The difference between minimum benefits paid by the Department of National Defence’s long-term disability program to medically released Canadian Forces personnel and those paid by Veterans Affairs Canada to disabled veterans has been equalized once more.
Prior to Oct. 3, 2011, injured soldiers and disabled veterans were treated the same, receiving 75 per cent of a CF member’s salary at release. This applied to veterans under VAC’s New Veterans Charter earnings loss benefit and injured members under the long-term disability plan administered by Service Income Security Insurance Plan (SISIP) Financial Services. However, veterans groups advocated for an increase, pointing out the amount was not enough to meet basic needs for those at the bottom of the salary scale at a point when an injured or disabled veteran or member and their families are at their most vulnerable.
When changes to the New Veterans Charter came into effect on Oct. 3, a minimum annual income of $40,000 under the earnings loss benefit was introduced. However, DND did not follow suit, creating a gap between the two plans which had originally mirrored each other. Several veterans groups, including The Royal Canadian Legion, expressed their disappointment at this inaction.
Defence Minister Peter MacKay finally announced April 10 that, retroactive to Oct. 3, 2011, DND would also institute a minimum $40,000 pre-tax income for ill and injured veterans. The minimum benefit for medically released primary reserve force members was also increased, to 75 per cent of $2,700 per month, up from $2,000 per month.
“The Royal Canadian Legion is very happy with the changes,” said Dominion President Pat Varga. “It is a step in the right direction to bring these benefits for medically released people in line with the earnings loss benefit offered by Veterans Affairs Canada to disabled veterans.”
SISIP premiums paid by CF members insured under the SISIP LTD plan will not change. The federal government invested $113 million to support the plan. The enhancements will see an increase to the minimum gross monthly benefit climb to 75 per cent of the basic monthly salary of a corporal which is currently $4,554. Previously the minimum benefit calculation was based on the salary of a senior private.
DND estimates 2,000 beneficiaries will receive retroactive compensation.