Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday November 7, 2018
Feds promise $165 million in compensation after shortchanging 270,000 veterans
Repaying hundreds of thousands of veterans with disabilities and their survivors for a calculating error that deprived them of some of their pensions for seven years will cost $165 million, the federal government said.
Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O’Regan revealed the error and compensation package Monday even as the federal NDP called on the government to ensure all money earmarked for veterans’ benefits is actually spent.
O’Regan’s department miscalculated adjustments to the disability pensions of 270,000 veterans, RCMP members and their survivors between 2003 and 2010 because it didn’t properly account for a change in personal tax exemptions, he said.
“Most individuals will receive a few hundred dollars, while the maximum amount to be paid would be a couple of thousand dollars,” he said.
The miscalculation was identified last year by veterans’ ombudsman Guy Parent, who told the Canadian Press his team stumbled upon the problem while looking at another issue and subsequently flagged it to the government.
While O’Regan promised all veterans would be compensated, payments aren’t expected to begin until 2020, which the minister blamed on the sheer number of Canadians affected by the problem.
Matters are complicated as many as 120,000 of the affected veterans, notably those who served in the Second World War and in Korea, have died. O’Regan’s spokesperson, Alex Wellstead, said their survivors and estates will still be eligible.
Parent said the error would have had a disproportionate impact on low-income veterans from the Second World War and Korea who relied on their pensions, and while he couldn’t say exactly how it happened, he hoped the government will ensure it is not repeated.
News of the error and compensation came as the New Democrats tabled a motion on Monday designed to pressure the Liberals to spend $372 million that’s been earmarked for veterans’ benefits in recent years but wasn’t spent.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said veterans have received inadequate assistance and faced barriers when it comes to accessing services and support for far too long because money approved by Parliament ends up going unused and being returned to the treasury. (Source: Hamilton Spectator)