New Brunswick

Veterans take to microphone to express pension anxiety to federal minister

Wounded veterans leave a meeting in Fredericton with Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O'Regan with many unanswered questions about a new benefits plan.

Minister of Veterans Affairs Seamus O'Regan holds town hall meeting in Fredericton

Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O'Regan and deputy minister Walt Natynczyk take questions from veterans in Fredericton on Tuesday. (Gary Moore/CBC)

Veterans in Fredericton got a first-hand look Tuesday night at Canada's proposed new "pension for life" during a town hall meeting hosted by Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O'Regan and deputy minister Walt Natynczyk.

About 70 people sat through a presentation on the benefits plan for wounded veterans before the floor was opened up for questions. 

"We didn't get answers," says Robert Read, who was medically released from the military in 2016. 

"I was expecting some more solid, a more solid foundation of answers from that."

Robert Read is concerned about wait times for veterans once they are released from the military. (Gary Moore/CBC)

The government's plan to overhaul the pension system has sparked controversy across the country between veterans and government since it was announced in December 2017.  

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had promised during his election campaign that wounded veterans would be able to get a lifelong pension as an alternative to the lump-sum payments introduced in 2006.

Under the pension for life, veterans have to wait until April 1, 2019, when they can choose between taking the lump sum and a lifelong pension they say would be much less substantial than the one available before 2006.

Veterans showed their frustrations at the microphone for both the lump-sum system and the pension option.

"There's a lot of people suffering, waiting, anxious," said Danny Legace, who is concerned about the wait times for veterans once they've been released from service.

"Why are we waiting and playing this silly game?"

O'Regan says the pension for life created by the government is a product of discussions with veterans. (Gary Moore/CBC)

Frank Smith thanked the minister for holding the town hall but felt he was pitching information without details.

"There's no real action plan," Smith said. "This is one of the causes for anxiety."

O'Regan described the night as frank but said similar conversations helped build the groundwork for the pension overhaul.

"Pension for life was born from listening to veterans."

About the Author

Gary Moore

CBC News

Gary Moore is a video journalist based in Fredericton.