Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to our government's proposed measure that would help veterans move to the front of the line when it comes to hiring qualified Canadians for federal service jobs. These changes demonstrate our steadfast commitment to support those who have served and continue to serve our great nation. Since elected in 2006, we have ensured that our men and women in uniform, past and present, receive the support and recognition they deserve for their service and their sacrifice.
The issue we are debating today builds on our ongoing efforts to be there for those who have always been there for Canada. It is clear that support for our veterans is a priority for this government. That is why we have invested almost $5 billion in new funding to enhance veterans' benefits, programs, and services.
Our most recent economic action plan goes even further on our record of achievement by committing an addition $108.2 million over the next three years to ensure modern-day veterans of modest means have access to a dignified funeral and burial. To ensure our veterans have quick and easy access to the benefits and services they need, our 2014 budget also allocates $2.1 million to enhance our ability to serve veterans online.
As well, we committed to commemorate our brave men and women who served in Canada's mission in Afghanistan, which we proudly delivered with a National Day of Honour on May 9. In doing so, Canadians came together to recognize the historic significance of this military engagement and the enormous personal sacrifices made by thousands of Canadian Armed Forces personnel, dedicated public servants, and civilians.
These changes are necessary to ensure our veterans have the support they need as they transition to civilian life. Beginning a new, meaningful career plays an important role in that successful transition. Our government understands that, which is why we have introduced these measures that give priority hiring and new employment opportunities in the federal public service to Canadian Armed Forces personnel and veterans. We understand that one of the ways we can meet our shared responsibility is by providing veterans with meaningful new careers and employment opportunities when their military service is over. This initiative builds on our commitment to provide the tools and assistance Canada's men and women in uniform, past and present, need and deserve.
For this, I commend the Minister of Veterans Affairs, just as I commend him for his dedication to ensuring the new veterans charter adequately supports veterans and their families. The minister's call for a comprehensive review of the new veterans charter is sending a clear message to Canada's veterans and their families that we are committed to doing everything we can for them.
By asking the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs to cast the widest net possible in its review of the new veterans charter, the minister is leaving no stone unturned to ensure those who serve our country have the care and support they need when they need it.
Equally important, the minister asked that this same parliamentary committee to recommend how we, as a government, can best state our commitment to veterans and future veterans, and I want to thank him for doing so. Quite frankly, these measures go to the very heart of our government's efforts on behalf of veterans, still-serving members of the Canadian Armed Forces, and their families.
On the one hand, we are delivering real action by making sure our programming continues to evolve with the diverse and complex needs of Canada's veterans and their families.
At the same time, we recognize the importance of demonstrating our nation's great pride and profound gratitude in the most meaningful of ways.
The legislation before us would accomplish many of the same things. It would deliver real action and send a clear message. Simply put, we would give qualified veterans and serving members of the Canadian Armed Forces greater access to new and rewarding opportunities in the federal public service. This is the right thing to do. It is the honourable thing to do and it reflects the importance our government has placed on being there for those who have always been there for our country.
Our record demonstrates that we have not only talked the talk, we have walked it, too. In fact, since being elected in 2006, we have invested almost $5 billion in new funding to enhance veterans' benefits, programs, and services. Through this new funding, we have been able to implement the new veterans charter as a more modern and comprehensive way to care for and support those who are injured in the line of duty.
Through the new veterans charter, we are now providing full physical and psychosocial rehabilitation services for injured and ill veterans. We are offering vocational rehabilitation and career transition services for those who want to continue to work and serve after their military service ends. We are delivering economic security through immediate and long-term financial benefits and, of course, we are providing the health care benefits and one-on-one case management services that are often vital to an injured veteran's successful transition to civilian life.
What does this mean in practical terms? Through our programs, benefits, and services, we are able to provide world-class medical care for seriously injured veterans. We can provide up to $75,800 in training assistance for eligible veterans to start a new career and we can provide a minimum pre-tax income of $42,426 a year for eligible veterans who are unable to become suitably and gainfully employed, as well as for those in Veterans Affairs Canada's rehabilitation program.
In addition, we will help eligible veterans with shovelling snow from their laneways or cutting their grass. We can help them with their housekeeping. We can have health care professionals and case managers visit them in the comfort of their own homes as required. We can assist them with the cost of travelling to their medical appointments.
We do all of these things because we are determined to help injured and ill veterans make the best recoveries possible, as quickly as possible. The measures proposed in the veterans hiring act would build even further on this by giving medically released veterans more opportunities to start new careers in the federal public service.
We would provide those who are released from the Canadian Armed Forces because of a service-related injury or illness with the highest level of consideration for jobs, above all other groups, in recognition of their sacrifices for Canada. As well, the duration of priority access for all medically released veterans would be extended from two years to five years. These measures also recognize the sacrifices of our serving military personnel and our honourably released veterans by allowing them the opportunity to compete for public service jobs, as they have at least three years of military service. This initiative would also allow them to continue to compete for these jobs for a full five years after they are released from the Canadian Armed Forces.
