Budget 2017

Links to FACT SHEETS related to Budget 2017:

Index

General

Caregiver Recognition Benefit

Veteran's Education and Training Benefit

The Veteran and Family Well-Being Fund

The Veteran Emergency Fund

Military Family Resource Centres (MFRC)

Mental Health

Centre of Excellence on PTSD and related Mental Health conditions

Removing Time limit for Vocational Rehabilitation and Assistance

Career Transition Services Program

Pension for Life Option

Service Delivery

General

Q1. What are the changes?

Budget 2017 introduces additional improvements to programming and services for Canada’s Veterans and their families. These include:

  • A new Veterans’ Education and Training Benefit (Veterans and Reservist)
  • A new Caregiver Recognition Benefit
  • A new Centre of Excellence on PTSD and related mental Health conditions
  • A redesigned Career Transition Services Program (still serving members thinking of releasing, Veterans, Reservists, survivors, spouses and common-law partners.)
  • A new Veteran and Family Well-Being Fund
  • A new Veteran Emergency Fund
  • Expanded access to the Military Family Resource Centres
  • No time limit for access to Vocational Rehabilitation for survivors, spouses and common law partners.

**It builds on the improved financial security programming from Budget 2016.

Q2. Why are these changes being made?

These changes are being made so we can better fulfill our core commitment, which is ensuring the well-being of Veterans their families.

The focus of Budget 2017 is better and stronger supports for families and the well-being of Veterans. This builds on the significant investment we made in Budget 2016.

Beyond the increase to supports we provided in Budget 2016 and on which we are building in Budget 2017, we are overhauling our service delivery model so Veterans and their families will find it easier to learn about and access the programs, benefits and services available to them.

Q3. When will these changes come into effect?

All of the initiatives will take effect April 1, 2018.

Q4. Did you consult with Veterans on these changes?

Yes, Veterans were consulted. We created 6 Ministerial Advisory Groups which comprise a diverse cross-section of Veterans and experts. Over 25 meetings and teleconferences have been held to date.

There have been three successful Stakeholder Summits, one in December 2015, another in May 2016 and the most recent one in October 2016. At the October summit, over 150 participants including nearly 40 Veterans' organizations and members of six Advisory Groups participated. It served as an effective platform to share ideas, discuss matters of importance and to build consensus around some complex issues.

Additionally, last May we launched the "Have Your Say" online engagement tool for Canadians where they can provide thoughts and critical feedback.

The Minister of Veterans Affairs also visited a number of communities across the country, hosting local stakeholders at twenty roundtable discussions.

Q5. Who will benefit from these changes?

Canadian Armed Forces members, Veterans, their families and caregivers will benefit from these changes. Whether it is more support for families or greater educational opportunities for Veterans, the government is adding or enhancing supports for everyone involved with military service.

Caregiver Recognition Benefit

Q6. What is the Caregiver Recognition Benefit (CRB)?

It is a new tax-free benefit of $1000 a month, paid directly to a Veteran’s informal caregiver.

Q7. What will the eligibility criteria be for the new caregiver benefit? Will it be the same as the Family Caregiver Relief Benefit?

The eligibility criteria remains the same for the new Caregiver Recognition Benefit. The main difference is that the new benefit will be a monthly, tax-free, amount paid directly to the caregiver.

Q8. Why does it have to be the Veteran who applies for the benefit? Why can’t the Caregiver apply?

It is the Veteran’s health issues which result in the need for a caregiver, therefore it is the Veteran who must apply for the benefit. If the Veteran has granted power of attorney to someone, that person may apply on behalf of the Veteran.

Q9. Is the Caregiver Recognition Benefit intended to provide employment income in lieu of the caregiver having other employment?

No. The Caregiver Recognition Benefit is not intended as a remuneration for work. The benefit is meant to recognize caregivers for the support they provide on a daily basis to ill and injured Veterans. VAC understands the vital role these individuals play in the lives of Veterans and is recognizing these efforts.

Q10. Why did you make this change?

To better recognize the contribution that informal caregivers make to the health and well-being of Veterans who need support as a result of a physical and/or mental health condition(s). The Veteran stakeholder community also made requests for this type of recognition.

