The focus: parliamentary review of the New Veterans Charter
The Honourable Julian Fantino, PC, MP
Minister of Veterans Affairs
66 Slater Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0P4
On 10 May 2014 the Royal Canadian Legion hosted the semi-annual Veterans Consultation Group meeting comprising of 20 Veterans organizations. The focus of the discussion was on the parliamentary review of the New Veterans Charter and our previous 30 October 2013 letter which presented the group’s collective agreement on issues with the New Veterans Charter.
During the course of the meeting, the group discussed and approved a name change to better reflect the diverse nature of the veteran’s organizations; the new name is the Veterans Consultation Assembly. The Assembly asked me to write on their behalf to articulate their consensus on Veterans priorities to the government.
Firstly, the Assembly agreed that it is time for this Government to act quickly to assist our veterans and their families. Veterans groups, the Veteran’s Ombudsman, the Parliamentary Committee on Veterans Affairs and the New Veterans Charter Advisory Group have all stated since 2006 that the Government must resolve, as a matter of priority, the key financial deficiencies of the New Veterans Charter. Within this context the Assembly continues to assess the top three issues requiring immediate resolution by the government are:
- The Earning Loss Benefit (ELB) must be improved to provide 100% of pre-release income, continue for life and include increases for projected career earnings for a Canadian Armed Forces member;
- The maximum disability award must be increased consistent with what is provided to injured civilian workers who received general damages in law court; and
- The current inequity with regards to ELB for Class A and Class B (less than 180 days) Reservists for service attributed injuries must cease.
It is time to take action on these three key issues. At the same time, we call upon the government to review the following issues in addition the above:
- the unduly restrictive application of the Permanent Impairment Allowance (PIA) provisions of the New Veterans Charter, which unreasonably constrains the number of disabled veterans who are able to qualify for appropriate levels of entitlement for this important allowance;
- The Exceptional Incapacity Allowance (EIA) concept founded under the Pension Act should be incorporated in the New Veterans Charter. This allowance has traditionally addressed the impact of the disabilities suffered by 100% veteran pensioners with reference to their difficulty to cope with their overall capacity. The introduction of EIA to the New Veterans Charter would augment the limitations of the Permanent Impairment Allowance, particularly in the circumstance where a seriously disabled veteran confronts the ravages of age;
- In order to recognize the care giving requirements that many disabled veterans confront to cope with their incapacities, the Attendance Allowance provisions of the Pension Act should be added to the New Veterans Charter in recognition of the financial costs faced by many families in this context; and
- The New Veterans Charter should acknowledge that veterans with dependants should receive a higher level of compensation either through the augmentation of the Lump Sum Disability Award or an increase in Earnings Loss Benefit for such veterans and their families.
We note that with the recent release of the 14 recommendations made by the Parliamentary Committee on Veterans Affairs, the basis of the points raised above are also part of or similar to the recommendations. The Assembly believes that it is time for VAC to take proactive measures and implement remedial legislation to address these well-established concerns and for the Government of Canada to live up to its obligation under the social covenant to Canada’s veterans and their families.
We trust that you will receive our priorities and recommendations favourably as we continue to provide substantive consultation on Veterans issues.
On behalf of the Veterans Consultation Assembly
The Royal Canadian Legion