Serve with Honour, Depart with Dignity
On February 19, 2009
On February 19, 2009, the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman released its first report, entitled Serve with Honour, Depart with Dignity. The report served as an administrative review of Veterans Affairs Canada’s Funeral and Burial Program, which is a program that is administered by the Last Post Fund. During the year 2007, the Fund processed approximately 16,000 applications for benefits under the Funeral and Burial Program.
The administrative review of the Funeral and Burial Program was prompted by testimonials the Office received from administrators of the Last Post Fund describing the difficulties that some grieving families encountered when burying their loved ones. It was evident that there were a number of issues of concern regarding the administration of the program and the benefits provided.
The review led to the following seven recommendations:
- That the ceiling for Veterans’ funeral and burial expenses be raised to reflect industry standards and that an indexing formula be introduced to ensure that the rates keep up with the economic increases.
- That the administration of funeral and burial benefits be simplified by using a discretionary lump sum approach for reimbursable expenses rather than the present itemized approach.
- That Veterans Affairs Canada extend the Funeral and Burial Program to all Veterans.
- That eligibility related to the Funeral and Burial Program be extended to include Veterans who suffer from multiple pensioned conditions where the total aggregate suffering and weakening of their body may contribute to the cause of death.
- That the estate exemption (surviving spouse) for the means test be increased and aligned with present-day income and cost levels.
- That Veterans Affairs Canada engage in a proactive multi-faceted communications campaign to raise awareness of the Funeral and Burial Program.
- That Veterans Affairs Canada be more flexible and allow for extraordinary circumstances to be considered when the established timeframe is exceeded.
The report can be found on the Web site: http://www.ombudsman-veterans.gc.ca/reports-rapports/honour-honneur-eng.cfm
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