The federal government is preparing to offer disabled veterans who retired in the past 12 years the lifetime pensions they have demanded but the amounts being discussed are far lower than what is given to those who left the Canadian Forces before 2006.
A source says Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O'Regan will announce next Tuesday that veterans who fall under the New Veterans Charter will be entitled to receive lifetime pensions of up to $1,200 a month. Sources say those payments will kick in in 2019.
A spokesman for Mr. O'Regan said Thursday that neither the date of the announcement nor the amount of the pensions has been decided. But the numbers, which originate with a government official, are now floating around the veterans community.
Newer veterans, including those who served in Afghanistan, have complained for years that the veterans who retired before 2006 received a superior compensation package to those who retired after the New Veterans Charter, which was approved by all parties in the House of Commons and implemented under the Conservative government, became law.
While the old Pension Act provided lifetime pensions, which now amount to more than $2,700 a month for qualified veterans, the charter was based primarily on lump-sum payments plus other benefits that vary according to the degree of disability and the toll it has taken on the veteran and his family.
It is unclear whether those veterans who have already received a lump-sum payment would be eligible for a lifetime pension.
One source said retiring vets will have the option of taking the $1,200 or a buyout of $1,200 times the number of months remaining before they turn 80 years old, with a cap of $360,000.
The Liberals campaigned in the 2015 election on a promise to reinstate the lifetime pensions but doing so has proved to be more difficult and costly than anticipated. If the announcement takes place next week, it will have taken more than two years since the vote that brought Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to office for the pension promise to be kept.
Just last week, the B.C. Court of Appeal struck down a claim by six disabled veterans who are part of what is known as the Equitas lawsuit, which demanded reinstatement of the lifetime pensions and equality with vets who fall under the Pension Act.
Aaron Bedard, one of the Equitas veterans who suffered severe post-traumatic stress disorder, said he and other veterans heard through unofficial sources on Thursday that there would be a cap of $1,200 on the pensions.
"If this is in fact what it will be, then we will be forced to apply for leave to the Supreme Court of Canada to be heard, to help our case progress and to keep up the fight," Mr. Bedard said. "That's not parity to the Pension Act."
Two years ago, officials at Veterans Affairs were discussing pensions that would amount to $1,450 a month for the veterans of the New Veterans Charter and that plan was abandoned because it was unacceptable to the Equitas vets, Mr. Bedard said.
When the appeal court ruled against the veterans last week, Mr. O'Regan said in a statement that his department will work to strengthen support to forces members, veterans and their families by providing support necessary for financial independence.
"We remain committed to a lifelong benefit option for ill and injured veterans," Mr. O'Regan said, "and we will finalize a benefit-for-life option for pension program for ill and injured veterans soon."
The government promised in the last federal budget to announce its plan for bringing back lifetime pensions before the end of this year.
The pensions would be in addition to other payments currently made to disabled veterans under the New Veterans Charter including the Permanent Injury Allowance, the Career Impact Allowance and the Earnings Loss Benefit, although the terms of those benefits are expected to be revised when the pensions are announced.