Feds not honouring Canada’s veterans by short-changing burial fund

Tories face heat over vets funeral programThe veterans affairs minister is standing firm in the face of mounting criticism over the number of impoverished ex-soldiers whose families have been turned away from a federal burial fund.

The Canadian government is dodging fire over the revelation that more than two-thirds of all requests to a group tasked with burying impoverished war veterans are rejected.

The Canadian Press reported the Last Post Fund turns away two-thirds of all the applications it receives for a federal burial fund. And those that it does help are limited to a government stipend of $3,600 — less than most social assistance programs.

The high rejection rate comes from the fund's limited scope. Veterans from more recent conflicts do not qualify for the Veterans Affairs burial program, nor do those who had an annual income of more than $12,000.

And the funding shortage comes from a decade-long gap in advancements to the fund. This does not seem like the way to show dedication to our veterans.

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The Last Post Fund was established in 1909 with the impossibly benevolent target of ensuring no veteran be "denied the dignity of a proper funeral and burial," a system to make sure no veteran falls through the cracks.

More than a century later it continues to do whatever it can to fulfill that promise. But the scope of that promise long ago surpassed the tools it has been given to fulfill it.

Earlier this week, the head of non-profit fund directly criticized the government for failing to provide enough support for Canadian war veterans.

Jean-Pierre Goyer told the Canadian Press:

Our prime minister and his government don't see it as a priority and it hasn't made the list for the last budget. We came close last budget, I'm told, and our improvements were taken off the list at almost the last minute. We hope in the next federal budget we can see this through.

Veterans affairs and their minister, Steven Blaney, they are committed to see this change through. I would tell, and you can quote me on that, the problem is with the government of Canada.

The latest, according to the Ottawa Citizen's David Pugliese, is that the Liberals have called for a task force to review the Last Post Fund, with the aim of improving support.

Surviving veterans from WWII and the Korean War are well into the 80s and 90s and this may be the time when support is needed the most. Soon, however, Canada will be forced to face questions about the next generation of veterans, those from more recent military conflicts such as Afghanistan.

An article about the Last Post Fund in the Canadian Business Journal earlier this year noted that almost 1,500 veterans of WWII and the Korean War pass away each month, raising concerns that federal funding could stop in the next few years.

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The Last Post Fund accepts private donations, and if the financially hamstrung politicians have let the veterans down they are not alone.

We can all lend support to our veterans, old and new. But the country they served should make sure those who fall through the cracks find some dignity in death.

That much hasn't changed since 1909.