The Federal government has moved to help out Canadian veterans in its 2013 budget but, according to experts, this is just the first of three major changes that need to be made.
This year’s budget pledged an additional $65 million to the Last Post Fund, a non-profit organization that administers the Veterans Affairs Canada Funeral and Burial Program.
The program helps provide the families of impoverished veterans enough money to cover the cost of their loved ones’ end-of-life expenses.
Had this money had been available last year, it would have saved the families of about 110 veterans from being rejected, according to Jean-Pierre Goyer, the Executive Director of the Last Post Fund.
Goyer says he is happy with the additional support the fund has received from the government this year.
“We commend the minister of Veterans Affairs, our Prime Minister and the Government of Canada for this change and see it as a good step in the right direction,” Goyer said.
Not only will these funds support a greater numbers of veterans each year, they also make sure that the amount of assistance given to families will increase.
Now, instead of the $3,600 maximum per grant that had been in place since 2001, recipients receive almost double, at up to $7,386.
“What it means is that… more veterans will have access to (the fund),” said Andrea Siew, Director of the Service Bureau at the Royal Canadian Legion. “As well as that, it doubles the amount of the grant so it will be pretty significant for the families that are paying for the funerals.”
Both Goyer and Siew say this change will have a great impact on the lives of many low-income families of veterans. But, they urge the government to also consider two more changes that have been proposed.
The first is to reconsider the assets exemption, which qualifies or disqualifies veterans for the funds based on the value of their estates.
The eligibility for this requirement has remained unchanged since 1995, when it was cut in half, from a maximum value of $24,030 to $12,015, according to Goyer.
Second is a request to include modern-day veterans in the consideration for the funds.
“Even if (modern veterans) became eligible by means (asset) testing, only about 10 per cent of all applicants would actually receive a payment under the Funeral and Burial Program,” Goyer said.
This is because modern soldiers are only eligible currently for the grant if they receive disability compensation from Veterans Affairs Canada.
Otherwise, only veterans who have served in the Korean War of before are allowed to apply. For more information on the Last Post Fund, please visit their website.