War pensioners rep. says government needs more input from veterans on pension program

SUDBURY—The chief executive officer of the Manitoulin-North Shore War Pensioners of Canada (WPC) is perplexed as to why the federal government didn’t garner more input from veterans before making changes in laws to enact its new Pension for Life program.

“I shake my head as to why the government of Canada will not pay more attention to the input of veterans before making changes in law to enact a new Pension for Life Program, which will come into effect on April 1, 2019, April Fool’s Day,” stated Colin Pick.

“As stated in a Globe and Mail article (January 2, 2019), it’s a systematic attack upon veterans’ rights to be denied the chance to participate in the very democracy that they were willing to die to defend,” said Mr. Pick, quoting Sean Bruyea, a veterans’ rights advocate. Mr. Bruyea is in the process of suing then-Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O’Regan for defamation of character, as a result of comments made in response to his criticism of the Pension for Life Program, explained Mr. Pick.

“The problems stem from government actions portraying the same old story that whatever the government does for the veterans, it turns out to be more about saving the government money on the backs of the veterans, instead of genuinely improving the financial lot for Canada’s most seriously disabled veterans. Once again, the new proposals fall far short of ensuring financial stability, equality or some semblance of fairness between different generations of veterans for the remainder of their lives,” continued Mr. Pick.

He said, “in the words of retired Major Mark Campbell, who lost both legs in Afghanistan, this validates and vindicates everything we are trying to do. Meaning, trying to bring back the previous disability pension afforded to veterans prior to 2006, under the old pension act, then when the problematic components of the New Veterans Charter came into effect, this was another cost savings measure on the backs of the veterans.”

The Globe and Mail reported on February 21, 2019, that most disabled veterans will receive more financial support under the federal government’s new pension program, though some of the most severely impaired will lose out on hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to a new report.

The parliamentary budget officer (PBO) study also concluded that the benefits promised by the soon-to-be-implemented Pension for Life program will be less than what veterans would have reaped in a previous disability pension program scrapped in 2006.

In its report released Thursday, the PBO found that all current recipients of disability benefits will receive an “equal or greater amount” of funding in the Liberals’ Pension for Life regime, set to go into effect on April 1.

But it warned that three percent of new veteran entrants would have received around $300,000 more in financial support from the existing program, in part because of the elimination of a supplement for “veterans with severe and permanent impairment and diminished earning capacities.”

Known as the Career Impact Allowance Supplement, it offered more than $21,000 to the most severely affected veterans in 2017. While current recipients can continue to access the supplement, it will not be available to new applicants, the PBO study notes.

Relying on data from Veterans’ Affairs, the PBO predicted the costs to government for the existing cohort of beneficiaries and projected new applicants over 2019 and 2023. It found that the pre-2006 program, instituted in the Pension Act, would be the most generous for the veterans and also most expensive for the federal government, projecting Ottawa would need to cough up $40 million to cover those costs.

That program offered regular pension payments for disabled veterans while the New Veterans Charter in 2006 largely replaced those with lump-sum payments that topped out at $365,400, according to reporting by the Globe and Mail. Critics argued that this was far less than what veterans would have received in the pre-2006 program.

The PBO determined that the Liberals’ new package was “slightly more generous” than the Veteran Well-Being Act regime introduced in 2006. According to the PBO, the government would have to pay $22 billion under the existing system in veterans pensions and $25 billion under the new Pension for Life program.

“The bottom line being that the pre-2006 old pension act paid out 1.5 times more over the lifetime of a veteran some 13 years ago than it does now,” said Mr. Pick. “Now as we approach the third attempt at a Pension for Life overhaul, this government still cannot get it right because when these changes come into place on April 1, 2019, some of the seriously disabled veterans are going to get less than before because the government has dropped the supplementary benefit designed to compensate for those seriously disabled veterans who are no longer able to work because of their injuries. This is nothing short of another kick in the teeth for veterans, which is absolutely wrong on moral grounds and equality for all veterans’ pensions.”