For Our Veterans: Wellbeing for Life
On June 6, 1944, “D-Day,” during the Allied assault on Hitler’s forces in Western Europe, Dave Dickson of Fredericton — the future Chief Justice of New Brunswick — was pinned down on Normandy’s Juno Beach. Later, as The Allies advanced towards the German Front, he was cut down by German fire while leading his men into battle.
“There I was sprawled face down in the mud bleeding, waiting to die, machine guns and bombs exploding around me,” he recalled shortly before his death in 2014. “All I could think of was home.”
Throughout his long and productive life, Dave Dickson never forgot that moment. He also never forgot about the wellbeing of Veterans, who, like himself, carried the physical and emotional wounds of war. As do many Canadian women and men who have served their country, Major Dickson dedicated himself to improving the lives of Veterans.
This inspiring story, one of the hundreds I’ve heard since becoming a Member of Parliament, is why I wholeheartedly support the Government’s Pension for Life plan announced last month by Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O’Regan. Canada owes an enormous debt of gratitude to the women and men who have served in uniform, and this new plan reflects our responsibility to ensure that our Veterans, and their families, have access to the resources they need.
Modernizing and simplifying the financial package that Veterans receive is part of an overall well-being package that combines financial recognition of pain and suffering, income replacement, and a host of wellness services and programs to help Veterans successfully transition to life after service.
The Pension for Life plan, which is separate from the Canadian Armed Forces pension that Veterans receive for their service, has three key pillars. The first is a monthly, tax-free financial compensation, with the choice of monthly payments for life, to recognize pain and suffering caused by a service-related disability with a maximum monthly amount of $2650 for those most severely disabled with barriers to re-establishment.
The second pillar includes income replacement for Veterans who are experiencing barriers returning to work after military service at 90% of their pre-release salary. In some circumstances, Veterans may be eligible for an additional 1% career progression factor each year. The third pillar offers services and benefits to help Veterans in a wide-range of areas, including education, employment, and physical and mental health.
The changes announced by Veterans Affairs represent an additional investment of close to $3.6 billion to support Canada’s Veterans. When combined with well-being programs already announced in previous budgets, the Government of Canada’s investments since 2016 add up to nearly $10 billion, investments that will help Veterans and their family’s transition to civilian life.
The Pension for Life plan, which comes into force on April 1, 2019, means that Veterans will be able to make the choice of whether to receive monthly, tax-free, pain and suffering compensation for life or cash out their monthly payments for a one-time lump sum. The consolidation of six different income support programs into a single financial benefit means that access to services for Veterans is easier. Additional changes are also being made to survivor benefits with support for spouses moving from 50% to 70% of the Veteran’s Income Replacement Benefit.
I know that all of this can be confusing so I encourage anyone who wants to learn more to reach out to my office or visit the Pension for Life page at www.veterans.gc.ca
Canada’s development as an independent country with a unique identity stems in no small measure from its achievements in times of war. But Canada’s contribution to global peace and security, both as an ally and peacekeeping partner, has come at a heavy price regarding lives sacrificed, health forfeited and hopes unfulfilled.
By supporting the brave women and men of our military, and the many contributions of our Veterans, we honour the bravery, sacrifice and spirit of Canadians like Dave Dickson, who, as a young man surrounded by the terror of war, could only think of home.