2. The survivor estate exemption was reduced in 1995 from $24,030 to $12,015 as part of Government budget reductions. The rate is too low and has no mechanism to adjust for cost of living increases. This means that a surviving spouse would not be eligible for benefits if the Veteran's estate is valued at more than $12,015. Many Veterans and their families are excluded from this process as this amount is considerably less than the poverty level.
3. The eligibility for funeral and burial benefits should be granted to low income post-Korean War Veterans. The exclusion from eligibility of Veterans from this program is of grave concern to the Legion. These Veterans are prepared to lay their lives on the line for our country and they deserve a dignified funeral. It is the last and most fitting tribute we as Canadians can provide them. The case of this occurring to a homeless Veteran provides a very sad example. These few Veterans should not be left to fall through the cracks.
These three issues have been on the table since 2004:
- fully analysed in the Veterans Ombudsman's 2009 Report (Serve with Honour, Depart with Dignity),
- fully supported by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs Report 2011 (Commemoration in the 21st Century),
- fully supported by 17 Veterans organizations that unanimously endorsed the requirement for immediate improvements in 2011 and 2012; and lastly
- fully supported by the over 330,000 members of The Royal Canadian Legion at our 2008, 2010 and 2012 national conventions as a high priority issue.
The Government says that they cannot afford to improve this program. The Legion believes the Government is unwilling to improve this program. While the war-time Veterans consisted of approximately one million Veterans in 1945, most served a six-year period and are of a concentrated age distribution. There are more than 594,500 veterans who have served since the Korean War and are represented by a broad age distribution. Additionally, many of these Veterans served as a career and are in receipt of Canadian Forces pensions and other benefits that would exclude them from consideration for insufficiency of funds.
Although expanded eligibility will require ongoing funding, the annual reference level will continue to drop dramatically over the next 5-7 years with the declining WWII and Korean War Veteran population. This means that from a financial perspective, making changes to this program will not be a tremendous ongoing burden to the Government. With an expanded eligibility to low income post-Korean War Veterans, over the longer term, there will not be the same annual demand on this benefit, again not a significant financial burden to the Government. In 2012 the Last Post Fund provided assistance to 1,326 war-time Veterans. However, in 2012 - only 12 CF Veterans, who are excluded from this program, were assisted with donations.
We welcome any and all Canadians who wish to support this campaign to send a letter to your Member of Parliament demanding government action to ensure a dignified funeral service is provided for our most vulnerable Veterans and to support their families in this time of need. A suggested letter is available on the Legion website at www.legion.ca. You can print this letter and mail it, or e-mail directly to your Member of Parliament. Our Veterans and their families deserve to be treated with respect and dignity for their service to our country. As a proud Canadian, I have not forgotten our Veterans and their families, and The Legion never will.
Lest We Forget,
The Royal Canadian Legion
Dominion Command, The Royal Canadian Legion
(613) 591-3335 ext. 241
cell: (613) 292-8760
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