Apr
04

Question on inequity of Veterans Independence Program (VIP) criteria for surviving spouses

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Hon. Elizabeth Hubley (Deputy Leader of the Senate Liberals): Thank you, minister, for being here today. My question is with regard to the Veterans Independence Program, or VIP, and its benefits for the surviving spouses of veterans.

The Veteran Affairs Ombudsman first reported on this back in 2010, calling it unfair. It was brought up again in December 2013, but the problem has never been corrected.

As you will know, if a veteran and his wife receive both housekeeping and groundskeeping services, his widow can continue to have both. If a veteran and his wife do not receive either benefit, a low-income widow can apply and receive both. But if a veteran and his wife receive only one of these services, either housekeeping or groundskeeping, his widow can never apply for the second, even if she is low-income.

The ombudsman has stated that access to VIP services should be based solely on needs, not on arbitrary criteria.

Do you plan to finally fix this inequity?

Hon. Kent Hehr, P.C., M.P., Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence: Senator, our primary mandate is to provide services and benefits for veterans and their families whether they are just leaving the military or if they come to us years after they have served. That is why we are very happy to provide funding to eligible veterans and their families so they can access home and community care and support services to meet their physical, mental and social needs.

It’s important that veterans can remain healthy and independent in their own homes and communities, and that’s what the VIP program is designed to do. These benefits include home care services, personal care, housekeeping, grounds maintenance and access to meals.

The VIP program is one of our most popular programs, and it’s quite generous in the support it offers, so veterans can stay in their home as they age.

With regard to your question, what I will say is that as long as a veteran was in receipt of a disability pension or the War Veterans’ Allowance, a surviving spouse can apply for both housekeeping and grounds maintenance if they are considered low-income and demonstrate the need of these services in order to remain independent in the home.

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