The five year controversy about veterans’ benefits has reached critical mass in 2010. I and a handful of veterans and our families stood up on May 10, 2005 and publicly pointed out the poor judgement in programmes which were created in secrecy, replaced lifelong compensation with a one-time lump sum and in spite of a an intense PR campaign by the government stomping upon any criticism, we commented that the “devil was in the details”.
Canada is now learning about that devil. To that end, I have prepared an updated comparison of benefits before and after the so-called New Veterans Charter. This is a thorough update of the one produced more than five years ago in Canada’s first ever Ombudsman report authored by me and edited by Perry Gray.
TEN POINTS NOT INCLUDED IN COMPARISON TABLE:
1) All Pension Act and War Veterans Allowance Act benefits can be appealed through the Veterans Review and Appeal Board (VRAB) with free legal representation provided by the Bureau of Pension Advocates (BPA).
2) For the new veterans charter (NVC) only the lump sum can be appealed through VRAB with assistance from BPA. None of the other benefits provide free legal assistance and an independent review mechanism such as VRAB.
3) It must be emphasized that the NVC benefits almost all require the injured veteran to enter the Veterans Affairs controlled “Rehabilitation” programme before receiving such essential assistance as Earnings Loss Benefit, healthcare, treatment, etc. for the veteran or his/her family. Under the Canadian Forces Long Term Disability and Rehabilitation Plan known as SISIP, the injured veteran is first given financial assistance and healthcare and then when ready can begin rehabilitation. This is why many of the first to analyze the NVC as far back as 2005 pointed out this injustice and labelled the NVC as nothing more than CF Workfare. The label still applies.
4) None of the recently announced planned programmes to apparently ‘improve’ the New Veterans Charter are available and likely won’t be implemented until November 2011.
5) VAC frontline staff are dedicated and try their best but they are overwhelmed with far too many veterans, families, RCMP and CF members needing help. They are responsible for administering dozens of programmes for more than a dozen classes of different veterans.
6) The VAC Pension Act programmes are excellent programmes which are generous in their legal descriptions. It was negligent and poor administration at Head Office in Charlottetown which caused VAC to fail so many veterans and their families in not delivering these good Pension Act programmes.
7) By contrast, the NVC programmes are not generous in their legal descriptions and when this is coupled with an out-of-touch Head Office administration, more needless suffering has and will continue to result.
8) The original War Veterans Charter for World War 2 and veterans of the Korean War ensured that ALL VETERANS whether disabled or not were provided with university, college and trade school/apprenticeship education, reestablishment grants, low interest mortgages and loans to start a new business and family, land and farm grants, grants and loans to begin a new career…and all disabled veterans received healthcare and a lifetime monthly Pension Act payment for their disability.
9) The New Veterans Charter is not a Charter at all but a repackaging of what already existed before 2006…except that the lifetime disability payments were replaced with a one time not-so-golden lump sum handshake. Only benefits for survivors before age 65 for all ranks except corporals and below were improved.
10) VAC continues to unilaterally create for, and dictate to veterans and their families far too many inadequate programmes. Why are veterans and their families constantly being told that VAC knows what is best for them? Why must veterans continue to hear a department which ignores their pleas and cries for help while replying with patronizing and condescending propaganda about how veterans are honoured with dignity and respect by government? Especially when disabled veterans know all too well the opposite to be true.
