There continues to be a constant barrage of misinformation regarding Canada's Veterans and this was exemplified in Jeff Rose-Martland's most recent article, which misconstrues the facts. Here are some corrections and clarifications.
Veterans Affairs Canada's budget today is over $3.5 billion. In 2005, it was $2.8 billion. In total, our Government has invested almost $5 billion new dollars that has been put towards rehabilitation, re-training, and medical and financial benefits. Reference to this substantial increase is not found in Mr. Rose-Martland's piece, however.
District Offices were established across the country so that Veterans could drive downtown to visit their Case Managers or registered nurse. Today, our Government dispatches Case Managers and registered nurses to Veterans' homes, saving them a drive in the first place. Case-managed Veterans will still receive the same high level of care that they are accustomed to and this will not change. Veterans also have the option of using the new digital application so they can assess possible symptoms of PTSD from the privacy of their own home. Research has told us that individuals with PTSD are less likely to see a doctor for treatment, and the Canadian Mental Health Association has suggested this is a promising means of identifying PTSD that then opens the door to medical treatment.
The Disability Award forms only a small percentage of the total financial benefits available to injured Veteran under the Enhanced New Veterans Charter. Beyond the many channels of support we make available to Veterans, we have also made dramatic improvements -- and will continue to strive for enhancements -- to ensure that the tools and assistance relied upon by Canada's Veterans remain as effective, efficient and accessible as possible.
Even the Ombudsman himself noted that the changes brought forward in 2011 by our Government have had "a positive effect." We incorporated nearly 160 recommendations which were the result of our Government's wide consultation on how to improve the Charter for Canadian Veterans. In particular, we made it easier for Veterans to qualify for monthly financial benefits such as the Permanent Impairment Allowance (PIA) and Personal Impairment Allowance Supplement, which together total a maximum amount of $2,700 per month. Furthermore, the changes made by our government allow for Veterans to have increased choice when it comes to the Disability Award: They can either receive a one-time payment, an annual instalment over the number of years of a veteran's choosing or a combination of these two payment options.
As I explained to 25 Veterans stakeholders a few weeks ago, the plaintiffs in the current court proceedings argue that the promises of past governments are binding on present and future governments. While this may sound reasonable, their argument could have a far broader impact than perhaps intended. If accepted, this principle could undermine democratic accountability, as parliamentarians of the future could be prevented from changing important legislation. Hence this is not about the issues raised by the plaintiffs, but about unintended consequences to the very functioning of our parliamentary democracy. The place to discuss whether laws meet the needs of Veterans is before a Parliamentary committee whose sole purpose is to hear and represent their interests. That is why I support a comprehensive review of the Enhanced New Veterans Charter, as per the recommendation of the Veterans Ombudsman and various stakeholder groups.
I believe Veterans are remarkable individuals who have made important contributions to Canada. They have stood up in the face of tyranny, and stood firm in the defence of Canada. My reference to my four decades as a law enforcement officer was simply to note that I am no stranger to placing my life on the line. I understand the concerns of the Veterans community, and our Government will continue to do what is right by them.
I will continue to seek to fully pay homage to the depth of sacrifice of Canada's Veterans, to provide them with the support they need to lead successful lives beyond their service in uniform and to preserve their memory for generations to come.