Politicians of all stripes claim to support our veterans, yet our country is quietly letting them down when they pass away after a lifetime of service.
The federal government's Last Post Fund is supposed to ensure that no veteran is denied a dignified funeral and burial because of their financial means. Yet it is underfunded and uses outdated eligibility criteria, depriving veterans and short-changing their families when their loved one passes away.
The fund will pay up to only $3,600 to cover veterans' funeral costs which does not come close to covering the actual cost of a proper funeral. All but a few veterans who have served since the Korean War are excluded from the program. Families who do apply have faced a staggering rejection rate of over 60%. Over 20,000 veterans have been excluded over the past six years. Families of veterans must pay the full cost themselves unless they are nearly destitute.
The Veterans Affairs department has the gall to claim this is "one of the most comprehensive programs".
No amount of political spin can change the reality that far too many of our veterans are not getting the respect they earned and deserve when they pass away. The Veterans' Ombudsmen, Royal Canadian Legion and department officials recommend that access to the program be expanded and funding be increased so it can meet the needs of veterans and their families. After years of frustration, the Legion has started a letter-writing campaign to MPs.
We agree, and introduced motion M-422 in Parliament to fix the Last Post Fund. We invite our colleague and your representative, Langley MP Mark Warawa to fix the fund and vote in favour of M-422 later this year.
When MPs say we support our veterans, we should mean it. It is long past time we give our veterans the respect they deserve.
Judy Foote and Sean Casey, MPs, Liberal Party of Canada