Wednesday November 17, 2010
Strahl Responds To Veterans' Concerns
No widow's tax, no pension claw backs
Submitted by MP Chuck Strahl's Office
his Government readily admits that we inherited some real problems in Veterans Affairs, and that some still exist. If there hadn’t been problems we wouldn’t have felt the need to establish a new Veterans Charter, a Veterans Bill of Rights and an office of Veterans Ombudsman.
The Government continues to listen to Veterans.
Legislation was introduced November 17 that improves the monthly benefits and
provide for flexible options for the Disability Award under the New Veterans
Speaking of the New Veterans Charter, Dominion President, Mrs. Patricia Varga, of The Royal Canadian Legion stated, “This Bill, as a first step, makes great strides in improving the New Veterans Charter and encompasses many of the recommendations made by the New Veterans Charter Advisory Group and the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs.”
Ray Kokkonen, President of the Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans Association said, “With this Bill, we applaud the Government for keeping its promise that the New Veterans Charter is truly a living document. Naturally, we are pleased to have had a role in this matter and that our advice and recommendations have been heard. Advocating for significantly increasing the financial support to our severely wounded Veterans, to allow them live with dignity, is a top priority for our organization. Accordingly, we are very glad to see this challenging issue being addressed.”
Naturally, I am delighted with these changes and would like to thank those Veterans who met with me during the past few months to advocate for these improvements. Here are some important facts:
It was suggested that a lump-sum payment is the only financial support we provide to veterans returning from Afghanistan who have been injured in the line of duty. This is simply not true. Lump-sum payments recognize non-economic impact (the pain and loss) of an injury or illness only. There are a variety of other financial supports to address economic losses.
The most common financial assistance is the monthly Earnings Loss Benefit, which ensures eligible veterans receive 75 per cent of their release salary. Improvements we have made will see seriously injured veterans receive (in addition to a lump sum of up to $276,079.70) a minimum of $58,000 a year.
Veterans who receive a Disability Award (lump-sum payment) will now have the choice between:
annual payments spread out over the number of years of their choice (with interest);
part of the award as a lump sum and the rest as annual payments over the number of years of their choice (with interest);
or a single lump sum payment.
Furthermore, at any time, Veterans who so choose may change their minds and receive the remaining amount as a lump-sum payment.
There is no widows’ tax. The Death Benefit provided to surviving spouses by Veterans Affairs Canada is non-taxable. This means that it does not affect the taxation of other sources of income, nor does it affect the spouse’s eligibility for income-tested benefits.
The surviving spouse may be entitled to receive various other types of benefits as a result of the death of Canadian Forces (CF) member or Veteran and these may be taxable. The treatment of pension income is consistent with the treatment of pensions received by other Canadians.
There is no pension claw back at age 65. The issue is that CF members may be eligible for a military pension before they are eligible for CPP. Because they are too young to qualify for CPP, Veterans receive a 'bridge benefit' for the years until they reach the pensionable age. The bridge benefit is later replaced with CPP.
This pension adjustment experienced by CF Veterans is not unique. It also applies to public service and RCMP pension plans. In all cases, these pensioners are receiving incomes consistent with what they paid into their pension plans. Even the Federal Superannuates National Association says we are treating these pensions properly.
This Conservative Government stands shoulder to shoulder with our Veterans, who have always stood up for freedom, democracy and rule of law. That is why we’ve set-up a network of clinics across the country to address the growing prevalence of operational stress injuries (OSI) and Post-Traumatic Stress. It is also why we brought in the Agent Orange Ex Gratia Payment.
For further details, I urge you to go to the Veterans Affairs website www.vac-acc.gc.ca and look at 'Just the Facts'.
You can be assured that we will continue to work with Veteran's groups and the Ombudsman to improve service and benefits. Veterans deserve nothing less.
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