Improvements respond to recommendations from Standing Committee, Veterans and stakeholders
March 17, 2015 – Vancouver – Veterans Affairs Canada
The Honourable Erin O'Toole, Minister of Veterans Affairs, today unveiled two new initiatives to improve benefits and services for Canada's Veterans and their families. He announced a plan to enhance support for seriously injured Veterans by ensuring more Veterans will be eligible for a key monthly financial benefit under the New Veterans Charter (NVC). As well, the Minister announced a proposed new support that recognizes the vital role played by informal caregivers of our most seriously injured Veterans, which often includes their families. Minister O'Toole was joined by Veterans' groups and members of the Canadian Armed Forces.
The first part of today's announcement focused on enhancing the Permanent Impairment Allowance (PIA) by expanding its eligibility. It provides life-long monthly financial support to Veterans whose employment potential and career advancement opportunities have been limited by a permanent service-related injury or illness. The change will expand the number of Veterans eligible for the PIA, by being less restrictive about the requirements relating to their ability to independently carry out most daily activities.
Minister O'Toole also announced a proposed new Family Caregiver Relief Benefit that would recognize the vital contribution of informal caregivers—who are most often family members—to the health and well-being of seriously injured Veterans. The proposed new Family Caregiver Relief [ Benefit would provide eligible Veterans with an annual tax-free grant of $7,238, allowing their informal caregivers to take a well-deserved break while ensuring the Veterans continue to get the support they need.
At the announcement, Minister O'Toole reconfirmed the Government of Canada's commitment to ensuring Veterans and their families have the support and services they need. This included initiatives over the past several months such as:
• the introduction of a proposed Retirement Income Security Benefit that would ensure that an eligible Veteran's total annual income is at least 70% of what he or she received in financial benefits from VAC before age 65;
• proposed increases to the Earnings Loss Benefit for part-time Reserve Force Veterans;
• investments in new and expanded mental health initiatives for Veterans, serving military members, and their families, including a Veteran-specific Mental Health First Aid training program;
• a new Halifax operational stress injury clinic, with 9 satellite clinics across the country, including a permanent satellite in Hamilton;
• a four-year pilot project to expand access to the military family resource centres for medically releasing Veterans and their families;
• a new research project to examine the challenges and opportunities for families living with Veterans with operational stress injuries such as post-traumatic stress disorder; and
• a new mental health action plan to further improve the continuum of mental health supports and services provided to Veterans and their families.
The Government of Canada will continue to ensure that Canadian Veterans and their families have the support they need, and are treated with care, compassion and respect.
• Introduced in 2006 and expanded in 2011, the Permanent Impairment Allowance (PIA) and supplement (PIAS) together provide support ranging from $600 to $2,800 a month in taxable income.
• By 2019-2020, approximately 300 additional Veterans who have made a tremendous sacrifice in service to Canada are expected to receive the Permanent Impairment Allowance.
• It is estimated that by 2020, approximately 261 Veterans and survivors would receive the Retirement Income Security Benefit upon turning 65. The vast majority of modern Veterans are 34 years old. Therefore hundreds of additional Veterans will benefit from this improvement in the future.
• While part of today's announcement responds to recommendations made by the Veterans Ombudsman and the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, the new Family Caregiver Relief Benefit is an entirely new proposal.
"The Harper Government continues to make real changes in the lives of those who need it most. Today's announcement responds directly to what the Parliamentary Committee, stakeholders, and Veterans themselves have been telling us they and their families need. This is another example of how our Government is taking action to help those who gave so much on our behalf."
The Honourable Erin O'Toole, Minister of Veterans Affairs
• Backgrounder – Retirement Security Income Benefit
• Backgrounder – Respect for reservists (When available)
• Backgrounder – Expansion of Permanent Impairment Allowance eligibility (When available)
• Backgrounder – Family Caregiver Relief Benefit (When available)
• Mental Health Services for Veterans
Veterans Affairs Canada is committed to ensuring Veterans are treated with the care, compassion and respect they deserve. Veterans and their families are at the centre of everything we do. #Veterancentric
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Office of the Minister of Veterans Affairs
Veterans Affairs Canada
Family Caregiver Relief Benefit
Veterans Affairs Canada has created a proposed new benefit to recognize the vital contribution of informal caregivers to the health and well-being of Veterans with a severe and permanent service-related injury. The proposed new Family Caregiver Relief Benefit would provide Veterans with an annual tax-free grant of $7,238. In line with efforts to streamline programs and eliminate red tape?, this new benefit has been designed to avoid as much paperwork as possible for those who need it. It would provide informal caregivers relief while ensuring that Veterans continue to get the support they need. Many families care for their loved ones at home. Doing so can present new challenges for the Veteran, his or her family, and the caregiver.
