Last Post Fund

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Last Post Fund

Post by 6608 on Wed 30 Mar 2016, 18:27

The Government of Canada has a duty to remember the service and sacrifice of those who served in the military.

The Last Post Fund program provides financial assistance to the estates of eligible deceased veterans towards the cost of burial and for funeral services. To expand eligibility for the program to more families of low-income veterans, Budget 2016 proposes to increase the estate exemption for the Last Post Fund from roughly $12,000 to roughly $35,000, and apply an annual cost of living adjustment to the estate exemption going forward.

Based on current projections of demand for the program, the Government expects that $3.4 million over five years, starting in 2016Ė17, would flow to the families of veterans in the form of higher direct payments. However, public sector accounting standards require that the present value of all increased future payments to eligible recipients be recognized up front when changes are made to veterans benefit plans. The budgetary expense associated with the increase in benefits for eligible recipients amounts to $25.9 million over six years, starting in 2015Ė16.






DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS

DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS ACT

Notice of intent to amend the Veterans Burial Regulations, 2005
Notice is hereby given that Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) intends to recommend to the Governor in Council that amendments be made to the Veterans Burial Regulations, 2005, pursuant to section 5 of the Department of Veterans Affairs Act.

Background
VAC provides funeral and burial assistance for eligible veterans through its Funeral and Burial Program. The Program provides financial assistance for funeral services, burial or cremation and military-style grave markers or inscription on private grave markers. The Last Post Fund (LPF) Corporation, a national, non-profit organization founded in 1909, administers the Program on behalf of the Department and in compliance with the Veterans Burial Regulations, 2005 (the Regulations).

When a veteran dies of a service-related disability, the veteranís estate or family is eligible to receive financial assistance for funeral, burial and grave marking as a matter-of-right, up to the maximum amount set out in the Regulations. Assistance is also provided when the financial resources in a veteranís estate are not sufficient to pay funeral, burial and grave marking expenses, as determined through a means test. The test assesses the value of the veteranís estate and, if applicable, that of his or her survivor (i.e. the veteranís spouse or common-law partner). Assistance is paid on a sliding scale based on need, and full or partial assistance is paid up to the maximum amount set out in the Regulations. In situations where there is a survivor, the Regulations allow the family home, a car and $12,015 to be exempt from the means-tested calculation.

In the 2015 Speech from the Throne, the Government of Canada committed to do more for veterans and their families, in gratitude for their service. The mandate letter of the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence included the responsibility of ensuring that all veterans receive a dignified burial.

Issue
The main issue that would be addressed through proposed regulatory amendments, which would help to enhance the services and benefits provided for eligible veterans under the Funeral and Burial Program, is the Survivor Estate Exemption Amount.

Survivor estate exemption amount
In 1995, the survivor estate exemption amount, prescribed in the Regulations, was $24,030 and subject to annual indexation. However, during that year the amount was reduced by half to $12,015 and annual indexation ceased. The amount has not been adjusted since that time. While the cost of living has steadily increased since 1995, and is likely to continue to increase, the real value of the survivor estate exemption amount has decreased, and will continue to decrease with each passing year. As a result, fewer applicants are qualifying for assistance to help defray the funeral, burial and grave marking expenses of their loved ones, leaving more and more surviving spouses or common-law partners, with already limited financial means, having to pay for these costs.

If the 1995 survivor estate exemption amount of $24,030 had continued to be indexed each year (using the Consumer Price Index), it would be $35,279 today.

Also, there is an issue with the name of the Regulations. The current name was introduced in 2005 when the Veterans Burial Regulations, 1995 and the Last Post Fund Regulations, 1995 were repealed and integrated into the current Veterans Burial Regulations, 2005.

The addition of ď2005Ē to the title may have been reasonable when the Regulations were introduced to be consistent with the naming of the regulations that were being repealed at that time. However, having ď2005Ē in the title is no longer necessary and may cause confusion. Some veterans, families and stakeholders may think that the Veterans Burial Regulations, 2005 are outdated, and this may cause them to search for an updated ď2016Ē version. Also, adding the year that the Regulations were introduced to the title is not consistent with the naming conventions of other VAC regulations.

Objective
The main objective of these proposed regulatory amendments is to help ensure that a surviving spouse or common-law partner is better financially situated to move forward following the veteranís death.

A secondary objective of the proposed regulatory amendments is to clarify and simplify the title of the Regulations.

Description and rationale
The following changes to the Regulations are proposed:

Survivor estate exemption amount
The proposed regulatory amendments would increase the survivorís estate exemption amount from $12,015 to $35,279, and would provide annual indexation to this amount, to begin the year after implementation of the regulatory changes.

As an increased amount of money would be exempt from the means-tested calculations, the spouse or common-law partner would be able to retain more financial resources following the veteranís death and make a more gradual transition to a new financial situation (i.e. loss of the veteranís income). The amendments would also enable some survivors, who would have been denied assistance with the lower survivor estate exemption amount, to now qualify for funeral and burial assistance. It is hoped that these changes would help to alleviate some of the financial pressures and worries that the survivors may be facing at an already difficult and emotional time in their lives.

Also, to provide clarity and simplicity, the amendments would remove ď2005Ē from the title of the Regulations.

These proposed regulatory amendments would create no costs or administrative burden for veterans, their survivors or businesses.

Implementation, enforcement and service standards
It is being proposed that these regulatory changes would come into force on October 1, 2016. There would be no impact to the delivery of the Funeral and Burial Program as a result of these regulatory changes. The existing service delivery infrastructure would continue to be utilized. No additional staff or administrative funding would be required by VAC or the LPF Corporation to implement these regulatory changes. The Programís terms and conditions, policies, directives, business processes and application forms would be revised to reflect the changes. VAC and LPF staff would be trained on these updates. Ongoing communications with LPF staff, as the third party provider, would be an integral component for the successful implementation of the changes.

Communication materials would be created to advise key stakeholders, veterans and their families of the changes to the Funeral and Burial Program. Changes would also be communicated through the LPF Corporationís Web site and publications.

Upon the expected date of the coming into force of these regulatory changes, namely October 1, 2016, applications would continue to be processed by the LPF Corporation, which would administer the Funeral and Burial Program using the revised Regulations and policies.

These regulatory changes would not have an impact on legislative or regulatory compliance. In its ongoing efforts to support program performance, VAC currently has a performance measurement strategy in place for the Funeral and Burial Program. Ongoing reporting would ensure data is accurately captured to portray the Programís performance, support future evaluations and help the Program in achieving its ultimate outcome: that Canadian veterans and those who died in service be honored and the memory of their achievements and sacrifices be preserved.

In addition, VACís Audit and Evaluation Division conducts annual audits and evaluations of VAC programs. Results are published regularly on VACís external Web site.

VAC also has established specific service standards for the Funeral and Burial Program, including providing timely decisions to applicants for funeral and burial assistance. The regulatory changes would have no impact on these service standards, allowing them to be maintained at the current average times.

Public comment period
Interested parties who wish to comment on the proposed amendments are invited to submit their comments, within 30 days after publication of this notice in the Canada Gazette, Part I, to Katherine Morrow, Manager, Cabinet Business Unit, Policy Division, Veterans Affairs Canada, by mail (P.O. Box 7700, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island C1A 8M9), by telephone (902-370-4638) or by email (Katherine.Morrow@vac-acc.gc.ca).


http://www.gazette.gc.ca/rp-pr/p1/2016/2016-03-26/html/notice-avis-eng.php#nb6



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6608
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Number of posts : 304
Location : NB
Registration date : 2012-06-23

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