When a Veteran serves, his/her family serves also.

Q11. Will access to this benefit be easier, compared to the existing Family Caregiver Relief Benefit (FCRB)?

The FCRB is an annual payment so the Veteran has to complete an initial application and then a renewal form each year after that. With the Caregiver Recognition Benefit, the Veteran will have to make the initial application only.

Q12. Who is considered a caregiver?

A caregiver is a person 18 years of age or older who plays an essential role in the provision or coordination of ongoing care to the Veteran in the Veteran’s home for which the caregiver receives no remuneration.

The informal caregiver is NOT required to live with the Veteran. At the time of application, the caregiver will attest to the fact that he or she is:

  1. 18 years of age or older,
  2. Plays an essential role in providing or coordinating the Veteran’s ongoing care in the Veteran’s home, and
  3. Is not paid for providing / coordinating this care.

Veteran’s Education and Training Benefit

Q13. What is the Veterans’ Education and Training Benefit?

This program would provide up to $80,000 in funding to cover tuition, fees, materials, and some incidental and living expenses for participants for most types of formalized educational programs, while they are attending school.

A Veteran who served 6 years in the military would be eligible for up to $40,000 in funding for education; a member who served 12 years would be eligible for up to $80,000 to cover tuition, course materials, and some incidentals and living expenses.

Q14. Are all Veterans with at least 6 years of service entitled to this benefit?

Yes - all honourably released Veterans (Regular Force and Reservists) with at least 6 years of service will be eligible for the Education and Training benefit and Veterans will have up to 10 years following their release date to use the benefit.

For the Veterans who have at least 6 years of service but released on or after April 1, 2006, and before the coming into force date of April 1, 2018, they would have access to the funding for 10 years from the coming-into-force date.

Q15. Why is the education and training benefit only being made available to Veterans who have been released on or after April 1st 2006?

The eligibility criteria for the Education and Training Benefit was designed to align with the coming into force of the New Veterans Charter. A number of benefits are aligned with the April 1, 2006 date including the introduction of the Disability Award as well as eligibility for the Critical Injury Benefit introduced in Budget 2015.

Q16. What if a Veteran is medically-released before he reaches six years of service? Will he/she have access to the Veterans’ Education and Training Benefit, or is there another support available for education and training?

Veterans with less than six years of service are not eligible for the Education and Training Benefit.

If a Veteran is medically-released with less than six years of service, he/she will be able to access vocational rehabilitation through Service Income Security Insurance Plan (SISIP)’s Vocational Rehabilitation Program. If he/she has health problems primarily related to service which are causing a barrier to his/her re-establishment in civilian life, he/she may be able to access vocational rehabilitation through VAC’s Rehabilitation Services and Vocational Assistance Program.

Q17. Are Veterans who are in the Rehabilitation Services and Vocational Assistance Program eligible for the new Education and Training Benefit?

The Education and Training Benefit cannot be paid during a Veteran’s participation in the Rehabilitation Service and Vocational Assistance Program. However, an eligible Veteran could receive the Education and Training Benefit either before or after his or her participation in the Rehabilitation Services and Vocational Assistance program.

Eligible Veterans who released between April 1, 2006 and March 31, 2018 will have up until March 31, 2028 to receive funding under the Education and Training Benefit. Eligible Veterans who release after April 1, 2018 will have ten years from the date of their release to receive funding under this program.

Q18. Does a reservist qualify for the Veterans’ Education and Training Benefit? If so, how does his time in service add up to six or 12 years?

Reservists will be eligible for the Veterans’ Education and Training Benefit. However, we are still finalizing the specific details for implementation of this benefit and how time served will be calculated. As soon as more information is available, we will share it immediately. Please feel free to reach out again closer to the April 1, 2018 implementation date.

Q19. How will Veterans Affairs Canada communicate to Veterans that they are indeed entitled to this benefit?

Veterans Affairs Canada will be using all channels available to connect with Veterans to ensure they know they are entitled to this benefit. This includes our website, Facebook, Twitter and other social media. We will also be working with stakeholders groups and our Ministerial Advisory Committees to share this information and reach as many Veterans as possible.

