Editor, The Record:
When it comes to providing the last offering of assistance any Canadian veteran will ever need, that being the financial assistance to cover the costs of their funeral and burial, what is the Canadian government waiting for?
The Royal Canadian Legion first identified this issue at its 2008 national Dominion Convention.
The Legion is dismayed by the inaction of this government to bring the long overdue improvements to funeral and burial benefits for veterans and their families. Instead, it appears the government’s priorities are out of sync with the desires of not only veterans, but the public as a whole.
On Nov. 8 Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) was announced it was spending $3.5 million on advertising campaigns, social media and “cool prizes” to promote Remembrance Day. While it is important to keep the memory of Canada’s military service alive, this spending could not be more misplaced.
If the average Canadian funeral costs $10,000, VAC’s advertising costs would help 350 veterans families with proper funeral and burial costs. Let’s not even talk about the $28 million the government spent on promoting the War of 1812. Canada’s veterans are crumbling under the weight of disrespect shown to them by the government they served to uphold. There should be no doubt that the issue of adequate funeral and burial support is an urgent issue for World War II and Korean War Veterans. The majority of these men and women are in their 90s; approximately 2,000 pass on each month.
There are three key issues which need to be resolved:
1. The rate of $3,600 provided by The Last Post Fund is greatly inadequate and has not been increased since 2001;
2. The eligibility for funeral and burial benefits should be granted to low income Canadian Forces veterans. These veterans were prepared to lay their lives on the line for our country and deserve a dignified funeral.
3. The survivor estate exemption was reduced in 1995 from approximately $24,030 to $12,015 as part of VAC budget reductions. So this means that a veteran’s estate if valued at more than $12,000 would not make that person’s surviving spouse eligible for support for a dignified and respectful funeral.
VAC seems to have some very dull scissors when it comes to “cutting the red tape” on the issue of providing the greatest, and last, benefit every veteran deserves — a dignified and respectful funeral and burial.
The Royal Canadian Legion