Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to have the opportunity today to speak to Bill C-378, which is an act to amend the Department of Veterans Affairs Act.
I would like to thank our colleague from Barrie—Innisfil for his ongoing attention to the welfare and well-being of our veterans. It is my passion too. My dad was on a corvette. My mom repaired airplanes at No. 10 Repair Depot in Calgary. Both my grandfathers served in the First World War for Canada. My great-grandmother got the keys to the City of Vancouver for sending eight of her boys off to fight in World War II.
I think all members of the House would agree that the well-being of veterans and their families is important to them, and that Canadians want the best for these men and women should they fall ill or become injured. We all want what is best for this country's proud veterans, and I am pleased to be able to speak to how far this government has gone.
We have heard from veterans and their family members. We have spoken to thousands across this country and the comments are always in the same vein. When soldiers come home, all they ask for is to have the services and care they need for themselves and their families. We could not agree more. This is what our government promised to do when we came to office just over two years ago, and this is what Veterans Affairs Canada endeavours to do every day as it delivers benefits and services to over 190,000 Canadian Armed Forces veterans, Royal Canadian Mounted Police veterans, and their families.
The proposed amendments to the Department of Veterans Affairs Act speak to the principles that guide our government every day, the principles of action that guide Veterans Affairs Canada and its commitment to ensure veterans and their families receive the care, compassion, and respect they deserve, and principles similar to those already enshrined in the Veterans Bill of Rights. They are the same principles that the Minister of Veterans Affairs leads his department by, and which led to the announcement in December of the new pension for life. However, they are not objective principles that should be written into law, which is why we cannot support Bill C-378. This bill offers no benefits or services for veterans or their families.
I assure members that just as veterans and their fallen comrades sacrificed everything to safeguard our future, this government is here to safeguard theirs and that includes the work we do to deliver services and benefits to veterans. What we can and should all support are measures to increase benefits for veterans, measures like our promise to re-establish a tax-free pension for life for pain, which recognizes and compensates veterans for disabilities resulting from a service-related illness or injury.
It is important to deliver on our government's promise while also delivering on our commitment to treat veterans with the dignity, respect, and fairness they deserve, and to support them as effectively as possible, to ensure a smooth transition with a focus on well-being. “Well-being” means a veteran has purpose, is financially secure, safely housed, in good physical and mental health, highly resilient in the face of change, well-integrated into the community, proud and cognizant of his or her legacy, and is valued and celebrated. We know that each of these qualities means something different to each individual veteran, because all veterans have their own unique story and their own individual needs. That is what led to the pension for life and making this nearly $3.6 billion investment a reality.
Combined with the over $6 billion in initiatives that we announced in budgets 2016 and 2017, the result is a flexible package of benefits and programs that allow veterans and their families to decide what form of compensation works best for them. With these changes and enhancements, veterans have access to tax-free financial compensation to recognize pain and suffering caused by a service-related illness or injury, an income replacement benefit to help with financial support during rehabilitation or to make up for lost earnings, and support programs to help veterans with such aspects as education, employment, and physical and mental health. The new pension for life is a combination of benefits that provide recognition, income support, and stability to members and veterans who experience a service-related illness or injury.
One of the key new benefits is the pain and suffering compensation. This is a monthly lifelong payment recognizing the pain and suffering of members and veterans caused by a disability resulting from a service-related injury or illness. The monthly amount can be cashed out for a lump sum, giving members and veterans the flexibility to choose what works best for them and their families.
Additional support for those with service-related, severe, and permanent impairments causing a barrier to re-establishment in post-service life is available through the additional pain and suffering compensation provided as a monthly benefit. The income replacement benefit is another monthly program that will provide income support during transition for those facing barriers to re-establishing themselves because of health problems resulting primarily from service. In an effort to streamline services and simplify the application process for veterans, the IRB will replace six current benefits: earnings loss benefit, extended earnings loss benefit, supplementary retirement benefit, retirement income security benefit, the career impact allowance, and the career impact allowance supplement. Additionally, veterans who wish to join the workforce may earn up to $20,000 per year from employment before any reduction in their IRB payment.
With that said, we know that a successful transition requires more than money alone; it must address personal and professional growth. In fact, the most successful transition occurs when a veteran has a positive state of well-being, a balance of financial, mental, physical, and social factors. Pensions for life provide a holistic package of financial security and wellness elements to help veterans and their families transition to the next stage of their life and make choices about what they want to do next, whether it is education, work, or retirement.
Now that we have delivered a balanced and effective combination of programs and services, of which pension for life is a key piece, we are turning our full attention to delivering them with the excellence that veterans and their families want and deserve. These investments and enhancements all speak directly to the goal of my colleague's proposed amendments in his bill. I might also remind my colleagues that the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act was revised in early 2015 to clearly speak to the just and due appreciation owed to members and veterans for their service to Canada. It is gratitude shared by all Canadians and not one to be taken lightly.
Among the reasons I ran for office was to do my part to ensure that our Canadian Armed Forces members, our veterans, and their families, have access to the benefits and services they need when and where they need them. This government is proud of our brave men and women in uniform, and we are grateful for their service and sacrifice for their country. Make no mistake, treating veterans and their families with fairness, respect, and dignity is the cornerstone of the delivery of our programs, benefits, and services, which are the principles in the Veterans Bill of Rights. They are respected and embraced by the government in everything we do. It is also why they need not be written into the Department of Veterans Affairs Act.
I applaud our government's continued efforts to improve the experience of our veterans. I applaud the spirit with which my friend from Barrie—Innisfil has put forward his private member's bill as we recognize the sacrifices and contributions of veterans and their families.