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Veterans affairs minister urges patience on pensions for injured ex-soldiers

Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr answers a question during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, May 19, 2016.
Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr answers a question during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, May 19, 2016. The Canadian Press

Canada’s veterans affairs minister is urging patience from injured ex-soldiers growing frustrated waiting for a government plan that would give them pensions for life.

The Liberal government promised in the budget it would announce plans by the end of this year for the option of life-long pensions for those injured in uniform.

READ MORE: Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr expands military pilot project for families

The Liberals were the only party to promise to re-introduce the pensions, which were replaced by a lump-sum payment, career training and targeted income-replacement programs in 2006.

“We’re committed to a pension-for-life option for our veterans,” Kent Hehr, minister of veterans affairs and associate minister of national defence, said in an interview with the Canadian Press Monday. “They’ve asked for this. We’ve committed to this.”

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Hehr declined to discuss what progress has been made so far but said he understands why many injured Canadian Armed Forces members are frustrated by the delay.

“They really deserve our support,” Hehr said. “When they leave the military as the result of illness or injury, that is tremendously hard and they’ve had to take off that jersey for the last time.

“I understand their frustration and that’s why we want to work with them to better outcomes for them and their families … My goodness, it’s going to be done.”

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READ MORE: Federal budget to bring back lifetime pension option for Canadian veterans

There have been complaints from some ill and injured military personnel who say they were forced out of the Armed Forces too fast and left to fend for themselves.

That includes having to wait months for their first pension cheques to arrive, and struggling to get the benefits and services owed them by Veterans Affairs.

Approximately 1,800 service members are forced out of the military every year because of medical conditions that have made them unable to fulfil their duties.

Many are struggling with psychological injuries sustained while in uniform. Documents obtained by The Canadian Press last year showed post-traumatic stress disorder was the top diagnosis for those at risk of being forced out.

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Veterans’ advocates say the challenges many of those men and women have faced getting benefits, services and even their pension after leaving the military have made their move to civilian life even harder.

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