Federal government promises $165 million in compensation to shortchanged veterans

CANADA—The news earlier this week from Canada’s Veterans Ombudsman Guy Parent that he had uncovered an estimated $165 million in an accounting indexation error by Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC), shortchanging thousands of veterans receiving a disability pension is not really new, says the president of the Espanola/North Shore War Pensioners of Canada (WPC).

“This is the basically the second time this has happened,” stated Colin Pick, when contacted by the Recorder on Monday. “The last time it happened was a few years ago, when many millions had to be given back to the government.”

Mr. Pick said, “it’s like the recent statement made by VAC that any seriously injured veteran will be receiving between $20,000 and $50,000 in support. But no one has received anything yet.”

On November 5, Mr. Parent released information on an accounting indexation error by VAC. VAC estimates that this error could total around $165 million for the period between 2003 and 2010. The error has deprived thousands of veterans of indexation increases to their monthly disability pension.

“I am committed to the fair treatment of all veterans,” said Mr. Parent. “When veterans do not receive what they are owed, it has negative impacts not just on them, but on their families too and can lead to much frustration with the government. In this case, no matter the amount, this is money that should have been in veterans’ pockets. I am pleased that VAC is now working on a  plan to re-pay those who are affected.”
Subsequently, Seamus O’Regan, minister of Veterans Affairs and associate minister of National Defence issued a statement following Mr. Parent’s statement on the error in the calculation of disability pension adjustment rates.

“I wish to thank the Ombudsman for bringing to our attention that our disability pension adjustment calculations didn’t accurately reflect a change to personal tax exemptions. When we learned about this discrepancy, we took action and corrected the calculation. After a detailed review of all records between 2003 and 2010, we found that upwards of 270,000 veterans, RCMP members and their survivors still required compensation for this adjustment,” said Minister O’Regan.

Minister O’Regan explained, “the department has secured a source of funds of up to $165 million for retroactive payments. Most individuals will receive a few hundred dollars, while the maximum amount to be paid would be a couple of thousand dollars.”

“We will ensure those affected receive the compensation to which they are entitled. At this stage, given the number of individuals affected, we expect to issue payments by 2020. We will share more information with those affected as it becomes available,” said Minister O’Regan. “This is another example of how the department works closely with the Ombudsman’s office to improve the lives of Veterans and their families.”

VAC estimates that approximately 270,000 veterans, former members of the Canadian Forces or Royal Canadian Mounted Police, survivors and their estates are affected by this error.