Disabled veterans to get new retirement support
Disability income payments for soldiers currently end at retirement at age 65
The federal government announced Monday it is introducing new financial assistance for moderately and seriously disabled veterans who are 65 and older.
Veterans Affairs Minister Erin O'Toole said in Toronto that the new Retirement Income Security Benefit would provide a monthly support payment. Currently, disability income replacement ends at retirement at age 65. The benefit would ensure that an eligible veteran's total annual income is at least 70 per cent of what he or she got from Veteran's Affairs before reaching that age.
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"The government recognized that moderate to severe service-related injuries can permanently affect the veteran's ability to work following their service and earn enough money to save for their retirement beyond their working years," O'Toole said.
"This new benefit will give peace of mind into their retirement," he said in a follow-up interview on CBC News Network's Power & Politics.
O'Toole also clarified a policy change that will require wounded veterans and amputees to verify their condition every three years, rather than annually.
"I've said clearly, no one will ever have to verify lost limbs in the future," he told host Rosemary Barton. "The forms were meant to ask about the wellness of the veteran, had their needs changed. But [the forms] were clumsy, bureaucratic."
O'Toole added that a Veterans Affairs task force is redrafting letters sent to veterans about the process.
"Even a letter appearing at the house causes stress," he said. "It should be written so that it's easy to understand and shows that we're focused on [veterans'] wellness. A letter like this, particularly every year, even though it had good intentions, was actually impacting that wellness."
Under the policy change, amputees will still have to submit paperwork every three years, but O'Toole is hoping the paperwork could be passed on to case managers, who would take care of all necessary renewals in an effort to reduce veteran stress and streamline the process.
Ombudsman called for post-retirement benefit
The federal government estimates that by 2020, approximately 5,800 veterans and survivors would qualify for the benefit when they turn 65.
O'Toole also said the benefit would continue to be paid to spouses or family members — defined as survivors by Veterans Affairs — in the event of the death of the veteran, at a 50 per cent rate.
Veterans ombudsman Guy Parent said the new benefit meets his recommendation that post-retirement income was one of the most urgent shortcomings in the New Veterans Charter.
Liberal veterans affairs critic Frank Valeriote said public pressure prompted the move by the government.
"As the veterans ombudsman made clear today, numerous, pressing gaps remain in the benefits and services provided to veterans," Valeriote said in a statement.
"Unfortunately, the Conservatives still fail to present a plan that will offer the best of care and support to our veterans and their families."
The proposed benefit still requires the approval of Parliament. O'Toole said he wants to have the benefit in place by July 2015 and expects all-party approval.