Madam Speaker, as I was saying, this process does not guarantee that whether a veteran comes forward this year or the next or the year after that, we will always have resources available for veterans and their families to access programs and services. Lapsed funding does not result in anyone receiving less than they should.
Year over year, we have seen more financial compensation go to veterans and their families than in years previous, certainly in the previous 10 years. We have seen more veterans avail themselves of programs and services, and we have definitely seen more support being given to veterans than what the Conservatives failed to do in a decade.
I bring up the previous government because we know that they too had lapsed funding. This is not a new accounting method. It is how departments budget, but when we look at the Conservatives' record, when we look at the cuts in their Veterans Affairs departmental budgets, the cuts of 1,000 staff at Veterans Affairs and the closure of Veterans Affairs offices, it is a very different picture, one that veterans and Canadians see through.
I would like to dig in a little more on these benefits. Since January, I have held 41 town halls and round tables to meet with and hear from veterans, their families and stakeholders, and one thing I heard repeatedly was that veterans and their families needed better support and that change was needed. While there has been a lot of change at Veterans Affairs, my commitment to veterans and their well-being has remained the same. I am committed to ensuring that veterans' overall well-being is what drives everything we do. We want to make sure that veterans have purpose and are financially secure, safely housed, in good physical and mental health, resilient in the face of change, well integrated in the community, proud of their legacy and protected from political expediency.
When we look at these factors, we can all agree that without financial security, it is hard to focus on anything. That is why last December, we announced our plan to bring back a pension for life for ill and injured veterans. With that return of a monthly pension, the pension for life recognizes and compensates veterans for disabilities resulting from a service-related illness or injury with a combination of benefits that provide recognition, income support and stability.
Pain and suffering compensation is one of the main benefits. It is a monthly, tax-free payment for life that recognizes veterans' service-related pain and suffering.
This compensation is paid to members and veterans with a disability resulting from a service-related injury or illness.
Veterans and members can choose to receive either monthly payments or a lump sum, giving them the flexibility to choose what works for them and their families.
As well, additional support will be available for those with severe and permanent impairments causing a barrier to re-establishment and post-service life through the additional pain and suffering compensation. This will be provided as a monthly, tax-free benefit for life.
On top of that, the income-replacement benefit is a monthly program that will replace six current benefits and provide income support for those facing barriers to re-establishment. Additionally, veterans using this benefit will be able to earn up to $20,000 per year before any reduction to their IRB payment, and that benefit is 90% of their pre-release salary, which keeps up with inflation and includes a salary increase every year for 20 years to match their expected career progression.
Set to come into force on April 1, 2019, the new pension for life combines what veterans have asked for with the most up-to-date research and understanding of a veteran's well-being, but more importantly, the pension for life will become an integral part of that comprehensive approach to veterans' well-being, reinforcing all the programs and services available at VAC, of which mental health is a priority.
Another issue surrounding mental health we have talked about recently in this House is psychiatric service dogs. Some veterans have made it clear that service dogs could be beneficial for them if they are suffering with conditions like PTSD. That is why, earlier this year, we expanded the medical expense tax credit to recognize the costs for these service animals.
The department also invested in a pilot study to explore the use of service dogs as a safe and effective support for veterans with PTSD. As was reported last week, this study was recently completed, the department is reviewing its results and the final report will help to inform policy decisions related to service dogs.
We know that military service creates unique stressors for serving members and their families, both during and after service. Veterans Affairs Canada has concrete measures in place to address mental health, including the joint suicide prevention strategy. Announced last fall, the Canadian Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs committed to a coordinated collaborative approach and identified over 160 initiatives dedicated to saving the lives of veterans and Canadian Armed Forces members. One suicide is too many, and with the two departments working together, we will be better able to help military service members and veterans reduce the risk, build resilience and prevent suicide.
Because families play an important role in a veteran's life, we recognize that they are there from day one. From base to base, from day to day, they bear intimate witness to the mental health struggles that some veterans deal with. That is why sometimes it could be determined by Veterans Affairs staff and medical professionals that access for a veteran's family members to counselling and other services would assist him or her better in achieving rehabilitation. Veterans Affairs staff consult and act on the recommendations of mental health professionals from across the country. The department has a nationwide network now of over 4,000 mental health professional who deliver services to veterans and RCMP and Canadian Forces members who have post-traumatic stress disorder and other operational stress injuries. Veterans and family members can also find mental health information, support and resources at the 11 operational stress injury clinics and eight satellite clinics across the country plus use of telehealth services, for those living in remote areas.
It is fundamental that we continue to learn and share best practices. Our government recently launched a centre of excellence on PTSD and related mental health conditions that will allow us to do just that. Announced in May with the Royal Ottawa Hospital, this centre will create and share knowledge on veterans mental health treatments that work and place that information directly in the hands of mental health professionals and others working with veterans on a daily basis.
While mental health is a critical factor in a veteran's overall well-being, the department's vision aims to address all aspects of wellness. That is what led to the new and enhanced benefits that rolled out on April 1 of this year. Addressing families and well-being, financial security and education and training, all were designed with a veteran's well-being in mind. One of those new initiatives is the veterans emergency fund. Veterans or family members who may find themselves in an emergency situation can now apply for those funds 24/7, because as we know, emergencies do not only happen nine to five, Monday to Friday. Another is the caregiver recognition benefit, which provides a veteran's caregiver with $1,000 a month, tax free, recognizing the invaluable role caregivers play in caring for veterans.
Two other new programs that launched this year and are proving to be very successful are the education and training benefit and the career transition service. So far, more than 1,400 veterans have been approved for funding to further their education, and more than 900 Canadian Forces members and veterans have been approved for career transition services, and it has only been five months.
These are just a few of the real differences we are making in the lives of our country's veterans.
Whether having served in the Second World War, the Korean War, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Cyprus or any other mission Canada has supported, every veteran has his or her own story based on his or her service, combat experience or injury.
Veterans' needs and the needs of their families and caregivers have evolved. They will continue to evolve, and we will evolve to meet them. Our government will continue to ensure that we are meeting their needs, enhancing their well-being, and helping them to successfully re-establish their lives after service.
Before I conclude, I would like to directly address the motion that has brought us here. As I have said previously in the House, I have instructed my department to look into this particular case and how this decision was made. I have reviewed the department's findings on this issue, and I am directing it to first, ensure that the services being received by a family member of a veteran are related to the veteran's service-related illness or injury, and where they are not, that the case be reviewed by a senior official before a decision is rendered. Second, I have requested that the department address its policy in providing treatment to family members who have extenuating circumstances, such as a conviction for a serious crime.
From now on, in cases with extenuating circumstances, the decision to extend treatment to a non-veteran family member must be made by an area director in consultation with our departmental health professionals.