The War Amps calls for reform of the New Veterans Charter
Introduced in 2006, the New Veterans Charter changed the way the Canadian government issues financial support to veterans. The charter has been criticized by veterans’ groups since its enactment. Despite frequent calls for reform, many of the charter’s shortfalls remain.
The War Amps had been reaching out to modern-day amputee veterans from Afghanistan and various other conflicts for many years, helping them access the benefits and services to which they were entitled by informing them of what was available and acting as a navigator to simplify and speed up the bureaucratic application process.
Through these years of experience assisting modern-day war amputees under the New Veterans Charter, as well as many decades of assisting traditional veterans under the Pension Act, including those from the First World War, Second World War and Korean War, the Association became uniquely qualified to apply its in-depth knowledge of each legislation to identify disparities and inequities between the two.
In 2014, after years of negotiation and consultation with Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) to improve the charter, the National Council of Veteran Associations (NCVA), of which The War Amps is a founding member, presented a landmark submission to the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs that charged the government with failing to fulfil its commitment to update the New Veterans Charter as gaps and other issues became apparent. The promise of reform, evident in the government’s description of the document as a “living charter,” was integral to the veterans community’s initial acceptance of the legislation. The submission contained 10 recommendations to address the issues in the charter.
Following the 2014 submission and scrutiny from other veterans’ groups, the Canadian government announced a number of adjustments to the charter. These changes amounted to “half measures,” as the recommendations made by the NCVA, the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs and other advisory groups were not fully implemented.
Again, in 2015, NCVA, chaired by War Amps Chairman of the Executive Committee Brian Forbes, presented in comprehensive detail the recommendations to the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs with regard to the incomplete nature of Bill C-58/59 which was, at that time, before Parliament, and described the flaws in the charter, which remain outstanding.
The Association, with the support of NCVA, continued to pressure the government to address the remaining voids and inequities in the charter. In addition to participating in Veterans Summits, The War Amps is also represented on four of the six ministerial advisory groups to VAC, including the Policy Advisory Group, for which Forbes is co-chair.
In 2018, the government tabled Bill C-74, Part 4 – the long-awaited re-establishment of lifelong pensions for veterans. However, this announcement has failed to live up to the government’s 2015 election promise and has not satisfied veterans’ expectations regarding this fundamental, mandated commitment.
In effect, the “pension for life” simply converts the amount of the lump sum disability award into a form of lifetime annuity as an option for those disabled veterans who are eligible. Additionally, the announcement of two new benefits (which replace existing benefits) will have limited applicability and will not materially impact the majority of disabled veterans.
It is clear that the financial disparity between the Pension Act and the New Veterans Charter – the elephant in the room that the government continues to ignore – will be perpetuated for this significant cohort of disabled veterans in Canada.
If the “one veteran – one standard” philosophy advocated by VAC has any meaning, the government must seize the moment and improve the charter to ensure that no veteran under the New Veterans Charter receives less compensation than a veteran with the same disability or incapacity under the Pension Act. The arbitrary two-tier system of treatment for veterans injured before 2006 and those injured after 2006 must be eliminated. This remains a fundamental issue of concern to Canada’s veterans. With the support of NCVA and the Policy Advisory Group to the Minister of VAC, correcting this disparity to ensure all disabled veterans receive equal compensation remains The War Amps ongoing mission.