselves after the 25-year-old black man ran past their yard just outside the port city of Brunswick. Right before the chase, Arbery was recorded inside an open-framed home being built on the same street.

Gregory McMichael, 64, and Travis McMichael, 34, have been jailed on murder charges since May 7. The elder McMichael told police he suspected Arbery was responsible for recent break-ins in the neighbourhood. He also said Arbery attacked his son before he was shot.

Arbery’s mother has said she believes her son was merely out jogging.

On Friday, an attorney for the owner of the house under construction released three security camera videos taken Dec. 17, more than two months before the shooting. They show a black man in a T-shirt and shorts at the site. In the final clip, he walks a few steps toward the road, then starts running at a jogger’s pace.


Historically black colleges work to help students amid virus

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Ja’nayla Johnson worked hard in high school with the dream of being the first in her family to graduate from college, but she started to doubt herself as several colleges rejected her. Then Bennett, a small historically black women’s college in North Carolina, saw Johnson’s potential and offered her a full scholarship.

“Bennett means everything to me,” Johnson said. When the campus announced it was shutting down because of the coronavirus, “I was scared out of my mind.”

The sophomore said she has suffered from depression that forced her to withdraw for a semester last year and didn’t think returning home to California would be good for her mental health. She also didn’t think she would be able to continue her studies back home, where she would feel obligated to care for younger siblings.

Bennett staff provided a house for Johnson and another student along with money for necessities. The school of 268 students helped Johnson, and others like her, despite its somewhat shaky financial condition and concerns that COVID-19 could make things worse.

It is a perilous time for the nation’s historically black colleges and universities, which have long struggled with less funding and smaller endowments than their predominantly white peers and are now dealing with the financial challenges of the coronavirus. HBCUs have the added challenge of educating a large population of low-income and first-generation students who now need more help than ever. Those students will get a morale boost on Saturday as President Barack Obama delivers a commencement speech for HBCU graduates amid an uncertain future for their schools.

The Associated Press

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Another million-dollar lawsuit filed against Ontario’s worst-hit nursing home for alleged neglect

A second family has filed a lawsuit against Ontario’s worst-hit nursing home for alleged negligence and failing to protect residents from COVID-19.

The second lawsuit was filed at the Ontario Superior Court on Friday against Southbridge Care Homes and its 294-bed Orchard Villa long-term care and retirement home, where the novel coronavirus infected at least 96 staff and 225 residents and killed at least 74 people.

In the 10-page statement of claim, obtained by CTV News Toronto, June Morrison, the daughter of former resident George Morrison, alleges that his death occurred as a “direct result” of negligence and breach of contract.

“Dad and I had a very strong bond and love for one another very early on. As a wee lass and his only daughter, he was my handsome father and my hero,” June Morrison told CTV News Toronto in a statement on Friday. 

“We’ve worked through the challenges of ageing with Alzheimer’s and dementia; with me becoming very protective of my dad.

“I believed he would have made it to his 96th birthday in September … Instead, he suffered for several weeks in ways that upset me, and I promised him on his deathbed that I would right the wrongs for him. I would get justice for him.”

The claim makes a series of allegations, including that the Pickering, Ont. home failed to follow proper procedures to protect residents, failed to properly care for George Morrison and failed to communicate with his family about his condition. 

Much of the allegations against the Pickering, Ont. home are similar to those in the first lawsuit filed on Monday by the family of 86-year-old Paul Parkes, who died at Orchard Villa on April 15.

Toronto law firm Howie, Sacks and Henry LLP filed both lawsuits on behalf of the families. The first one is seeking more than $1.5 million in damages, while the second is seeking $1 million in damages. 

“I think at the front of this we have a broken system in long-term care that long proceeded COVID-19 that is being absolutely broken by this pandemic,” the firm’s lawyer Melissa Miller told CTV News Toronto earlier this week.

