January 29, 2019

Federal Court Approves $100M Class Action Settlement for Disabled Veterans

The Federal Court approved a class action settlement last week that will compensate disabled veterans for reduced benefit payments on account of their disability.

The lawsuit alleges that deductions from the War Veterans Allowance (WVA), Canadian Forces Income Support benefit (CFIS) and Earning Loss Benefit (ELB) constitute discrimination on the basis of disability, contrary to s 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

From 2006-2012, veterans receiving a disability pension would have the amount of that pension deducted from other veteran entitlements thanks to provisions in the Pension Act . As a result, thousands of veterans had benefit payments reduced. The greater the disability, the greater the deduction.

The settlement is intended to compensate victims who suffered reduced benefit payments on account of having a disability pension. This includes the “harm, including pain, suffering, humiliation, and loss of dignity, resulting from this discrimination”. Payments will go to two classes: the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) class and the WVA class. WVA class members will get a lump sum payment of $2000-$2500 while CAF class members will receive a payment proportionate to their degree of disability as determined under the Pension Act.

In a statement released last week out of Veterans Affairs Canada, the parties seemed satisfied with the settlement: “We believe the settlement is fair and we are happy to have this matter resolved”.

A few class members expressed discontent, saying that a restitution-based model of payment would be more fair. The settlement will only pay victims compensation based on benefit class or disability; it will not replace all of the money deducted from each individual’s benefits. Veterans who have been severely disabled for a long time had greater deductions from their benefits than recently disabled vets. For them, the settlement will not equal the benefits deducted from their entitlements.

Despite the criticism, the overall reaction seems positive. After the initial $100 million agreement was reached in September of last year, then Minister of Veterans Affairs Seamus O’Regan said that the government intends “to ensure that Veterans in Canada are better off now than they were before”.

Let’s hope that “better off” means that the government will uphold veterans’ Charter rights and prevent future discrimination on the basis of disability.

This blog post was written by a CCLA-PBSC RightsWatch student. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCLA or PBSC.