Why can't veterans get a break on disability pensions?

Yesterday, Yukon NDP MLA Kate White asked the government whether it would follow the Yukon Housing Corporation's lead and exclude veterans' federal disability pensions from social assistance calculations. Other, similar benefits are already excluded, so why not this one?

We don't think it's right for veterans' disability benefits to be treated as income when they're applying for social assistance. Does the Yukon Party agree? Read on:


Kate White: Given that yesterday we marked the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands, I would like to return to the subject of veterans’ benefits. In past Sittings, supporting our veterans became more of a debate about terminology than the role that government can play in that support. I am referring to non-taxable disability benefits awarded to veterans to compensate for pain and suffering through the veterans’ disability pension.

Last year, the Yukon Housing Corporation made a decision to exclude these benefits from housing calculations. My hope is that their compassionate decision to respect our veterans will be extended to other branches of the Yukon government.

Will the government commit to excluding Yukon veterans’ non-taxable disability benefits that compensate for pain and suffering from their calculations of social assistance?

Premier Darrell Pasloski: Before I get started, I certainly want to acknowledge and thank the good work that the people at the Legion do in support of all members — not only military members, but members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as well, people in uniform — and the supports that they provide for those members and for their families.

As I have said in this House many times, Yukon is a great place to live and it’s a place where we ensure that we look after those people who are in need — not only those people who have laid their lives on the line as veterans, but for all people who live, work and play in this territory.

White: Once again, I got words and no action behind those words.

These benefits are already classified as tax-exempt by the Canada Revenue Agency. The Yukon government should not be in the business of clawing back benefits intended to offset pain and suffering inflicted as a result of military service.

Last Sitting, the previous minister told this House that — and I’m quoting: “Payments provided for pain, suffering, hardship or wrongdoing are exempted income. Therefore, they are not calculated as part of the social services calculation.”

In light of this statement, Mr. Speaker, can the Minister of Health and Social Services confirm that the exemption covers the federal veterans’ disability pension provided to compensate for the pain and suffering caused by service-related injuries and, if so, when will the government make a public statement to that effect?

Premier Pasloski: This government continues to provide benefits to people when they need it, not just at the end of the year. People with low income need benefits, and they need them right now and not just when they’re filing their taxes. This government continues to ensure that, through the programming that we have, all people in need can access those benefits — not just when they file their taxes, but on a monthly basis as well.

Photo: rbh / flickr. Used under a Creative Commons BY 2.0 licence.