Advocate attacks new veterans’ benefits plan News Staff

Date: Sun. Apr. 2 2006 5:17 PM ET

The federal government biggest overhaul of benefits since the Second World War is kicking in just as Canada takes on its most aggressive military role in decades.

However, some critics worry that the new veterans’ charter, supported by all parties last spring and taking effect on April 1, might shortchange wounded soldiers.

The key change is giving disabled veterans a lump-sum payment of up to $250,000 instead of a monthly tax-free pension. The payment will be pro-rated depending on the level of disability.

Critics say that means less money for those injured in service of their country.

“Disable soldiers, under the current system, will receive anywhere from 80 to 150 per cent more than they will after April 1,” said Sean Bruyea, a Gulf War veteran.

He describes the move as a “callous, bureaucratic move to save money on the backs of disabled veterans.”

While the federal government disputes Bruyea’s numbers, a Veterans Affairs study does not concern about the cost of rising pension claims by younger soldiers.

Lump-sum payments “would serve, over time, to regain control of an alarming future liability scenario,” the study said.

Defender argue the new plan offers quicker benefits and more help.

“Job training, vocational, could be social rehabilitation,” said Pierre Allard of the Royal Canadian Legion.

He also defends the lump-sum payment, saying, “Actuarially, that lump sum will produce similar amounts of money as does a monthly pension.”

The federal government said the new rules are not set in stone.

CTV News has learned there is a proposal under consideration to allow a choice, in some cases, between a lump-sum and a monthly payment.

With a report from CTV’s Roger Smith