Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Winnipeg North.
I rise today to speak to the opposition day motion and put the record straight.
Our Prime Minister did indeed pledge to Canadians to do more to support our courageous and valiant veterans and their families.
In August 2015, he said:
For 10 years, Stephen Harper has been nickle-and-diming our veterans, lacking the respect and the support that Canadians have earned through service to country and that's something that we have to fix as a priority.
He promised that the government would ensure veterans received the respect, support, care, and economic opportunities they deserved and he tasked the Minister of Veterans Affairs to deliver on that promise. Our government acted right away.
In two years, our Liberal government has delivered on a number of measures to accomplish this. With Budget 2016, we enhanced the financial security of veterans and their families, putting more money into their pockets. This included increasing the disability award from a maximum of $310,000 to $360,000, which saw more money for 67,000 ill and injured veterans and increased income replacement from 75% to 90%.
Budget 2017 supported the health and well-being of veterans and families by investing in mental health supports, educational opportunities, and career transition services. These new and enhanced services are about to take effect.
April 1, will be the day that six new and two enhanced programs and services for veterans will go into effect: career transition services; the veterans' education and training benefit; the caregiver recognition benefit; a veteran and family well-being fund; a new veteran emergency fund; the end of time limits for vocational assistance for survivors; expanded access to military family resource centres for all veterans and their families; and a centre of excellence on post-traumatic stress disorder and related mental health conditions.
There is one unifying purpose of these initiatives, in fact, for everything Veterans Affairs Canada does, and that is the well-being of veterans, and their families as well. If a veteran cannot do well, the family does not do well either. Not only do these new programs add resources and services, they form an integrated, complete package that provides financial security and promotes and supports well-being of the veteran's whole life.
For example, as of April 1, all medically released veterans and their families will have access to the 32 military family resource centres across Canada. Up until now, the MFRCs have been available only to current members of the Canadian Armed Forces and their families.
This independent organization provides a wide range of services, including community orientation, parenting workshops, child care, information and referral, employment and educational assistance, and a host of personal growth and development programs. Having access to these will help veterans manage their successful transition to post-service life and integrate into their new community.
The new caregiver recognition benefit recognizes the vital contributions of those who look after ill and injured veterans, with up to $1,000 per month, tax-free, paid directly to them.
Also, as of April 1, the one-year time limit for survivors, spouses, and common-law partners to apply for the rehabilitation services and vocational assistance program will no longer apply. This change removes unnecessary pressure and gives families more flexibility for getting the training they need while they are caring for ill and injured veterans.
For urgent, unforeseeable situations that might arise in the life of a veteran and their family, there is a new veterans emergency fund to help cover the costs of unexpected expenses.
For many Canadian Armed Forces members, finding meaningful employee will be key to establishing in life after service. While Canadian Armed Forces members have extensive training and skills tested under high pressure, finding a career to put these skills to use outside the military can sometimes be a challenge. The new career transition service will provide eligible veterans aptitude testing, training in job search skills, resumé writing and interview techniques, and other services they may need.
There is also new support for veterans who want further education or training. Those who have six years of service can receive up to $40,000 for college, university, or technical education. Those with 12 or more years of service can receive up to $80,000.
Another essential part of establishing a post-service life is physical and mental health. Over the past two years, our Liberal government has invested significantly in improving health support and services for veterans. We are investing $17.5 million over the next four years, and continuing with $9.2 million per year after that to establish a centre for excellence on PTSD and related mental health conditions.
The government, under the leadership of the minister, is ensuring the department is committed to providing comprehensive, integrated, and consistent mental health care. The centre for excellence will therefore focus on research and development into new tools to support professional treatment of PTSD, and then transfer the knowledge to professionals across the country.
All the programs reinforce each other: physical and mental health services for the veteran and their family to support well-being; education support to help establish a new career after service; career transition services to help find meaningful employment; support for families, including money when they need it; recognition for caregivers; and counselling and support to help integrate into their new community. All can be tailored to meet a veteran's unique needs.
It is a journey this government continues with legislation that will fulfill the promise this government made in 2015 to restore the option of monthly payments for veterans with service-related illness or injury, an option taken away from veterans by the previous government. The pension for life option will become another integral part of the well-being package for veterans when it comes into force, and will substantially improve the financial benefits veterans receive.
Pension for life will represent an investment of nearly $3.6 billion in support of veterans, in addition to nearly $6 billion this government committed in the previous two budgets. This government has invested significant time and resources to ensure the men and women who have served our country receive the respect, support, and care they deserve.
This government listened when military and veteran families, advocates, and communities raised concerns about the benefits and programs they were receiving. We listened, we heard them, and we responded with a comprehensive plan to restore and enhance benefits with plans and services designed to make lives better for our veterans and their families.