Our partners, the Canadian Armed Forces, will also be sharing information and promoting this benefit among its serving members.

Over the next year, VAC will be undertaking a major outreach effort to ensure CAF members, Veterans, and their families know and understand all of the benefits available to them, how they work together, and how to access them without hassle.

We ask that Veterans and their families help spread the information regarding benefits as well.

Q20. Can I take any program I want?

Education and training must lead to the completion of a degree, diploma, certification or designation from an educational institution and be pre-approved by VAC.

Q21. What institutions are acceptable for a Veteran to attend while using this benefit?

Universities, colleges and technical institutions are acceptable.

Q22. Can I use this to get a master’s degree?

Yes. The proposed Veterans’ Education and Training Benefit could be used to get a master’s degree.

Q23. What if I don’t want to go to University or College?

If university or college is not the Veteran’s choice, a portion of the total funding earned would be available to all eligible Veterans who released on or after April 1, 2006 for career and personal development courses such as small business boot camps, continuing education, etc.

Q24. Will the benefit be provided directly to the Veterans for his/her education, or paid to the institution?

The benefit will be paid directly to the Veteran. The Veteran will then be responsible for paying the tuition at the institution of their choice. The remaining funds are intended to be used to cover other costs including books and costs of living during the term of study.

Q25. Can I be reimbursed if I already paid for my tuition out of pocket?

Tuition paid prior to April 1, 2018 will not be reimbursed.

Come April 1, 2018, the proposed education or training must be pre-approved by VAC for an upcoming program and then paid directly to the Veteran. The Veteran will then be responsible for paying the tuition at the institution of their choice. The remaining funds are intended to be used to cover other costs including books and costs of living during the term of study.

The Veteran and Family Well-Being Fund

Q26. What is the difference between the Emergency Fund and the Well-being Fund?

The new Veteran Emergency Fund will be used to immediately help Veterans in unique and urgent situations. The Fund has been developed to provide Veterans and survivors with access to financial support, quickly and efficiently, to ensure their well-being in urgent circumstances. It will provide immediate assistance while mid-to-long term solutions are found.

The Veteran and Family Well-Being Fund will be used to provide funding for initiatives and projects that support the well-being of Veterans and their families. The Fund is designed to encourage innovative and new ideas around issues that are important to Veterans and their families and the results will be seen in the medium-to-long term.

Q27. What is the Veteran and Family Well-Being Fund?

The Veteran and Family Well-Being Fund would allow the development and implementation of initiatives in support of Veterans and their families by providing monies to non-profit and voluntary organizations, and in some cases, for-profit groups.

Q28. How can my group access the Veteran and Family Well-Being Fund?

VAC would issue periodic calls for proposals where stakeholders would be invited to submit applications for funding for projects and initiatives linked to issues impacting Veterans and their families.

The Veteran Emergency Fund

Q29. Is there anything in the budget to help a Veteran who is in financial crisis and needs help quickly – such as a homeless Veteran?

Yes – the new Veteran Emergency Fund would provide Veterans Affairs Canada with the flexibility to support Veterans and survivors with access to financial support, quickly and efficiently, to ensure their well-being in urgent circumstances. It would provide immediate assistance while mid-to-long term solutions are found.

Q30. Who would be eligible for the Veteran Emergency Fund?

This new fund would be available to any Canadian Veteran, or their spouse/common law partner, orphan or survivor living in Canada whose well-being is at risk as a result of an urgent or unexpected emergency.

Q31. Do you have any other information regarding the Veteran Emergency Fund such as the application process, the maximum amount, the frequency?

There are no details available at this time regarding the Veteran Emergency Fund. When more information is available, we will share it publicly, including on our website. Please feel free to contact us again closer to the April 1, 2018 date for more details.

Military Family Resource Centres (MFRC)

Q32. What are the Military Family Resource Centres?

Military Family Resource Centres (MFRCs) provide programs and services that empower and encourage strong, independent individuals and families, they serve as the hub of military communities. They are Located on Canadian Armed Forces Bases and Wings across Canada.

