8 August 2011To: Hon. Steven Blaney Minister of Veterans Affairs Suzanne Levesque Director, Cabinet & Legislative Affairs Veterans Affairs Canada CWO Guy Parent Veterans Ombudsman
Reference A: “Regulations Amending the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Regulations”, The Canadian Gazette, Part 1, date: 9 July 2011, pp. 2254-2276. (http://www.canadagazette.gc.ca/rp-pr/p1/2011/2011-07-09/pdf/g1-14528.pdf).
Presented by:Walter Callaghan Disabled Veteran Former Officer, Canadian Forces Health Services
Following the publication of the proposed regulatory amendments to the New Veterans Charter (as detailed in the above-listed reference), and following on the comments provided by CWO Parent on these proposed amendments (http://www.ombudsman-veterans.gc.ca/blog-blogue/comment-commentaire-eng.cfm?101#comment_view), I submit the following comments for review and consideration.
Earnings Loss Benefit
It is all well and good that the base level of the Earnings Loss Benefits (ELB) will be increased to a minimum of $40,000 per year for disabled veterans of the Regular Force (RegF) and for Reservists (ResF) who were injured while on CL-B (>180d) or CL-C contracts, but why is there continued discrimination against ResF veterans who were injured while on CL-B (<180d) or CL-A contracts? Why are these separate categories being promulgated when every single one of us who served accepted the same risks and unlimited liability that is required to function as a member of the Canadian Forces? More specifically, why is Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) using these categories when the Canadian Forces itself sees no difference in type of service once a member of the CF becomes disabled (for example, by providing an ELB equivalent to full-time contract to all ResF members upon their becoming disabled)?
Yes, the proposed regulatory changes will increase the ELB for the second group of ResF veterans from a deemed salary of $2000/month to $2700/month, and then the ELB is calculated at 75% of this deemed salary, but this change does not provide an adequate level of financial support to disabled ResF veterans.
To use myself as an example: prior to my 3B (medical) release from the Canadian Forces, my income was approximately $3600/month (gross) or approximately $2400/month (net). Since my date of release, I have been in receipt of ELB through SISIP (the precursor program to VAC’s ELB), with a deemed pre-release salary of $2000/month, calculated to 75% as $1500/month (gross) or $1100/month (net); with the proposed changes, this ELB will be a deemed pre-release salary of $2700/month, calculated to 75% as $2025/month (gross) or approximately $1450/month (net).
Within Ref A, it is clearly stated that:
“The increases in income implied by the regulatory proposal will result in groups of individuals moving from their current income level, to one which more adequately allows them to cover their basic needs without creating a disincentive to wellness. Analysis conducted for the proposed amendments demonstrates that the financial well-being of veterans will be improved to a point which is likely to result in an overall increase in their subjective well-being” (Ref A, p.2256); and
“A minimum level of income is necessary to ensure that basic needs such as food, shelter and clothing can be met. There are various ways to calculate this amount and many views on how poverty and low income can be conceptualized. The Statistics Canada Low Income Cut-off (LICO) estimates a family after-tax income threshold at $37,000 for 2008. Similarly, the Human Resources and Skills Development Canada “Market Basket Measure” (MBM) determined $37,000 to be the minimum required to ensure that earnings loss benefit recipients’ income remains above LICO with adequate disposable income” (Ref A, p.2260).
The proposed regulatory changes outlined in Ref A translate to a net ELB of $18,000/year or a gross ELB of $24,750/year for ResF veterans; neither amount comes close to the Statistics Canada LICO or the HRSDC’s MBM! Given that the declared intent of the ELB increase is to provide financial security to disabled veterans in an effort to facilitate recovery and reintegration into civilian society, I am interested in an explanation on how such a substandard level of financial support to disabled veterans of the ResF can be justified.
Further, what is not explained is how these regulatory changes to ELB will affect the first two years post-release, when ELB is provided through SISIP, not through VAC. Will these regulatory changes be applied to this time period, or will this most vulnerable period of time be subject to the current enforced poverty that currently exists?
I continue to maintain my objection towards the change from a monthly life-long “pension” to the Lump Sum version of the Disability Award, as enacted through the New Veterans Charter. Given that the Lump Sum version is equivalent to 100 months under the old “pension” system, it is clear that this change was meant to be a cost-limiting (and insulting) exercise on the part of VAC, at the expense of the well-being of those of us who became injured as a result of our service to Canada. While the change in payment method (from single to multiple payments) may benefit some veterans who are subject to this program, given that the average “pay-out” under the Lump Sum system is roughly $30,000 (only a handful of disabled soldiers have received the maximum of $286k), it is not clear how spreading that paltry pittance across several years can benefit such recipients.
Militi SuccurrimusWalter Callaghan Disabled Veteran Former Officer, Canadian Forces Health Services
Let it also be known that VAC is applying an article of law which does not exist.
18. Subject to section 21 and for the purpose of subsection 19(1) of the Act, the imputed income of a veteran referred to in subsection 8(1) of the Act is equal to
4. (iv) during Class A Reserve Service or Class B Reserve Service of no more than 180 days, $2,700.
The Canadian Forces Ombudsman has clearly stated that a Class B -180 days is not defined in the Queen’s Regulations and Orders (QR&Os) and therefore is invalid and illegal. There are currently 63 Reserve members Class B -180 receiving ELB. It could be easily fix if there is a will to do so. I just can’t wait till a member of either of the two reserve units in the riding of Minister Blaney steps in his office and complains about this.