Federal court includes allowances in calculating benefits

July 2, 2020 by Sharon Adams

Some 6,800 veterans may receive compensation and increases in their long-term disability payments following a Federal Court ruling in favour of their class-action suit that argued monthly allowances should be included along with base salary in the military’s disability insurance plan benefit calculations.

Former warrant officer Simon Logan served as the test case in court. As a special operations assaulter for the Canadian Armed Forces who performed counterterrorism and hostage rescue, his pay included allowances for this high-risk work. He was involuntarily medically discharged in 2016 after 28 years of service.

He earned a total of $10,665 monthly from a base salary of $6,801 and nearly $4,000 in allowances. He expected to receive 75 per cent of that monthly total, or nearly $8,000, from the Service Income Security Insurance Plan. But the CAF calculated his benefit on the base salary alone, so he received $5,100 a month.

“When you’re in the military, you’re kind of handcuffed in what you can say or do,” Logan said in an interview with CBC. “But when I became a civilian, I just wanted to take matters that I thought were unjust and try and fix it.”

Military personnel who earn such allowances include paratroopers, rescue specialists, divers, submariners, flight crews and others working in dangerous or isolated situations.

In court, the veterans’ lawyer argued that since the allowances were subject to employment insurance, they should also be covered by disability insurance. The federal government argued that monthly pay and allowances are clearly differentiated and that veterans could be disentitled from allowances, but not from their monthly pay. For example, if special operations assaulters stopped working as assaulters, they would no longer be entitled to that allowance.

In March, Federal Court Justice Richard Southcott said monthly allowances should be included in the calculations for long-term disability benefits, but not allowances that are not paid monthly.

“We agree with the concept of including monthly allowances along with base salaries, when it comes to disability insurance plan benefit calculations,” said Dominion President Tom Irvine of The Royal Canadian Legion. “The Legion believes our veterans need and deserve this additional level of support.”

The veterans are seeking retroactive pay for members released after 1999, when the policy was adopted, as well as adjustments to benefits.

The federal government is reviewing whether to appeal the decision.

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