Brandon vet says federal budget good news, bad news for veterans

A Manitoba veteran says he's disheartened Justin Trudeau failed to follow through on his campaign promise to reinstate lifelong pensions for injured veterans in Tuesday's federal budget.

Federal government's budget boosts lump-sum disability award, reinstates nine closed Veteran Affairs offices

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Tuesday that veterans will be getting $5.6 billion over the next six years. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

A Manitoba veteran says he's pleased the federal Liberals are following through on a promise to reopen Veterans Affairs offices, but he's also disheartened Justin Trudeau failed to follow through on another promise — to reinstate lifelong pensions for injured veterans in Tuesday's federal budget. 

"That's really a game changer. We need to get that fixed and put back in," said Al Dunham, president of the  Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans Unit in Brandon.

In 2006, the Veterans Charter eliminated the lifetime disability pension for disabled soldiers, who now receive lump-sum payments.

The 2016 budget overall allocates $5.6 billion to veterans over the next six years. The federal government announced it's raising the lump-sum disability award to a maximum of $360,000 from the current $310,000 — a rate far below other countries such as Britain, where the payout is closer to $1 million.

"Right now the lump-sum payment they get is not enough and it doesn't fit and it doesn't work," he said. 

On Tuesday the Liberal government also announced it will restore nine previously closed Veterans Affairs Canada offices, including one in Brandon, Man. The offices provide support to veterans by initiating claims, answering questions and helping fill out paperwork.

"It's a wonderful thing. We've been waiting for this since it closed and it's really, really good news," he said. 

Close to 1,000 people gathered in Sydney, N.S. concerned about Ottawa's plan to close the local Veterans Affairs office in 2013. (Norma Jean MacPhee/CBC)
The Conservative government's 2012 budget slated to close nine offices in an effort to cut costs, including Brandon's office. Veterans across Canada lobbied the government to reverse its decision with no luck. 
Veterans in Windsor, Ont. held what they called a "memorial service" after over the loss of the local Veterans Affairs Canada office in 2014. (Lisa Xing/CBC News)
"It hurt us bad," Dunham said. "It was tough for the traditional veterans because they're not really savvy with computers or going on to phone trees or whatnot."

Dunham said veterans still need easier access to programs and more help for ex-soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder.

With files from The Canadian Press