Last Post fund hits snag

More than 20,000 vets rejected from 2006-12, says Liberal MP — Nanaimo-Alberni Conservative MP James Lunney responds

After putting their lives on the line for Canada, Judy Foote says the least the country can do for its veterans is ensure they can get a proper funeral.

However, says the Liberal MP for Random-Burin-St. George’s in Ontario, a program to ensure this happens has a significant gap — and the Conservative government, including local MP James Lunney — appears unwilling to close it.

The program in question is the Last Post Fund, which was set up in 1909 to ensure that all Canadian veterans are given a decent burial, even if the veteran in question has limited means.

However, the program does not cover any veterans who served after the Korean War, meaning, Foote said, 20,147 veterans were rejected by the program between 2006 and 2012.

On Wednesday, Foote tabled a motion in the House of Commons calling on the federal government to expand the eligibility for the program to include all veterans.

“The Last Post Fund is an important program, with a goal to ensure that no eligible veteran is denied a dignified funeral and burial, as well as a military gravestone, due to insufficient funds at time of death,” Foote said in the House. “Unfortunately, the Last Post Fund is far from ensuring that all veterans in need receive a dignified funeral and burial because the program is forced to apply outdated eligibility criteria.”

Foote’s motion, first tabled in January, called for the $3,600 rate in the fund to be increased, for veterans who served after the Korean War be included and that the financial eligibility criteria be updated.

The Conservative government did increase the amount to $7,376 in the interim, but when Foote’s bill came up for a vote in the House of Commons Wednesday, it was defeated.

One of the MPs who voted against the bill was Nanaimo-Alberni MP James Lunney.

“First of all, it was a Liberal motion,” he said. “My main concern in the bill was about expanding the benefits and we already acted in budget 2013 to double the rate of reimbursement, from $3,600 to $7,376, along with covering the full cost of the burial. It’s means-tested, but not every veteran is in financial need.”

When asked why veterans from Afghanistan and Korea are treated differently, Lunney stressed that any soldier from Afghanistan who dies as the result of a combat wound is fully covered.

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