Each centre is a not-for-profit organization, managed by a volunteer board of directors, represented by a majority of military family members. Board members are elected by the community. They assess local needs, in order to avoid duplication of community services and resources, while determining priorities, providing leadership and the mandated delivery of the national Military Family Services Program (MFSP).

The MFRCs are arm's length, independent organizations that provide a range of support services to Canadian Armed Forces members and their families. These services include welcome and community orientation sessions, parenting workshops, child care, outreach, information and referral, personal growth and development programming as well as employment and educational assistance.

Q33. Is there a time limit for my family and I to begin accessing the MFRC?

No there is no time limit.

Q34. Are all MFRCs included? Can I start going now?

Yes, all MFRCs are included. Access to MFRCs will begin on 1 April 2018. Medically released Veterans who have released on or after 1 April 2018 and their families will have unlimited access to the Veteran Family Program at MFRCs. The intent of the program is to ease medically-released members and their families as they transition to civilian services in their respective communities.

Q35. I would like to benefit from the access to the MFRCS, but I live far away. Can I access assistance remotely? Would VAC pay for my travel to visit?

The Veteran Family Program includes access to MFRC services and the Military Family Services Program (MFSP) which has 2 additional service points – 24/7 Family Information Line (1-800-866-4546) and online resources at www.CAFconnection.ca. Many of these may be accessible via remote means. Any Veteran interested in accessing MFSP services is encouraged to reach out to MFRC, Family Information Line or CAFconnection.ca to inquire about delivery methods for their programs and services.

VAC does NOT cover the cost of travel to/from MFRC centres. VAC covers Health-related travel costs to enable an eligible client to obtain:

  1. Any medical, surgical or dental examination or treatment provided by an approved health professional;
  2. Any surgical or prosthetic device or any aid approved by the Minister; or
  3. Maintenance of the device or aid.

Q36. Will the MFRCs be available to all medically-released Veterans going forward? Will it be restricted to those under the New Veterans Charter, or those releasing after April 2018?

Access to the MFRCs will be available to Veterans who medically release after April 1, 2018 and their families.

Q37. Will MFRCs eventually be able to support all Veterans, regardless of how they are released? Is there an opportunity to create Military and Veterans Family Resource Centres (MVFRCs)?

VAC will continue to look at all options to best serve Veterans and their families. We welcome your feedback and encourage you to use the “Have your Say” tool available on our website.

Q38. Will MFRCs with expanded access be able to support the enhanced Career Transition Services?

The Career Transition Services program is not linked to the expanded access to the MFRC’s. Career Transition Services will be provided by a third-party service provider.

Mental Health

Q39. VAC should be doing more to help Veterans in crisis, including homeless Veterans. Will Budget 2017 address this?

Yes. VAC has created a Veteran Emergency Fund to support Veterans and their families in crisis. The new fund would provide VAC with the flexibility needed to approve requests for assistance that are not covered by existing programs and services.

In addition, there will be elements of the larger Budget which will help address issues like affordable housing and homelessness which will have a positive impact on the Veterans population.

Centre of Excellence on PTSD and related Mental Health conditions

Q40. Why doesn’t the government open an in-patient facility?

As per the Canada Health Act, health care is the responsibility of the provinces.

As Veterans Affairs Canada does not provide direct mental health care it has entered into several agreements with provincial health authorities to provide specialized mental care for veterans. These specialized services are delivered by the provinces but funded by Veterans Affairs Canada.

For Veterans that need specialized inpatient services, the department funds an inpatient residential clinic located at Ste. Anne’s Hospital and several other registered-VAC Approved inpatient treatment facilities, located across the country.

Q41. What are the other in-patient treatment facilities located across the country?

There are several in-patient facilities with various eligibility criteria. If you wish to discuss the various facilities, I can refer you to your local Area Office for further discussion.

Q42. How is this Centre of Excellence different from the OSI network?

The Centre of Excellence (CoE) would complement the OSI network of clinics that consists of 10 outpatient specialized mental health clinics and one specialized inpatient residential clinic. Each OSI Clinic has a team of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, mental health nurses, and other specialized clinicians who provide mental health assessment and treatment services to Veterans, CAF and RCMP members, including support to family members.

