Bittersweet News for Veterans
Ottawa - October 6, 2011
Earlier today, the Minister of Veterans Affairs announced (opens in new window) that the amendments to the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Regulations are now in effect. This is good news for the many ill and injured Veterans who have been waiting for a year to get additional income support through the Earnings Loss Benefit, now set at a minimum of $40,000 a year for Regular Force Veterans and full-time Reservists undergoing rehabilitation or who cannot return to work.
Part-time Reservists who have the same financial needs as Regular Force Veterans and full-time Reservists are nonetheless denied this level of support and will have to make due with a minimum income of $24,300 a year. In the policy rationale in support of the amendments (opens in new window), Veterans Affairs Canada clearly demonstrated that a minimum income of $40,000 is required to ensure that basic needs of food, shelter and clothing are met, yet denies this same level of support to part-time Reservists. This is not acceptable!
I raised my concerns with regard to the regulatory amendments, which were published in the Canada Gazette on July 9, 2011, asking that the same benefits be available to part-time Reservists. I regret to say that the fair treatment of part-time Reservists was secondary to keeping the Earnings Loss Benefit aligned with SISIP (Service Income Security Insurance Plan), as explained in the reply I received from Veterans Affairs Canada, partially reproduced below.
Excerpt from the letter received from Veterans Affairs Canada, dated September 27, 2011:
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"The aim of the earnings loss benefit, which remains unchanged, is to provide Canadian Forces Veterans in rehabilitation with adequate income while recovering from a service-related or career-ending injury. The benefit is further provided to age 65 to those Veterans found to be totally and permanently incapacitated for the purpose of suitable gainful employment.
The earnings loss benefit and Regulations were originally modeled on SISIP's income replacement provisions. This is due to the fact that those medically releasing from the military are first eligible for income replacement benefits from SISIP prior to being eligible for those benefits from VAC. The gap the original New Veterans Charter Regulations aimed to address with the earnings loss benefit was the absence of income replacement benefits for Veterans following the termination of the provision of these benefits from SISIP as well as for those Veterans who did not qualify for SISIP benefits but had a health problem(s) primarily resulting from their military service which was creating a barrier to their successful re-establishment in civilian life.
Given the aim was to ensure continued benefits to all eligible Veterans, it was also to ensure similar benefits were available from each income replacement program in order to ensure a consistent approach. As the SISIP provisions differentiate benefits available to part-time Reservists the earnings loss benefit did, and continues to do, the same. The current deemed salary amount of $2,000 per month for part-time Reservists was established by SISIP in 1991. The enhanced amount of $2,700 per month reflects indexing for inflation of the original monthly amount using the Consumer Price Index since 1992."
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In other words, addressing the basic needs of part-time Reservists was put aside for the sake of aligning a VAC program to a National Defence program. I dare say that Veterans Affairs Canada missed an opportunity to promote the fair treatment of Veterans: it should have called for SISIP to align with the Earnings Loss Benefit, not the other way around!
I have raised the issue of the differential treatment of Reservists with senior officials of the Department, the Minister of Veterans Affairs, parliamentarians, and most recently with the Chief Military Personnel of National Defence, and I want to assure all part-time reservists that I will continue to do so.
One Veteran ... those who sustain similar illnesses or injuries while serving their country should have access to the same benefits, regardless of the nature of their service and where and when they served ... it’s a matter of fairness!
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