To ensure our veterans have access to the meaningful jobs they need, we would also establish a hiring preference for veterans, in the event they are as qualified as other applicants. This new measure would last for up to five years from the day veterans are released from the Canadian Armed Forces.
We are doing all of this because we believe veterans and serving members deserve such consideration, and because we believe Canada would be better for it. Without these changes, we would run the risk of continuing to lose the valuable contribution of highly qualified individuals when their military career ends. Veterans have the skills, training, and experience that can greatly benefit our public service. This initiative would allow our highly qualified veterans to continue their service to Canada in a civilian capacity by enhancing and enriching the federal workforce.
Canada's veterans have done so much to build our strong, free, and prosperous nation. It is incumbent upon this government to make sure they also share in the wealth and security they have created. These measures are another way to recognize that our veterans have served Canada with courage and distinction, and how they have been willing to sacrifice everything for a better tomorrow.
Finally, to ensure our veterans have the support they need to successfully transition to civilian life, we are committed to enhancing employment opportunities for veterans in the federal public service. I am pleased that the veterans hiring act would do just that. It would create new opportunities for veterans in the public service by making changes to the Public Service Employment Act.
Our first measure would move eligible veterans to the front of the line when it comes to hiring qualified candidates for the federal public service to help grant greater access to federal public service job opportunities for Canada's veterans who are medically released for service-related reasons. These changes would ensure that these veterans receive a statutory priority period for up to five years. It would provide these veterans with the highest level of consideration for public service jobs above all other groups in recognition of their tremendous service to our country.
With this change, we would recognize that, while these men and women have suffered injuries that prevent them from continuing to serve in the Canadian Armed Forces, they still have much more that they can contribute towards our country. Additionally, we would guarantee that all medically released veterans would have their existing priority entitlement period extended from two years to five years. Simply put, these changes would offer new employment and career opportunities to qualified veterans who were injured while they were serving members of the Canadian Armed Forces.
It is also important to note that these opportunities would be extended to Canada's cadet organization, administration, and training services, and rangers.
These measures would be retroactive to April 1, 2012. This means that if a veteran previously had priority status under the regulation and that status expired during the past two years, we would reinstate it for a full five years. In fact, we would extend it for an additional full five years for any veteran who still has priority entitlement.
Furthermore, eligible veterans who are still recovering from their injuries or illnesses would have up to five years to be certified as fit to work. This would give them up to 10 years to find a job in the federal public service, which would greatly assist and ensure that our veterans have a successful transition to civilian life.
However, we have not stopped there. It is our duty to assist our other honourably released veterans in finding meaningful employment as well. That is why this piece of legislation also creates new employment opportunities for still-serving members.
Through the measures we are proposing, our government would permit still-serving military personnel who have at least three years of service to compete for internally advertised positions in the public service. We would also allow them to continue to compete for these internal postings for a full five years after their release from the Canadian Armed Forces.
To make certain that veterans gained access to the opportunities they need, this legislation would establish a hiring preference for veterans over other eligible applicants for the externally advertised hiring process. Simply put, if the veteran was equally qualified over other eligible applicants, the veteran would take priority and be offered the job.
Our government recognizes that the skills, training, and experience Canadian Armed Forces personnel and veterans gain through three years of service would be an asset to the federal public service. In turn, if given the opportunity, veterans would greatly enrich and enhance the federal public service. By serving Canada, our veterans and still-serving members have demonstrated a real commitment to Canada. These measures are a great way for us to recognize this dedication and devotion toward our great nation.
A five-year eligibility period would greatly assist in ensuring that our veterans achieve success after their time in uniform is complete. Further, it would give our brave men and women the time to upgrade their education and skills before returning to the workforce.
Canada's veterans have served our great country with courage and distinction, and they have sacrificed far more than we can ever know or imagine. We have a duty as a government to do the same for them. It is our responsibility to ensure that the programs, benefits, and services they need are there for them when and where they need them. The measures proposed in the veterans hiring act are another way we can do that. It is another way we can signal our willingness to do whatever it takes to help them in their transition to civilian life. It is another way we can thank them on behalf of a truly grateful nation.
Creating job opportunities within the federal public service for our veterans is an important step in helping them transition to civilian life.This is the right and honourable thing to do, which is why I am disappointed that the NDP and the unions do not support these measures. The president of the Union of National Defence Employees went as far as to say that injured veterans should go to the back of the line, behind civilian employees. It is shameful that unions do not want to recognize the sacrifices of our veterans.
I hope all members of the House will seize this opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of those remarkable men and women and support this important piece of legislation.