Mr. Speaker, it was with great pride that I had the privilege of serving in the regular forces for a number of years and had the opportunity to march with veterans on many special occasions, and I am very happy with the way this government has been addressing this very important file.
Allow me to provide the member with a more formal response by stating that with any issue in this place, it is important to represent all the facts accurately.
I will point out that this lawsuit began years ago. Like her, I find it deeply regrettable, and I know that the minister does as well, that veterans felt that they had to take the previous government to court to ensure their own well-being.
While we would rather the plaintiffs were not still pursuing this avenue, we acknowledge their right to do so. That said, our government is working to address the issues raised in this court case. It is precisely because of this situation that the Minister of Veterans Affairs was given the strong mandate to restore access to services for veterans and to ensure long-term financial security and independence for disabled veterans and their families.
I would like to point out that the mandate letter addresses most of the concerns laid out in this lawsuit, including the option of a lifelong pension. We are committed to delivering on that mandate and to getting it right in a timely manner, not getting it wrong quickly.
When it comes to veterans' financial security, this government is not backtracking. Budget 2016 delivered $5.6 billion in additional financial security for veterans.
We invested $2.6 billion to increase the earnings loss benefit. The ELB is a temporary income replacement to support a veteran financially through physical rehabilitation, vocational retraining, and counselling. Under the previous government, a veteran received 75% of his or her pre-release salary. With budget 2016, that benefit increased to 90%. These changes came into effect October 1, 2016.
In addition, the permanent impairment allowance was changed to better address veterans' individual needs. Renamed the career impact allowance, it will see each veteran's injury or impairment assessed individually instead of having their situation fit into a predefined category. This will better determine the impact an impairment might have on a veteran's career advancement opportunities. These changes come into effect next April 1.
The third benefit to be improved and enhanced in budget 2016 is the disability award, a tax-free payment that recognizes the pain and suffering a service-related disability causes in one's life. As of April 1, 2017, the maximum disability award payment will rise from $310,000 to $360,000. Those already receiving a disability award will receive a top-up backdated to April 2016.
We deliberately packaged these improvements together to help veterans and their families get ahead by putting money in their pockets now and ensuring that no one falls through the cracks.
When military service is prematurely ended, we are determined to do all we can for our courageous men and women in uniform. We are actively engaging veterans and veterans' organizations to hear directly from them. The minister established six advisory groups and held three stakeholder summits, including one that concluded two weeks ago, as part of his commitment to improve transparency and seek consultation on issues of importance to veterans and their families.
This is, indeed, a very important issue and has been for this government since day one, and even when we were in opposition. The entire Liberal caucus stands behind our veterans, and we will do what we can to support them.