The Canadian CoE would build knowledge on the subject of Canadian military and Veteran mental health, suicide prevention and substance use disorder issues and transfer this knowledge to mental health service providers treating Canadian Veterans and active military. The ultimate purpose of the CoE would therefore be to optimize mental health treatment outcomes for Canadian Veterans and still serving members.

Q43. Will the Centre of Excellence for Mental Health provide Veteran-specific programming that a Veterans Affairs bricks-and-mortar facility would be able to do?

The Centre of Excellence will the central point of information and resources on Veteran-specific programming. In fact, the Centre will focus on program development, education and outreach activities and will share information and best practices with clinics and mental health professionals across the country. Despite the fact that Veterans will not be receiving services directly in a bricks-and-mortar facility, the nature of the Centre allows expanded outreach that helps Veterans in every part of the country, not just one specific geographic location.

It is also important to note that the Centre is one part of the joint mental health strategy between VAC and the Canadian Armed Forces. A network of physical locations such as the Occupational Stress Injury clinics, which provide access to treatment to address anxiety, insomnia, anger and other issues that are occurring as a result of a mental health disorder exist across the country.

Q44. Is Canada the only country implementing a Centre of Excellence like this?

No. The Canadian approach is similar to the Australian and USVA Centres of Excellence.

Removing Time limit for Vocational Rehabilitation and Assistance

Q45. Is the program changing at all?

There is no change to the Rehabilitation Services and Vocational Assistance Program. The program is simply being enhanced to better support survivors and spouses/common-law by eliminating the current one year application time limit to apply.

Q46. Will a Survivor of a Veteran be able to access vocational rehabilitation services at any time, and multiple times if necessary?

There will be no time limits for a survivor, spouse or common-law partner to apply for the Rehabilitation Services and Vocational Assistance Program.

As is the case with Veterans who participate in this program, services are provided on the basis of need. An eligible survivor, spouse or common-law partner who is assessed as having vocational needs that have not yet been addressed may be approved to access the program more than once, if required.

Q47. Is this benefit available only to those under the New Veterans Charter?

Under Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act (CFMVRCA), the Rehabilitation Services and Vocational Assistance program is available to survivors of members or Veterans who died on or after April 1, 2006 of a service-related injury or disease or a non-service-related injury or disease that was aggravated by service. Spouses and common-law partners of Veterans are also eligible to apply if the Veteran was approved for the Rehabilitation Services and Vocational Assistance Program and has been determined to meet the criteria of the Diminished Earning Capacity designation (formally called Totally and Permanently Incapacitated (TPI)).

Career Transition Services Program

Q48. Who is eligible for this service?

Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members who complete basic training and eligible Veterans, survivors, spouses and common-law partners. There is no time limit to apply. Spouses and common-law partners have access to the program for 2 years following the Veteran’s release.

Members of the CAF Regular and Reserve Forces who complete basic training will have access to certain aspects while still serving. The goal would be to help them decide about their career options in civilian life while still serving. The intent is not to replace the existing career counselling offered by Personnel Selection Officers who assist members in advancing in their military career.

Scenario 1

Mario is a 37-year-old member of the Canadian Armed Forces, who has served his country for eight years. Unsure about his future, Mario uses the Career Transition Services program proposed in Budget obtain labour market information about various places in Canada. Mario decides to release from the military. At that time, he contacts CTS again to discuss his plans and identify his education and training needs. Upon release from the Canadian Armed Forces, together with the Veterans’ Education and Training Benefit proposed in Budget 2017, Mario is entitled to access $40,000 for full-time or part-time study. Mario registers for university and successfully completes a Masters of Business Administration degree. Mario then uses the Career Transition Services program again to receive job-finding assistance services. Throughout Mario’s employment in the civilian workforce, he would be eligible for services under the Career Transition Services program if he needed them again in future.

Q49. How will Veterans Affairs Canada communicate to Veterans that they are indeed entitled to this benefit?

Veterans Affairs Canada will be using all channels available to connect with Veterans to ensure they know they are entitled to this benefit. This includes our website, Facebook, Twitter and other social media. We will also be working with stakeholders groups and our Ministerial Advisory Committees to share this information and reach as many former serving members as possible.

Our partners, the Canadian Armed Forces, will also be sharing information and promoting this benefit among its serving members.

