A Caregiver Recognition Benefit, expansion of Military Family Resource Centres (MFRC) and a Centre for Excellence on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder are amongst the concrete promises the Government of Canada is making to veterans and their families in the 2017 Budget, tabled on March 22 by Parliament.
However, details still remain vague surrounding the government’s promise to bring lifelong pensions back, a promised made to veterans by the Liberal party in the 2015 elections. More details are expected to be released later this year.
For now, though, all the government has stated in the 2017 Budget is, “Specifically, the Government will move forward with its plan to fulfill its commitment to re-establish lifelong pensions as an option for injured veterans. This will provide an option for injured veterans to receive their Disability Award through a monthly payment for life, rather than in a one-time payment. This change to the Disability Award is something that the veterans’ community has long advocated for, and the Government remains committed to delivering. The Government has made considerable progress in its work to develop the pension for life option and will announce further details this year,” read the Budget.
More tangible measures to benefit Canadian Armed Forces, veterans and their families, outlined by Finance Minister Bill Morneau include a new Education and Training Benefit for military members transitioning to civilian life. The benefit would provide more money for veterans going to college, university or technical schools after retiring from the military. This program would begin in April 2018 for veterans honourable released on or after April 1, 2006. This program would be an investment of $133.9 million over six years.
In addition, recognizing the integral role families play in the recovery of ill and injured soldiers, the government has proposed a Caregiver Recognition Benefit that would provide $1,000 in non-taxable monthly benefits paid directly to caregivers.
The Budget also proposes to invest $147 million over the next six years, and $15 million per year ongoing, to expand access to the Military Family Resource Centres for the families of veterans medically released from April 2018 onwards.
Taking mental health in consideration, Budget 2017 also calls for a Centre for Excellence on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The Centre would “have a strong focus on the creation and dissemination of knowledge on prevention, assessment, and treatment of PTSD and related mental health conditions for Veterans and Canadian Armed Forces members.”
The investment would be in the amount of $17.5 million over four years, and $9.2 million per year ongoing.
Additionally, Budget 2017 also promises that the Government will be eliminating the one-year time limit on vocational rehabilitation for survivors and spouses of deceased veterans, establish a Veteran and Family Well-Being Fund, and a veteran emergency fund for veterans and families that fall into financial hardships and need food, shelter, and medicine.
As far as defence is concerned, there is no increase in defence spending in the 2017 budget and the government has, instead, pushed forward $8.48 billion to 2035.