Blackburn says lump sum payments meant to improve lives of disabled veterans, others don’t agree
Jean Pierre Blackburn, Minister of Veterans Affairs image: Globe and Mail
The Minister of Veterans Affairs came under repeated questioning in the Canadian House of Commons this week over the treatment of disabled veterans.
Veterans with disabilities will have to wait until December 2010 for the Minister’s report but they should continue to voice their concerns so the matter isn’t shelved by the government.
In 2006, the Conservative government invoked the Veterans Charter which replaced lifetime pensions for disabled veterans with a lump-sum payment of $276,000. That payment, other than medical and rehabilitation expenses, was an attempt to close the book on disabled veterans in one fell swoop.
The payments have been criticized as inadequate and inappropriate. The disabled veterans, many with PTSD, are not trained to be financial planners and some have run through the money and are left with nothing.
During Question Period on June 17th, 2010 MP Judy Foote of Newfoundland asked what cost saving were attributed to the the lump-sum payments.
“With respect to the New Veterans Charter, does Veterans Affairs Canada experience a cost-savings associated with the granting of the lump-sum Disability Award and Death Benefit, as compared to other longer-term assistance measures such as… the disability pension and health care benefits?”
Blackburn said the program was not cost saving but “better value for money.” He said the payment was a better way to wean the disabled veterans off a life-time dependency on the Canadian government. Cost savings would not occur unless the program was successful he added.
“The new design provides an up-front, lump sum payment to recognize the non-economic impacts of service-related disability, as well as ongoing support through rehabilitation and financial benefits to those who need it,” said Blackburn in reply. “This means that those with the greatest need receive the greatest support from Veterans Affairs Canada to aid in their successful transition to civilian life, where possible.”
The Veterans Charter cost the taxpayers $740 million to implement and was projected to break even or be cost neutral by 2025. “The new veterans charter was projected to breakeven by 2025,” he said.
Rather strangely Blackburn claims the veterans disability pension was not meant to provide income support to those unable to work due to their military service disability. “…to support modern-day Veterans through the transition to civilian life, thereby reducing dependence on pension payments to provide adequate, ongoing income support, a purpose that disability pensions were never intended to have.”
MP Foote pressed on to get details of the program, how many disabled veterans applied and were awarded the lump sum benefits. She also wanted to know if any complaints had been filed and if any veterans felt they needed more assistance. “Has Veterans Affairs Canada reviewed … the lump-sum Disability Award …(and) what findings or conclusions have been made?”
Blackburn replied saying that 1,234 files had medical reviews of 24,000 claims for disability filed. 406 claims had been denied to date. Somewhat confusingly he said “Since the start of the new veterans charter program, April 1, 2006 to March 31, 2009, there have been 6,082 reassessments requested specifically for disability awards.” That doesn’t tell us what happened with the other 18,000 claims filed.
Blackburn also replied that an evaluation audit was being conducted and would report in December 2010. ” This evaluation is divided into three phases with a report developed for each phase. Phase I–focus on the relevance and rationale of the new veterans charter and its programs; Phase II–focus on outreach and the service delivery framework; Phase III–focus on unintended impacts and the success in achieving desired outcome.”
“The department continues to consult with veterans’ organizations to hear their concerns. The special needs advisory group… has submitted four reports, providing observations and recommendations for Veterans Affairs Canada’s consideration with regard to improving the new veterans charter from a special-needs veterans’ perspective.”
Those findings were already submitted in October 2009.
Of course the disabled agree it’s better! Like winning a lottery and getting a million bucks now is way better to receiving that million spread over your lifetime in small cheques.The minister hasn’t even read the dammed thing. The maximum payout of $276,000 is only pacomment_ID out in the case of death or total disability. The disabled are payed proportionately to their level of disability from 5% to 100% and that is the last cheque they will see in their lifetime. Yes I am a Veteran and unfortunately have ended up on the New Veterans Charter, thereby losing many benefits which are available on the old charter.
In the U.S.A. at present, there are insurance companys which ‘buy’ months worth of veteran’s disability pension for up to 40% of what it’s worth. Our government has already deccomment_IDed to do the same by offering a one time, deeply discounted cheque to our disabled veterans knowing that they will be grateful for the ‘instant’ cash. Sounds a lot like the Pay Day Loan storefronts showing up in some poorer neighbourhoods across Canada. What a shame for our Country.