Comparison of New Veterans Charter (NVC) Benefits and Pre-NVC Benefits-Release 1.0 (NVC Benefits Came into Effect April 2006)by Sean Bruyea-Advocate for Veterans’ Rights and Better Government
|Benefit Category||NVC Benefits(in effect after April 1, 2006)||Pre NVC Benefits(in effect prior to and after April 1, 2006)|
|Disability Benefits||Disability AwardUp to $276,000 lump sum payment tax free tied to % award of disability-no additional amount for children/spouses||Pension Act Disability PensionTax free pension for life tied to % award of disability-additional amounts for children and spouses-no inflation cap unlike ELB/SISIP LTD|
|Income Loss and Replacement||Earnings Loss Benefit-75% of release salary taxable-all income deducted from this amount-must be disabled and approved for vocational rehabilitation plan-continual scrutiny especially if unable to work-2% indexing cap-available for survivors||SISIP Long Term Disability75% of release salary taxable-all income deducted from this amount-must be disabled-rehabilitation program optional but not condition of receiving benefits-reports on periodic basis confirming disability-2% indexing cap-nothing for survivors|
|Severely Disabled Allowance||Permanent Impairment Allowance (PIA)-must receive >78% Disability Award-taxable-3 levels of PIA-excludes virtually all psychological injuries||Exceptional Incapacity Allowance (EIA)-must receive > 98% Disability Pension-non-taxable-5 levels of PIA-covers five areas of incapacity-otherwise less onerous than NVC PIA-most psychological injuries apply
|Post 65 Income||Supplementary Retirement Benefit-one time taxable lumpsum representing 2% of earningsSee also Canadian Forces Income Support (CFIS) below||Pension Act Disability Pension-tax free pension for life tied to % award of disability-War Veterans Allowance identical to CFIS in amounts see below|
|Education||Vocational Rehabilitation-same limits as SISIP VRP (~$20,000 and two years to complete)-no university available except in exceptional cases||SISIP Vocational Rehabilitation Plan –same limits as NVC Vocational Rehabilitation (~$20,000 and two years to complete)-has approved university in exceptional circumstanceCF Skills Completion Program-approved university-only qualification is being CF member|
|Medical Care||Veterans Health Care Regulations and Medical Rehabilitation -Veteran must enter rehabilitation program- soft limitsPlan identical to Public Service Health Care Plan(PSHCP)-hard limits-family coverage||Public Service Health Care Plan(PSHCP)-available to retired CF members >20 yrs or >10 yrs if disabled-hard limits-family coverageSISIP medical care-must not be receiving PSHCP-does not require entrance into rehab program-hard limits but not absoluteSISIP Rehab Program -softer limitsVeterans Health Care Regulations-disabled veteran/soft limits|
|Medical Rehabilitation||Yes through VAC with more flexibility than Veterans Health Care Regs||Yes through Veteran Health Care Regulations and SISIP VRP|
|Family Medical||Plan identical to Public Service Health Care Plan(PSHCP)-hard limits-Disabled Veteran must agree to enter VAC rehabilitation program||Public Service Health Care Plan(PSHCP)-covers family-hard limitsSISIP Health Care- if not receiving PSHCP-covers family, hard limits|
|Dental||Access to Pensioner’s Service Dental Plan if:-Disabled Veteran must agree to enter VAC rehabilitation program-must be receiving dental care from VAC through >48% pension? (not confirmed)-hard limits-family coverage on PDSP if receiving dental care||VAC-veteran must have certain level disability pension(>48%?) or have dental condition pensioned but does not have to enter rehabilitationPensioners Dental Service Plan (PDSP) -available to retired CF members >20 yrs or >10 yrs if disabled-hard limits-family coverage|
|Job Placement||Federal Public Service Priority Placement-2 years after release-one priority placement only-all vets qualifyRight Management Job Placement-obscure and not readily available measures for success||1)Federal Public Service Priority placement-2 years after release-one priority placement only-all vets qualify2)DND Employment Equity Program-no time limit-disabled from SDA/SDO 3)DND Omnibus-no time limit-catch all who don’t meet above 4) TAPs-job sharing with employers agreeing to acc ept former DND employees-limited assistance to families|
|Earnings Minimum||CF Income Support (CFIS)Disabled Veteran must agree to enter VAC controlled work rehabilitation program and have failed -excessive scrutinyCFIS amounts inadequate and deduct all other income($1274/mo single $1938/mo married)||War Veterans Allowance (WVA) is identical to CFIS in amounts and rules-must be a war veteran (WW2 and Korea)- excessive scrutinyWVA amounts inadequate and deduct all other income($1274/mo single $1938/mo married)|
|Family Job Training||-veteran must suffer “catastrophic injury” -definition of catastrophic injury excludes all psychological disabilities including OSI’s||none|
|Death Benefit||Death Benefit$276,000 lump sum payment tax free-no additional amount for children-death must be related to service-all or nothingEarnings Loss Benefit until age 65||Pension Act Survivors Pension-graduated and tax free monthly for life up to $1798.37 plus amounts for children-death does not have to be related to service-until death of survivors|
| Please Note: Amounts updated to Nov 1 2010 1) This table is a generalized summary to assist in quickly comparing NVC vs. pre-NVC benefits. As such, the table cannot contain all detailed analysis relevant to any comprehensive comparison. It is intended as a quick reference only. Inaccuracies should be reported to author soonest for revision.
2) Pension Act Programs like the Disability Pension, War Veterans Allowance Exceptional Incapacity Allowance as well as the NVC programs of the Canadian Forces Income Support, and the Disability Award are all fully indexed for both inflation and matching of Federal Public Service salary indexing.