Advocating for changes to the Veterans Well-Being Act
Canadians are hearing more and more about the deep gaps in care and benefits for Veterans. At the forefront of discussion is the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act (CFMVRCA), commonly referred to as the New Veterans Charter (NVC), and as of April 2018 renamed the Veterans Well-Being Act. The Veterans Well-Being Act is a set of benefits adopted in 2006 without clause-by-clause review in Parliamentary Committee and in the Senate because of a perceived view that the Pension Act did not meet the modern needs of many injured and ill Veterans.
Below is the Royal Canadian Legion’s position on the Veterans Well-Being Act (referred to below as the New Veterans Charter for historical relevance).
When the New Veterans Charter (NVC) was established, replacing the Pension Act, it brought a holistic approach to Veterans’ care and benefits. For many, the Disability Pension did not provide enough for the basic necessities, and the Pension Act did not adequately look after ill and injured Veterans and their families or facilitate their transition to civilian life. The NVC offered a number of benefits that the Pension Act did not provide including additional financial benefits, disability benefits, rehabilitation services, health services, education assistance, and job placement assistance to address not only financial support, but also continuing care and quality of life. However, the NVC did not come without its faults.
Recommendations for change were identified early on, yet, despite assurances the Charter would be amended as gaps were identified, the government left it neglected for five years before making the first amendment. Progress has been excruciatingly slow since.
After years of little progress and no significant amendments, updates to the New Veterans Charter were announced by the Government in December 2017, with specific focus on a new ‘Pension for Life’ option. In addition to a revised name, new elements of the Veterans Well-Being Act were scheduled to be implemented starting April 2018 and January 2019.
It is the Legion’s understanding that the Pension for Life plan will enhance the Veterans Well-Being Act and that this will continue to be a living document that can be amended as needs or gaps arise. The Legion has been vocal in our belief that while progress is being made, we’re not 100% there yet, including achieving lifelong financial security and definitive financial support for families.
With the recent announcement of the Pension for Life plan, our greatest concern is the lack of detail and clarity in the plan, and exactly what those supports mean for all Veterans and their families.
The following areas of the Veterans Well-Being Act are not well defined, and details are urgently needed to understand their impact on all Veterans and their families:
- Information provided by the government around the new Pain and Suffering Compensation, to be implemented April 1, 2019, is not clear. The new benefit will replace the Disability Award, and will allow ill or injured Veterans to choose between a lump sum payment, or a monthly tax-free payment for life. The information provided by the Government was based on a 100% disabled Veteran. It is unclear how this compensation will benefit Veterans with a lesser assessment. It is also unclear if gaps will remain in a disabled Veteran’s lifelong financial security.
- Information provided by the government around the new Additional Pain and Suffering Compensation, to be implemented April 1, 2019, is not clear. Three grades of compensation have been identified, but there are no details on how those grades are calculated.
- Information provided by the government around the Income Replacement Benefit, to be implemented April 1, 2019, is not clear. There are no details on what the adjustments will be for eligible Veterans who have not yet served a full career in the military.
In addition to pressing Government for information on the above areas, the Legion is currently focusing on advocating to improve the following deficiencies in the Veteran Well-Being Act:
- Increase the Income Replacement Benefit (IRB) to provide 100% of pre-release income and, if permanently incapacitated, provide IRB for life (not decreased to 70% of salary at age 65, as is currently the case).
- Projected career earnings of a CF Member should determine minimum IRB.
- Promotion of Academic Research (Physical and Mental Health) to support an integrated approach to establish additional VAC Entitlement Eligibility Guidelines.
- Family and caregiver needs should be given higher priority and there should be financial recognition and compensation of the contribution and sacrifices made by the entire family.
While the Legion continues supports the concept of the Veterans Well-Being Act, the Legion is advocating for a full review and explanation of Pension For Life and continues to press the Government for changes.
For those who served to protect the very rights and freedoms we enjoy today, we owe our Veterans our commitment to work on their behalf. We stand committed, working to ensure the care and benefits of Canada’s Veterans are the best they can possibly be and that all governments honour their obligations to the men and women who serve in the Canadian Armed Forces.