Fund meant to bury impoverished veterans rejects over two-thirds of applications

OTTAWA – A federal burial fund meant to give impoverished veterans a final, dignified salute has rejected over two-thirds of the applications it’s received since 2006.

And of the requests that are accepted, Ottawa contributes just over $3,600 toward the funeral cost of destitute ex-soldiers, a figure that is substantially lower than what some social services departments pay towards the burial of the homeless and those on welfare.

According to figures put before Parliament, of the 29,853 requests made to the veterans funeral and burial program, 20,147 pleas for funding 67.4 per cent were rejected.

They either did not meet the eligibility criteria, or failed a means test, which says a qualifying veteran’s annual income must have been less than $12,010 per year.

The executive director of the Last Post Fund, the independent agency that has for decades administered the program on behalf of Veterans Affairs Canada, acknowledges the high rejection rate, but says the nature of the criteria excludes many modern day soldiers who served in the Cold War and Afghanistan.

Jean-Pierre Goyer says they have been petitioning Stephen Harper’s Conservative government to not only overhaul the rules, but to increase the stipend given to those who do qualify for assistance.

“Our prime minister and his government don’t see it as a priority and it hasn’t made the list for the last budget,” said Goyer. “We came close last budget, I’m told, and our improvements were taken off the list at almost the last minute. We hope in the next federal budget we can see this through.”

“Veterans affairs and their minister, Steven Blaney, they are committed to see this change through. I would tell, and you can quote me on that, the problem is with the government of Canada.”

Overhauling eligibility and increasing the funeral stipend, which hasn’t been raised in a decade, could cost between $5 million and $7 million annually.

The Harper government through veterans affairs has poured millions of dollars into the restoration of local war monuments over the last two federal budgets. These photo-op friendly projects are unveiled by local MPs with much fanfare.

It has also spent $28 million to celebrate the War of 1812, including advertising, historical recreations and the presentation of battle honours to regiments that fought in a war that pre-dated Confederation.

A spokesman for the veterans minister said the government has been working with the veterans and their families to respond to their priorities and concerns.

“The department is constantly reviewing all of its programs to deliver better services to veterans and their families,” said Niklaus Schwenker.

The government has also recently invested millions in improved veterans benefits, but critics say ignoring the burial issue is tantamount to a final insult.

“There’s an awful lot of photo-ops and spin and propaganda about how this government purportedly loves veterans. They talk the talk, but they don’t walk the walk,” said Liberal veterans critic Sean Casey.

“This has been repeatedly raised.”

Just recently, funeral directors meeting in Ottawa complained they were often subsidizing the shortfall between the federal government’s $3,600 stipend and the nearly $10,000 price tag of modern funerals.

Goyer says the fund sometimes is bypassed now and requests go directly to provincial social services, which in some cases contribute up to $5,000.

The Royal Canadian Legion has also been lobbying to see the stipend increased for the funeral rate paid for serving members of the Forces, which is now over $13,000. The Legion argues the eligibility rules flaunt the Canadian Forces Military and Veterans Re-Establishment and Compensation Act.

The criteria of the fund restrict eligibility to soldiers who fought in both world wars, Korea and to those who were in receipt of a veterans disability benefit something Goyer says is badly in need of revision.

“What is the difference between modern-day veterans that we send to Afghanistan or in Africa to represent the country and fight for freedom and ensure that nobody’s abused,” and those who fought before them? Goyer asked.

The Last Post still receives pleas to bury modern-day veterans and currently has nine cases under consideration, including a former homeless soldier found dead on the streets of Calgary.

It recently took to private fundraising, for the first time, in order to bury veterans who fall outside of the federal criteria and is aiming to raise $9 million over the next three years.

The agency, like other arms of government, has been subject to both the strategic review and the deficit reduction plan and was told to cut its budget.




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Fund meant to bury impoverished veterans rejects over two-thirds of applications

  1. Why would the Liberals care any more than the Conservatives? The Liberals introduced the new Veterans Charter which has been a balls up since parliament OK’d it. I don’t think the NDP would be any better unless Peter Stoffer would actually have a say.

