By Katherine George
Veterans Affairs Minister Erin O’Toole announced more support for veterans on Monday afternoon.
The federal government will provide a $70,000 tax-free payment for seriously disabled veterans and members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF).
The new Critical Injury Benefit (CIB) – once approved by government- will only be applied to seriously injured soldiers and will be applied retroactively.
President and founder of Canadian Veterans Advocacy Mike Blais said the announcement is a positive development, but it still has limits.
“I think less than 300 veterans and their families will actually be applicable for them.” – Blais
“The criteria is very restricted in all of the proposals that have come forward in the past weeks,” said Blais. “I think less than 300 veterans and their families will actually be applicable for them.”
“It’s not the Veterans Affairs’ or Minister’s responsibility to respect the needs of the few, he has to respect the needs of the many,” he said.
The funding will only be applicable to CAF members and veterans who have suffered a sudden, severe and traumatic injury or developed an acute disease since April 1, 2006.
Scott Maxwell, executive director of Wounded Warriors Canada said it’s always a great day when we are talking about enhanced benefits.
“One of the areas that we continue to identify as a gap in care for veterans is continuing to develop a family base support.” – Maxwell
Maxwell said he would like to see a more family centred approach to veteran care.
“One of the areas that we continue to identify as a gap in care for veterans is continuing to develop a family base support,” he said.
The new proposal is one element of the new Support for Veterans and their Families Act introduced in the House of Commons on Monday.
Other new legislation introduced recently includes the Retirement Income Security Benefit, Permanent Impairment Allowance, Earning Loss Program and the Family Caregiver Relief Benefit.
“There has been no consultation at the stakeholders level and the process has been bastardized.” – Blais
One of the biggest faults is a lack of correspondence, Blais said.
“There has been no consultation at the stakeholders level and the process has been bastardized,” said Blais.
These proposals are vital to the veterans community, but are moved forward with little to no input and rushed into a bill, he said.
“Many veterans will be disenfranchised by these incremental steps that serve only a few,” Blais said.
“I don’t see it as being driven solely by the fact that there is an election.” – Maxwell
O’Toole recently took over the position from Julian Fantino in January.
Blais said he is filling a given agenda but Maxwell said as a veteran himself, O’Toole understands the needs of veterans and their families.
“I don’t see it as being driven solely by the fact that there is an election,” said Maxwell. “I believe even if it was any other year of the four-year majority government this would still be the focus of Minister O’Toole,” said Maxwell.
However, these proposals have been on the table for seven years with a Conservative majority the past four, said Blais.
There is no excuse for delays except for the use of veterans as an electoral mandate, he said.
“His job is to make the Conservatives look good within the veteran community, rally our vote and dispel plans that have been initiated by other veterans but used in a conservative campaign during election period,” said Blais.
Office of the Minister of Veterans Affairs, Press Secretary, Martin Magnan said there will be more upcoming announcements.
“We hope if work here is successful, there should be more announcements coming,” said Magnan.
The objective behind the minister’s series of announcements is to better the circumstances for veterans, he said.
“This is a very exciting time at Veterans Affairs because there is a lot of good work going on that is result oriented and works toward making sure veterans and their families get what they need, when they need it,” Magnan said.