Over the next year, VAC will be undertaking a major outreach effort to ensure CAF members, Veterans, and their families know and understand all of the benefits available to them, how they work together, and how to access them without hassle.

We ask that Veterans and their families help spread the information regarding benefits as well.

Q50. How will the enhanced Career Transition Services be integrated with the Canadian Armed Forces?

We are still finalizing the specific details for implementation of the redesigned Career Transition Services. As soon as more information is available, we will share it immediately. Please feel free to reach out again closer to the April 1, 2018 implementation date.

The Canadian CoE would build knowledge on the subject of Canadian military and Veteran mental health, suicide prevention and substance use disorder issues and transfer this knowledge to mental health service providers treating Canadian Veterans and active military. The ultimate purpose of the CoE would therefore be to optimize mental health treatment outcomes for Canadian Veterans and still serving members

Q51. Will the Career Transition Services be run by the government, or will it be contracted to a third party?

The intent is that Career Transition Services will be delivered by a third-party contractor on behalf of Veterans Affairs Canada.

Q52. Does this service have anything to do with the Government’s Priority Hiring?

The Career Transition Service program is part of a comprehensive suite of benefits offered by VAC and is not linked directly to the Priority Hiring initiative. We encourage eligible Veterans to take full advantage of both programs.

Pension for Life Option

Q53. Why is there a delay on establishing a life-long pension option for Veterans under the New Veterans Charter? Hasn’t the Minister and the Department been consulting on this for a year and a half?

Details regarding the new monthly pension for life will be made available in 2017.

We remain committed to ensuring that the right monthly pension for life option is developed. This is why the Department has been taking the time needed over the past 18 months to do two things: first, to review our current benefits and programs and, second, to consult extensively with stakeholders.

Our goal is to ensure the new benefit meets the needs of today’s Veteran, and we are committed to finalizing the details of this option in 2017.

Q54. Will I be able to change my option for payment? If so, how and when will this change be implemented?

There are no details available at this time regarding the Pension for Life option. When more information is available, we will share it publicly, including on our website. Please feel free to contact us again in the coming months for more details.

Q55. What is taking so long?

We need to deliver the right option for a monthly pension for life for ill and injured Veterans. Over the past 18 months, the Department has been reviewing the current benefits and programs to ensure that the new benefit meets the needs of Veterans. We will introduce this monthly pension for life option in 2017.

Q56. When can we expect an announcement about a benefit for life option?

You can expect this announcement in 2017. Canadians can rest assured that Canada’s Veterans are receiving the financial support promised.

Q57. How long will it take post announcement to implement?

It is unknown at this time exactly when the announcement will be, however, this information will be made available as part of the announcement later this year.

Service Delivery

Q58. Are the offices that were promised in Budget 2016 now open?

To date, we have reopened nine of the nine previously closed Veterans Affairs offices: (Corner Brook, NL; Brandon, MB; Sydney, NS; Kelowna, BC; Saskatoon, SK; Charlottetown, PE; Thunder Bay and Windsor ON; and Prince George, BC).

In May, we will open a new office in Surrey, BC.

We have also expanded outreach to Veterans in the North. Starting in November, 2016, VAC staff began traveling to the territories and other northern communities every month to meet with Veterans and their families. The cities of Yellowknife, NWT; Whitehorse, YT; and Iqaluit, NU; were the first areas visited.

This will help improve access to services for Veterans and their families from coast to coast to coast.

Q59. New benefits are great, but what is VAC doing to address the amount of time it takes to get a disability decision from VAC?

We are taking a hard look at the entire disability application process from intake to decision to expedite the process and respond to Veterans’ needs more quickly.

The amount of disability benefits claims submitted to VAC has increased by 19% in 2015-16 as compared to the previous fiscal. This is a good thing. It means more people are coming forward to get the help they so need and deserve.

VAC’s service standard for Disability Benefits is to process the first application within 16 weeks. We are behind in some cases and are working hard to do better.

We are working to implement further measures to reduce the backlog and improve program success by hiring more frontline staff; simplifying the decision-making process for some medical conditions; and working with partners to speed up access to service health records.

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