Veterans charter needs urgent action, ombudsman says
Guy Parent's detailed analysis shows elderly veterans and families left out in cold
Veterans Ombudsman Guy Parent says the new veterans charter is putting the most severely wounded veterans at risk of hardship and poverty, and is calling on the government to fix the problem.
For years, veterans have complained about the programs and compensation under the veterans charter, which was brought in in 2006. Under the legislation, ex-soldiers saw the decades-old pension for life system replaced with a workers' compensation-style approach of lump-sum awards and allowances.
Veterans argue the economic supports for those hurt in the line of duty are inadequate compared to the compensation legislation that existed before.
Parent's office did a detailed actuarial analysis that found that some of the most disabled veterans could live out their old age in near poverty under the new charter.
At a news conference Tuesday, Parent warned that as today's veterans age, the supports under the new charter aren't enough to maintain an adequate standard of living. He also said that the economic and vocational rehabilitation programs for wounded vets under 65 are deficient. Parent added that families who are left to care for wounded soldiers face real hardships.
Parent estimates fixing the charter would cost tens of millions of dollars.
"The bottom line is this: We either deal with these issues now or we have to deal with the human cost later, when it will cost us much more," he said.
In anticipation of Tuesday's report release, Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino, announced the federal government will review the charter. It was a clear about-face as the government had said the legislation would not be looked at again until 2016.
But Parent said another lengthy review is not needed, and he urged the government to act on the recommendations in his report.
"We're providing parliamentarians ... with a plan of action. Everything is there for them; therefore it could be expedited," he said.
The Official Opposition agreed.
"We already knew many injured soldiers were left in serious need; now we have stark numbers to back it up,” NDP defence critic Jack Harris said in a statement. “This report is unequivocal proof that the government has to take immediate action to support our veterans before this crisis worsens.”
In a statement issued Tuesday afternoon, Fantino said Parent's recommendations "will also serve as an important starting point for the upcoming parliamentary review."