By Janice Dickson | May 7, 2015 4:18 pm
The Harper government tabled its budget implementation bill, and the new legislation contains what appear to be significant financial improvements for veterans — but the key word is "appears", according to Liberal MP and veterans affairs critic Frank Valeriote.
Valeriote said the areas where it appears veterans affairs is making headway — rehiring staff, nearly doubling the retiring income security benefit and increasing the lump sum payment — "sound like a great thing", but it's mostly show.
"They cut about 900 front line staff and they're re-hiring about 100 and then only some of them are part time and full time," said Valeriote, who added that the re-hiring of 100 staff will not honour "our sacred obligation that we have to veterans."
The Conservatives are also proposing to double the retirement income security benefit, so that a retiring veteran who would have received $27,000 a year will earn about $42,000. According to Valeriote, though, veterans initially earned $63,000 per year.
"They're restoring, again, only a fraction of what they cut back so their modus operandi is to cut considerably and restore partially and expect accolades," he said.
The government also announced an additional lump sum award of $70,000 for severely injured veterans, which Valeriote said excludes post traumatic stress disorder because of the way its described. "If you look at what they cover, they will only give $70,000 if the injury was … an immediate result of a single event," he said.
"If the injury was the immediate result of a single event, that excludes PTSD because PTSD in more than 90 per cent of cases arises long after. So essentially it does not cover mental illness, it covers loss of limbs."
Valeriote said the new minister's approach is gracious but not much more generous than his predecessor.
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The Canadian Veterans Advocacy Team.