Informal caregivers, who are usually spouses, common-law partners, adult children, parents or other family members, support Veterans with a severe and permanent injury by doing things like arranging direct care for the Veteran, making appointments, coordinating household tasks and providing basic assistance with daily living. This proposed benefit would allow the caregiver to take time off and recharge if needed, knowing that someone else will be providing the vital services and support they have been providing.
This funding could be used for relief options such as covering the cost of having a professional caregiver come into the home or covering the cost for another family member or friend to travel to the Veteran's home. The new benefit is expected to provide relief to approximately 350 spouses or caregivers of the most seriously ill and injured Veterans by 2020.
Example of a Veteran who could benefit from these changes
Marcel is a seriously injured Veteran from Afghanistan. Veterans Affairs already supports him and his family by providing the full cost of in-home care, rehabilitation, retraining and medical support. Yet, while a medical professional is there most of the time, Marcel's spouse is on duty every day, seven days a week. With today's announcement, Marcel can use the Family Caregiver Relief Benefit to pay a professional to come into his home full time, allowing his spouse to take a break if needed, to recharge while knowing that someone else is at home fulfilling Marcel's needs.
A continuum of care
While support for families is the focus of this measure, it must be viewed as part of a full spectrum of services and supports available to Veterans. Benefits and services such as those provided through the Veterans Independence Program (VIP), Long-Term Care, Rehabilitation Program or Health Benefits Program, for example, are designed to help support the needs of ill and injured Veterans.
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Expansion of Permanent Impairment Allowance Eligibility
Monthly financial benefits will be expanded
Veterans who have been severely and permanently injured in their service to Canada and have lost employment and career advancement opportunities need a stable source of monthly financial support.
Introduced in 2006 and expanded in 2011, the Permanent Impairment Allowance (PIA) and Supplement (PIAS) together provide support ranging from approximately $600 to $2,800 a month in taxable income. This financial benefit is paid to Veterans for the rest of their lives, including after age 65.
Currently, one way to be eligible for PIA is that a Veteran requires the physical assistance of another person to perform most activities of daily living (mobility, feeding, bathing, etc.). This new change will broaden the criteria so that more Veterans are eligible for this financial support each month. Once implemented, more Veterans who have a severe and permanent limitation in mobility or self-care, related to their military service, will receive this benefit. It is expected that approximately 300 additional Veterans who have made a tremendous sacrifice in service to Canada would receive this benefit by 2019-2020.
Veterans Affairs Canada will work with the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman to clarify how loss of earnings is considered within the three different grades of the PIA, with the goal of making the grades easier to understand and more predictable.
Examples of Veterans who could benefit from these changes
John is eligible for VAC's Rehabilitation Services and Vocational Assistance Program due to a severe service-related back condition, and he has received a disability award. He has severe and constant pain. He is able to perform most of his daily self-care activities himself but very slowly and with the aid of medications. But John has severe and permanent limitations in mobility. He takes a long time to go from sitting to standing and is unable to walk any distance without stopping due to pain. Currently, because John is able to perform most of his daily self-care activities himself (such as dressing and bathing, albeit very slowly and with great difficulty), he does not meet the PIA criteria. However, with this change, John will now be eligible for this benefit.
Other financial supports available
Canadian Armed Forces Veterans who are injured in service, and are eligible for VAC's Rehabilitation Program, are also eligible for the Earnings Loss Benefit which guarantees at least 75% of a Veterans' military salary is paid during their rehabilitation. For Veterans who are not suitably and gainfully employable, the Earnings Loss Benefit will be paid each month until they turns 65. After age 65, Veterans with moderate to severe disabilities will soon benefit from the recently announced Retirement Income Security Benefit. This new benefit will guarantee Veterans a level of income of at least 70% of their pre-65 benefits received from VAC.
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The Canadian Veterans Advocacy Team.