Vol. 150, No. 13 — June 29, 2016
SOR/2016-149 June 17, 2016
DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS ACT
Regulations Amending the Veterans Burial Regulations, 2005
P.C. 2016-565 June 17, 2016
His Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of Veterans Affairs, pursuant to section 5 (see footnote a) of the Department of Veterans Affairs Act (see footnote b), makes the annexed Regulations Amending the Veterans Burial Regulations, 2005.
Regulations Amending the Veterans Burial Regulations, 2005
1 The title of the Veterans Burial Regulations, 2005 (see footnote 1) is replaced by the following:
Veterans Burial Regulations
2 (1) Subparagraph 4(1)(a)(i) of the Regulations is replaced by the following:
- (i) $35,279 for the survivor or, if there is no survivor, for the dependent child,
(2) Section 4 of the Regulations is amended by adding the following after subsection (2):
(3) The amount set out in subparagraph 4(1)(a)(i) is to be adjusted on January 1 of each year in accordance with the percentage increase to the Consumer Price Index for the year ending on September 30 of the previous year.
(4) The Consumer Price Index is the average all-items Consumer Price Index for Canada (not seasonally adjusted) published by Statistics Canada.
Coming into Force
3 These Regulations come into force on October 1, 2016.
REGULATORY IMPACT ANALYSIS STATEMENT
(This statement is not part of the Regulations.)
Veterans Affairs Canada (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, his/her 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 Veteran’s 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 Veteran’s estate and, if applicable, that of his/her survivor (i.e. the Veteran’s 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.
The main issue being addressed through these regulatory amendments, which will 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.
In addition, 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 “2005” to the title may have been reasonable when the Regulations were introduced to keep consistency with the regulations that were being repealed at that time. However, having “2005” 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 “2016” version. Also, adding the year that the Regulations were introduced to the title is not consistent with the naming conventions of other VAC regulations.
The main objective of these regulatory amendments is to help ensure that a surviving spouse or common-law partner is better financially situated to move forward following the Veteran’s death.
A secondary objective of the regulatory amendments is to clarify and simplify the title of the Regulations.
Description and rationale
The following changes have been made to the Regulations.
Survivor estate exemption amount
The regulatory amendments will increase the survivor’s estate exemption amount from $12,015 to $35,279, and will provide for an annual indexation to this amount, to begin the year after implementation of the regulatory changes.
As an increased amount of money will be exempt from the means-tested calculations, the spouse or common-law partner will be able to retain more financial resources following the Veteran’s death, enabling a more gradual transition to a new financial situation (e.g. loss of the Veteran’s income). The amendments will 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 will 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 “2005” has been removed from the title of the Regulations.
These regulatory amendments will create no costs or administrative burden for Veterans, their survivors or businesses. They will also help to reassure Veterans, stakeholders and the Canadian public that, in death, Veterans continue to be treated and supported by VAC in an appropriate manner, given the sacrifices they have made for their country.
By making improvements to the services and benefits provided to Veterans and their families, VAC further demonstrates that it continues to evolve its programs so they remain relevant and effective in meeting Veterans needs in life, and respectfully honouring them in death.
On March 26, 2016, a Notice of Intent was published in the Canada Gazette, Part I, to open a 30-day consultation period on these regulatory amendments. During this period, VAC contacted stakeholder groups via email to notify them of the proposed regulatory changes and provide them with the link to the Canada Gazette Web site.
The LPF Corporation advised that they are supportive of these amendments. No other comments were received from stakeholders regarding the amendments. One inquiry was received from a Veteran inquiring about his personal eligibility for the program.
VAC will continue to consult with stakeholder groups and organizations, including the newly established VAC ministerial advisory groups, to examine ways to improve the benefits and services provided to Veterans and their families.
The “One-for-One” Rule does not apply to this regulatory submission, as there is no change in administrative costs to business.
Small business lens
This regulatory submission does not increase or decrease administrative burden or costs on small businesses.
Implementation, enforcement and service standards
These regulatory changes will come into force on October 1, 2016. There will be no impact to the delivery of the Funeral and Burial Program as a result of these regulatory changes. The existing service delivery infrastructure will continue to be utilized. No additional staff or administrative funding will be required by VAC or the LPF Corporation to implement these regulatory changes. The Program’s Terms and Conditions, policies, directives, business processes and application forms will be revised to reflect the changes. VAC and LPF staff will be trained on these updates. Ongoing communications with LPF staff, as the third party provider, will be an integral component for the successful implementation of the changes.
Communication materials will be created to advise key stakeholders, Veterans and their families of the changes to the Funeral and Burial Program. Changes will also be communicated through the LPF Corporation’s Web site and publications.
Upon the coming into force of these regulatory changes on October 1, 2016, applications will continue to be processed by the LPF Corporation who will administer the Funeral and Burial Program using the revised Regulations and policies.
These regulatory changes will not have an impact on legislative and/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 will ensure data is accurately captured to portray the Program’s performance, support future evaluations and help the Program in achieving its ultimate outcome: Canadian Veterans and those who died in service are honored and the memory of their achievements and sacrifices is preserved.
In addition, VAC’s Audit and Evaluation Division conducts annual audits and evaluations of VAC programs. Results are published regularly on VAC’s external Web site.
VAC also has established specific service standards for the Funeral and Burial Program, including timely decisions being provided to applicants for funeral and burial assistance. The regulatory changes will have no impact on these service standards, allowing them to be maintained at the current average times.
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Veterans Affairs Canada
P.O. Box 7700
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island