  2. Ahh but they all wear poppies don’t they……

    • Yes they all talk the talk but don’t walk the walk

      • Well I don’t wear a poppy….although I’d wear a white one if they were available….but we can’t have govt members reneging on a commitment they made to our troops when they sent them off to die. That’s part of the responsibility of govt.

        But every year, no matter what happens to our military members…..all 308 MPs show up with poppies on. In fact you see the same poppy photos in May and August. The hypocrisy……

        • A while back I traced where the funds for white poppies went and it isn’t to the vets, recovery programmes or their dependents.
          Chickenhawks and white poppy wearers have a lot in common.

          • Wikipedia hmm
            wow
            how about going to the PPU website and seeing where the money they collect goes. I’ll give you a hint it isn’t to vets, their dependents or any programmes to aid in their recovery. The money from the red poppy fund goes there. http://www.legion.ca/Poppy/mandate_e.cfm

            I don’t need to ‘score,’ reality and the facts back up my position. But you keep on feeling smug with your window dressing

          • I don’t care where the ‘Legion’ funds go to.

            It’s up to our govt to look after vets.

            I gave up on the military years ago.

          • It’s up to us a nation to look after our vets. The reason the Legion should give a crap is because they’ve been there and have an idea of what it takes. The white poppy folk are just as bad as the chickenhawks, they use the sacrifice of others to push (fund) their political agenda.
            It’s nice tho’ that the military never gave up on you, hey?

          • I’ve been in the military, I’m a vet. I’ve been in the Legion.

            It’s time to end wars.

          • Ditto, except I still pay Legion dues, although I’m unimpressed with the priorities of the leadership of that organisation and their constant sucking up to the Harper Gov..

            But realism and history indicates that wars will be a part of human existence for a fair while to come. Looking after those who fight for us is part of the contract. Cowards like Harper may not give a second thought about the human fallout of his playing emperor, but that doesn’t mean that others can fund their activities using the injured’s name either.
            Any money raised should fund the treatment and families of those hurt in the conflict.

          • I left the Legion a long time ago, over the Sikh rubbish

            ‘War has become a luxury that only small nations can afford.’ Arendt

          • I guess that makes the US a small nation

          • The US has always been a small nation.

            But maybe after losing both Iraq and Afghanistan….

          • Small of intellect, that I’ll grant you and even more so if Romney gets in after Bush managed to serve 2 terms; but in terms of killing capability they are far from small.

            My fear is the set-backs in both those theatres will just teach them that there is only one way to fight and that is to destroy your adversary completely and anyone else who happens to be in the vicinity.
            With the certainty of purpose that can only come from dogmatic idealism they will have no problem killing us all to save us.

          • Well it’s easy to kill people from 30,000 ft with planes….or with drones….but it’s not doing them any good….it’s just making them more enemies. And those enemies have proven they can strike back in surprising ways.

            Obama seems to be the transitional president that’s moving them to a new understanding of their place in the world. Takes a bit….and for awhile 2 steps forward, one step back….but there is SOME forward movement at least.

          • I wish I had your faith in the evolutionary nature of US politicians, but I view them as little more than those who cannot wait for the existence of man to end. Their understanding of their place in the world is that they are #1 or they are nothing. As the former is patently untrue, when they actually realise that the latter is the case, the world is done.
            The religious fanatics who have access to nuclear weapons that I fear are not muslim, they are our neighbours to the south.

          • Oh I agree that most US politicians are cave men….and they are, and have been for a couple of hundred years….. the biggest danger in the world.

            However, they have little choice for the future….I know they are doing the ‘last stand’, ‘last bastion’, ‘remember the Alamo’ stuff etc…..but they are dying.

            The wrong side of history….no matter how much they beat their chests.

      • Ain’t that always the way.
        It’s always the job of those who are poor to die for the bottom line or some ideological BS. But ask the ideologues or the business owners to partake and it’s crickets..

  3. Taxpayer dollars should be used for the living, not the dead. The land should be used for the living, not the dead. Furthermore, cemeteries typically don’t pay property taxes, so the reduction in the amount of land useful for residential and commercial purposes inflates the cost of housing and transportation for all living individuals. Danny Handelman

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