Orchard Villa

“These homes had an obligation within the legislation and the regulations to have in place proper protocols for emergency situations and outbreaks and it just doesn’t look like that was done.”

Orchard Villa’s Executive Director Jason Gay responded to CTV News Toronto request for comment Friday on the allegations, which have not been proven in court.

“Our sincere condolences are with Mr. Morrison’s family at this very difficult time. We will respond to this claim in due course through the legal process,” he said. “Our focus continues to be on the care, health and safety of our residents during this unprecedented time.”

What happened to George Morrison?

George Morrison was a resident at the home since October 2017. The 95-year-old suffered from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, as well as dementia.

On March 14, the claim alleges that the home announced it was going into lockdown and no visitors were allowed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The claim alleges that June Morrison learned that there was an actual COVID-19 outbreak at the home on April 18 through the media. 

“June was able to speak with her father on the telephone after that. June became aware on April 23, 2020 that her father’s condition was deteriorating and he was showing symptoms of COVID-19,” the claim states.

“George was transferred to hospital on April 27, 2020. He was confirmed positive for COVID-19 on April 29, 2020. George passed away in the hospital due to COVID-19 on May 3, 2020.”

The claim alleges that the home failed to protect George Morrison and the other residents at the home due to “inadequate preventative and response measures to the COVID-19 outbreak.”

“As a result of the defendants’ negligence, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty, George contracted COVID-19,” the claim alleges.

Morrison family

“June sustained a loss of guidance, care and companionship from George that she might reasonably have expected to receive from him had he not contracted COVID-19 and died.”

The claim alleges that the home failed to identify that George Morrison was infected with COVID-19 within a “reasonable time” and that they failed to “properly treat” him once infected.

The claim further alleges that the home failed to “adequately communicate” with the family about George Morrison’s condition when he first started showing symptoms and when he tested positive. 

“They failed to perform regular assessments to ensure that any changes in George’s condition were observed, recorded, reported to other staff/supervisors and/or the physician in charge,” the claim alleges.

“They failed to ensure that legislated requirements were followed [and] they failed to take reasonable care to ensure the safety of George under their custody and supervision.

The claim alleges that the home failed to have “due concern” for the physical and psychological “condition and safety” of the residents, including George Morrison.

“They failed to have a proper system or any system in place to ensure that George would be safe while at the home,” the lawsuit alleges.

“They neglected George … In the treatment, care and supervision of George, they fell below the reasonable standard of care required in the circumstances, including during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

How the virus allegedly spread at the home

The allegations in the claim extend to how Orchard Villa responded to the outbreak and the care of residents as a whole at the facility.

According to the claim, the home allegedly failed to hire “sufficient” staff to take care of residents, failed to provide proper training and supervision for employees, and failed to enforce a code of conduct.

It further alleges the home failed to implement an “adequate COVID-19 response plan,” failed to communicate with families regarding presumptive positive cases of the virus and failed to conduct proper visitor screening.

Orchard Villa

“They failed to put into a place an adequate visitor policy, or have a visitor policy at all, within a reasonable timeframe,” the legal document alleges.

“They failed to implement adequate sanitary measures to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19 between the staff and the residents of the home.”

The claim also alleges that the home did not “adequately supply” or use personal protective equipment (PPE) for visitors, residents and staff and permitted infected visitors and staff to enter the home.

“They knew or ought to have known that the failure to adequately supply or use PPE for visitors, residents and staff would be a danger to the residents,” the claim states.

In addition, the lawsuit claims that the homes failed to implement “adequate physical distancing and isolation measures within a reasonable time frame” and failed to “properly identify and isolate infected residents.”

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Human hand with killing knife silhouette in shadow on bloody cement wall background.

Human hand with killing knife silhouette in shadow on bloody cement wall background.
KABUL — An Afghan man cut off his wife’s nose with a kitchen knife after she asked for a divorce, officials said on Friday, amid a surge in domestic violence triggered by the coronavirus lockdown. Read More

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