“It’s emotional rape.” Nova Scotia women fight uphill battle with Veterans Affairs

HALIFAX – Sometimes, Natasha Mohr can’t believe it’s been seven years since her husband Rick, a sailor in the Canadian Navy, told her about his worsening headaches.

“Telling me, you know, my head is fuzzy. I just can’t get rid of this headache. He would say, ‘I have to have more Tylenol, I need Advil. Nothing is helping.'”

The next day, a biopsy revealed a tumor, roughly the size of a large lemon.

Rick Mohr died within months. He was 42.

Natasha blames exposure to chemicals and solvents on board Navy ships, an opinion shared by a cancer specialist, who reported to Veterans Affairs it’s “my belief that occupational exposures are likely linked to this young man’s diagnosis of brain tumor.”

“And yet, here I am having to practically beg them to acknowledge it. It’s emotional rape, it really is,” said Mohr, who recently re-married.

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In denying her compensation claim, the Veteran Review and Appeal Board rejected the specialist, in favour of the base surgeon, who concluded there was “no evidence of prior conditions or service-related employment/exposure…” that might have caused his death.

Natasha is not alone in feeling betrayed.

Natasha Mohr has been fighting Veterans Affairs for compensation after her husband’s death for years. Grey Butler/Global News

Dawn Collins is also fighting Veterans Affairs for compensation.

She’s convinced her husband Wayne’s exposure to toxic chemicals in the engine room of navy ships in the 1960’s caused the rare neurological disorder that killed him in 2012.

In debt from paying his medical bills, she’s now preparing to sell their home.

“I just find it’s too expensive. I didn’t want to give my house up, I love it here,” she said.

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“Since Wayne passed away, I went from 116 pounds, down to 92. I believe it was caused by all the stress.”

She’s also suffered a minor heart attack.

Like Natasha Mohr, Dawn Collins cites the mandate of the Appeal Board, which is instructed by law to give veterans and their families the benefit of the doubt in disability claims, even if there is no definite proof.

But, former Board member Harold LeDuc, who says he was forced out for being too generous, claims staff and management routinely interfere with the members’ decisions.

“The staff train the members, and they train you, typically, to write denial decisions,” LeDuc said.

The last thing the government needs during an election campaign is more criticism of the way it treats veterans and their families.  Shortly after Global News interviewed the women, they were contacted by an official with the veterans affairs ministers office, promising to listen to their complaints.

Putting skepticism aside isn’t easy, though.

“I wanna have an open mind and think that they are gonna consider our situation, mine and Wayne’s,” said Dawn Collins.

Natasha Mohr is more blunt.

“I don’t trust them. I don’t trust any of them.”

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An official with the appeal board insists its’ goal is fairness, adding those whose cases are rejected have other options of appeal through the board, or, the courts.

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