The Federal Government has checked off a few more priorities from the Prime Minister’s mandate letter to Veterans Affairs Canada, and some progress has been made. Since elected the Government has met 8 ½ items on the Prime Minister’s mandate letter, with the promise of new supports for service delivery, transition, families and mental health. However, it’s important to note that of those 8 ½ items, some only partially met what was recommended by the Advisory Groups, and the latest budget items will not be implemented until April 2018. Furthermore, 7 items from the mandate letter still remain unmet.
More importantly, the critical recommendation for lifelong financial security for ill and injured Veterans, an item at the top of the PM’s mandate letter and a key plank in the government’s election campaign, was only mentioned in the budget, with no detail, no timelines, and no explanation of how they would fulfill this commitment to Veterans. This is one of the top issues Veterans have been demanding, and the one the Legion most wanted to see delivered in this budget.
There continues to be critical gaps in care and benefits for Veterans that must be addressed. While Budget 2017 was a step forward, there is still much work to be done.
Work with the Minister of National Defence to reduce complexity, overhaul service delivery, and strengthen partnerships between Veterans Affairs and National Defence.
- Recommendation by the Advisory Group for Veteran and Family ID cards to streamline services was not included in the Budget
- Recommendation by the Advisory Group for an outreach and communication strategy to ensure all Veterans and families receive messaging about available supports and services was not included in the Budget
Re-establish lifelong pensions as an option for our injured Veterans, and increase the value of the disability award, while ensuring that every injured Veteran has access to financial advice and support so that they can determine the form of compensation that works best for them and their families.
- Budget 2017 offered vague promises and no clarity on how the government will deliver lifelong financial security for our Veterans and their families.
- Rather than address this issue head on, the Federal Budget offered a vague promise to “move forward with its plan to fulfill its commitment to re-establish lifelong pensions as an option for injured veterans.” Yet the next line describes this option as nothing more than “…to receive their Disability Award through a monthly payment for life, rather than in a one-time payment.” This is NOT what the Veteran’s community has been asking for! Receiving that payment over a lifetime does not equate to ‘lifelong financial security’.
Expand access to the Permanent Impairment Allowance (PIA) to better support Veterans who have had their career options limited by a service-related illness or injury.
- The PIA will be changed to the Career Impact Allowance (CIA) on April 1, 2017, but the Government still has not released details on what those changes will involve.
- Methods have not yet been identified to determine the “loss of career progression”
- The Advisory Group recommended the Earning Loss Benefit and the CIA be consolidated to reflect what the Veteran would have earned and provide that for life, with the surviving spouse entitled to receive 70%, parallel to what is offered through the CFSA Survivor benefit.
Provide injured Veterans with 90 percent of their pre-release salary, and index this benefit so that it keeps pace with inflation.
- The Advisory Group recommended the Earning Loss Benefit be provided for life, with the surviving spouse entitled to receive 70%, parallel to what is offered through the CFSA Survivor benefit.
Create a new Veterans Education Benefit that will provide full support for the costs of up to four years of college, university, or technical education for Canadian Forces Veterans after completion of service.
- The Advisory Group recommended the Veterans Education Benefit be extended to family members.
Improve career and vocational assistance for Veterans through ensuring that job opportunities for returning Veterans are included in Community Benefits Agreements for new federally-funded infrastructure projects.
Deliver a higher standard of service and care, and ensure that a “one Veteran, one standard” approach is upheld.
Re-open the nine Veterans Affairs service offices recently closed, hire more service delivery staff, and fully implement all of the Auditor General’s recommendations on enhancing mental health service delivery to Veterans.
Create two new centres of excellence in Veterans’ care, including one with a specialization in mental health, post-traumatic stress disorder and related issues for both Veterans and first responders.
- Only one Centre of Excellence was announced in Budget 2017. focused on mental health. The Centre does not include an in-patient / out-patient component nor is there any mention of services or mental health training for family members, as recommended by the Advisory Group.
Provide greater education, counselling, and training for families who are providing care and support to Veterans living with physical and/or mental health issues as a result of their service.
End the time limit for surviving spouses to apply for vocational rehabilitation and assistance services.
- Budget 2017 promises a Caregiver Recognition Benefit which would replace the Family Caregiver Relief Benefit. However, the Relief Benefit is still needed, and the Budget did not include the recommended spousal caregiver income replacement or attendance allowance.
Increase the Veteran survivor’s pension amount from 50 percent to 70 percent.
Eliminate the “marriage after 60” clawback clause, so that surviving spouses of Veterans receive appropriate pension and health benefits.
Double the funding to the Last Post Fund to ensure that all Veterans receive a dignified burial.
Work with the Minister of National Defence to develop a suicide prevention strategy for Canadian Armed Forces personnel and Veterans.
Of additional concern with the 2017 Budget is the reduction of funding for replacing and maintaining Canada’s aging military equipment for the Canadian Armed Forces. Military equipment acquisition and maintenance is essential to supporting the operational capability, training and safety of Canada’s military personnel. The Legion stands firm that the government must allocate funds to support military equipment acquisition and renewal as quickly as possible to protect our military and ensure they can do their job.
While the Legion was encouraged by some of the progress made in this latest budget, most of the items promised did not come through fully on the recommendations brought forward by the Ministerial Advisory Groups. And with lifelong financial security for Canada’s ill and injured veterans once again left in limbo, overall the Legion was disappointed in the Budget. The Government must step up and address what is most needed. Now more than ever, the Veteran community must come together to advocate for the critical care, support and compensation our Veterans need and deserve.
About The Royal Canadian Legion
Founded in 1925, the Legion is Canada’s largest Veteran support and community service organization. We are a non-profit organization with a national reach across Canada as well as branches in the U.S., Europe and Mexico. With more than 275,000 members, many of whom volunteer an extraordinary amount of time to their branches, our strength is in our numbers.
Public Relations / Media Inquiries: PublicRelations@Legion.ca