Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for bringing up an issue that is very important not only to me and our government but to all Canadians: the well-being of our veterans, members of the Canadian Armed Forces and their families.
The House supported the motion in 2018 to end lapsed funding. We all want to ensure that veterans and their families have access to the supports and services they need when they need them. The well-being of veterans is a top priority for me and our government. That is why we are committed to doing more to support veterans and their families.
Our benefits are demand-driven. No matter how many veterans come forward, when eligible, they will receive their benefits. The process guarantees that whenever veterans come forward, whether it is this year, next year or beyond, they will receive those benefits. The resources are there for them at all times.
Over 90% of Veterans Affairs' budget goes to funding veterans programs and benefits. Every day, over $5 million in disability benefits goes to veterans. Last year alone, we spent $4.4 billion directly on benefits and services for veterans, their families and other eligible recipients. This is $1 billion more than the former Conservative government. This year, we expect to spend approximately $5 billion directly on services and benefits for our veterans. Changing how we account for lapsed funding will not change that or our priorities.
The veterans community is evolving and expanding along with its needs. Veterans Affairs is evolving too. For example, we opened 10 offices to provide better services, face to face, to veterans and their families. These offices were closed by the former Conservative government. We increased the amount of benefits provided to veterans with service-related injuries and illnesses. We introduced pension for life as an option for them. We also introduced eight new and enhanced initiatives to better support a seamless transition to life after service.
Our evolution in services and benefits and success in reaching veterans and their families has led to a significant increase in volume. Disability benefit applications alone rose from 29,000 in 2015 to 54,000 last year, which is an increase of almost double. To respond to this increased demand, Veterans Affairs has increased its program budget. This guarantees that no matter how many veterans come forward or when, they will receive the benefits and services they are entitled to.
It is worthwhile to note that last year 98% of the estimated funds available was spent to support veterans and their families with the benefits and services they needed. The remaining 2% that the hon. member has identified provides VAC the required flexibility to ensure that sufficient funding is available to support all veterans who are approved for those benefits. Therefore, there has been no impact on our commitment to helping veterans or on the ability of the department to deliver the services required.