The Royal Canadian Legion is pleased with measures announced in the federal budget that are aimed at improving the lives of veterans and their families.
Thomas Irvine, the Legion’s national president, said the organization expected pandemic and economic recovery measures to dominate the budget, and did not expect veterans’ issues to get a lot of attention.
“Given the needs arising due to the pandemic, we were not expecting this much welcome investment in our Veteran community and we are very happy to see our Veterans have not been forgotten,” Irvine said.
The budget included $150 million in funding for a new Veterans Affairs Canada program that will cover mental health treatment costs during the time a veteran is waiting for a ruling on a disability claim. At the same time, the government is budgeting $29 million to reduce the backlog in the disability claims system.
The budget also includes $15 million over three years to enhance the Veteran and Family Well-Being Fund, and $45 million over two years for a pilot program to address homelessness among veterans.
The Legion added its support for defence policy measures and long-term care initiatives announced in the budget.
“One thing the pandemic has done is shine a bright light on how bad [long-term care] actually is in Canada,” said Ray McInnis, the Legion’s director of veterans’ services.
“We’ve been advocating for many, many years on changes to long-term care, You know, the for-profit homes, the amount of seniors and veterans that are in a single room. So it was positive when we saw that,” McInnis said.
While the spending announcements are positive and significant, McInnis says the focus now shifts to making sure the money is spent and the programs delivered.
“We knew this would be a budget for now to get the economy back on track, so we didn't expect much in the way of funding or new programming for the veterans’ community. Overall, I must say we’re pleased,” he said.
But, he adds, there’s much more yet to be done.
“It's a responsibility of all the advocacy groups, whether it's the Legion or any other organizations that advocate for veterans, we have to come together and keep the heat on,” he said.
“I don't think the job's ever done, to be honest with you.”