How could two departments of the federal government be so diametrically opposed? I ask this question because there are two economic support programs for our veterans in play here.
One is the Service Persons Income Security Insurance Plan Long Term Disability (SISIP LTD), a mandatory insurance program for Canadian Forces (CF) members, and the other is the Veterans Affairs Canada Earnings Loss Benefit (VAC ELB).
Before October, 2011, the New Veterans Charter (NVC) and the Service Person’s’ Income Security Insurance Plan (SISIP) provided for 75 per cent of a Canadian Forces member’s salary at release – the two programs were exactly the same. Injured members were on one or the other.
Last year, in response to appeals from veterans’ groups, such as The Royal Canadian Legion, the federal government announced it would increase the benefit to ensure basic needs as shelter, food, clothing, etc., could be met. VAC implemented the increased amount to the ELB program on 3 October 2011. The Department of National Defense (DND)/CF did not. Therefore, there is now a huge inequity! Through no fault of their own we have some veterans who have been injured attributable to their military service being paid $40,000 per year and some less than $20,000.
This is unacceptable and needs to be fixed. We have given DND and the CF ample time but there has been no commitment to date. Now, with the federal government deficit reduction a certainty, The Royal Canadian Legion is looking for a commitment and a firm date.
This is a substantive example of how the federal government’s deficit reduction program is being run on the backs of our veterans. Our veterans deserve better than this. Those that have been injured in the performance of their duties with the CF deserve the same income support regardless of which program they are on.
It is inconceivable that institutions such as the CF and the federal government can stand up and say we care for our troops and we care for our own when they treat the most vulnerable of our veterans so shoddily.
Young men and women today join the CF for a rewarding career. To have it cut short by a debilitating injury is hard enough. The loss of a suitable income should they be unable to work again is a two-fold burden that they should not have to bear.
* Patricia (Pat) Varga, is Dominion president for The Royal Canadian Legion