Former Liberal MP and retired lieutenant-general Andrew Leslie says the Trudeau government must urgently address a funding disparity for severely injured veterans that was flagged this year by the Parliamentary Budget Officer.
Mr. Leslie, a star candidate in 2015 who announced in May that he would not run for re-election this fall, said he wants to see the government address the area where the most-injured vets do not appear to receive the same compensation amounts under a new regime as a previous one.
“That needs improvement,” Mr. Leslie said. “The government has got to fix that hole and they’ve got to fix it urgently.”
The Canadian government has had three regimes for veterans benefits in recent years. The current Liberal government introduced a new system, referred to as Pension for Life, that came into effect in April.
That program replaced the Veterans Well-being Act, in place from 2006 to 2019, that was created by the previous Conservative government. The system before 2006 is referred to as the Pension Act.
Last winter, Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux, who was asked to prepare a cost estimate of benefits under the three regimes by several parliamentarians, said that most, but not all, veterans would be financially better off under the new Pension for Life regime compared to the Veterans Well-being Act.
However, he said veterans with severe impairments would “be the main losers of the transition to the Pension for Life regime."
About 5 per cent of future recipients would have been better off under the Veterans Well-being Act, the PBO report said, adding that 3 per cent of new entrants would be “greatly disadvantaged” under Pension for Life, as they would have received, on average, around $300,000 more in financial support.
This is in part related to the elimination of the Career Impact Allowance supplement, which is offered to veterans with severe and permanent impairment and diminished earning capacities, the report added.
In the House of Commons in May, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also faced questions from the Conservatives about “cutting benefits” for severe and permanent injuries under the new scheme.
Mr. Trudeau replied that the government was “delivering on the promise to reintroduce the new Pension for Life, and that policy was designed so that every injured veteran is better off under our new system than they were under the old one.”
“I have instructed Veterans Affairs to ensure that that is the case in every single case,” Mr. Trudeau said.
Next Wednesday, Mr. Trudeau is set to announce which ministers will sit on the front bench in his minority government.
A spokesperson for current Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay said in a statement the government is still "reviewing the findings of the Parliamentary Budget Officer very carefully” to make sure the government ensures veterans get the supports they need.
“With over $10-billion invested in veterans since 2015, it is clear this is a priority for the Prime Minister and the government and we’re going to get this right,” said press secretary Alex Wellstead.
Mr. Leslie, who helped craft the Liberal veterans policy prior to the 2015 election, said addressing this outstanding issue is likely a matter of some tens of millions of dollars, adding it has been raised for the past few years by a number of hardworking veterans support groups.
“The government has to do something about it."
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