Follow-up 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): Honourable senators, my question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate.

When the Minister of Veterans Affairs was here last month, I asked him about the eligibility criteria for the Veterans Independence Program and its benefits for surviving spouses of veterans. There is an inequity in these criteria that the Veterans Affairs Ombudsman has been asking to be fixed since 2010. I provided advance warning to the minister so that he would be able to address my very specific question.

At the end of his reply, the minister stated:

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.

I was speaking to the ombudsman later and he told me that the problem has not been corrected. Would you please ask when Veterans Affairs will truly be fixing the inequity?

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank the honourable senator for her question and for her kindness in giving me advance notice of the question, which allows me to reiterate the priority this minster places on veterans and their families, and the utmost importance he and his department attach to this subject.

As honourable senators will know, the minister and the government are providing funding to eligible veterans and their families so they can access home and community care and support services to meet physical, mental and social needs.

With respect to the specific question regarding the Veterans Independence Program, as the minister stated at the time, it is amongst one of the most popular and important programs of the department. He has launched a review of the veterans’ health care regulations as they pertain to the Veterans Independence Program, and he has asked his officials to complete that study and report back with relevant findings in the near future.

This is an issue that the minister takes very seriously and one that we look forward to reporting to you and others on an ongoing basis.

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