Veterans Affairs has ended the policy of clawing back the benefit payments of disabled soldiers, sailors and aircrew.
The Harper government says veterans will no longer see a reduction in their earnings loss benefit and their Canadian Forces Income Support benefit because they're also receiving a disability pension.
The clawback was introduced in 2006 under the New Veterans Charter and ending it immediately will cost the federal treasury $177.7 million over the next five years.
Depending upon the severity of the injury and whether they receive the earnings loss or the income support benefit, the change could mean between $1,100 and $1,500 per month to individual veterans.
The move is being celebrated by Kamloops veterans who say too many service personnel are left to fend for themselves after serving their country.
“We say we won’t forget, but we do,” said Neil Campbell. “Anything for veterans helps them. Say there’s somebody who lost a leg so you give him $250,000. You think, ‘Oh, that’s pretty good.’ But it isn’t really.”
The octogenarian believes it’s especially difficult for the most recent generation of service personnel.
“They come back thinking they’re going to get help and they’re not really getting the help they need, in my opinion,” he said. “You’ll find most veterans are living on the edge when they come back.”
Kamloops legion president Walter Giesbrecht said the news is terrific, adding the Dominion Command of the Royal Canadian Legion has been fighting the clawbacks “tooth and nail” since they were introduced.
“If I was a veteran, I’d be overjoyed,” he said.
There’s still some bitterness over military pension adjustments to compensate for old age security, however.
For 61-year-old Kamloops veteran Dave Warriner, that will mean a pension reduction of $599 a month once he turns 65.
“It’s friggin’ highway robbery,” said Warriner, who served for 30 years in Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry. “My pension as a serviceman takes a minimum of 20 years before you’re even eligible for it.”
He compares that to politicians who earn tens of thousands in annual pensions after less than 10 years’ service.
The pension change announced Wednesday is a consequence of last spring’s federal court ruling, which rejected the clawback of disability benefits from eligible veterans in a case waged against the Department of National Defence.
Groups representing ex-military members, including the Canadian Peacekeepers Association and the Royal Canadian Legion, are generally pleased with the decision.
But the question of money still owing looms large.
“All that is left for Minister Blaney to do is address the retroactive money owed to these veterans back to 2006, when the (New Veterans Charter) was enacted by Parliament,” said Ron Cundell, a former sergeant and disabled veteran who runs the website veteransvoice.ca.
The veterans department will increase monthly payments starting in November, but issue cheques to make up for the deduction in October.