An estimated 2,000 veterans of the Second World War and Korean War pass away each month, and with figures like this, the costs of funeral services are of pressing importance. Now, the Royal Canadian Legion has launched a campaign it hopes will help families with small estates.
The Legion’s letter-writing campaign, which was launched at Elmira’s Legion Branch 469 on January 31, calls on Canadians to write their MPs, with the hope of improving the Funeral and Burial Benefits Program.
“The whole point of this letter campaign is to get the attention of all the MPs in the House of Commons, all the parties, [and] to speak on this in the House to get the dollars that are actually required to give a veteran a dignified and respectful funeral,” said Gordon Moore, Dominion president of the Royal Canadian Legion.
He continued, “I’ve been sending out letters to the minister of veterans affairs asking Mr. Harper, our Prime Minister, to take a look at the program as well. I haven’t really been receiving a whole lot of response or support.”
Since 2001, the government has provided $3,600 toward the cost of veterans’ funeral services, a figure the Legion calls “greatly inadequate.” The veteran’s organization is calling on the government to pay the funeral services for estates valued at under $12,000.
“I know, and a lot of other people know, that you cannot bury anyone for $3,600,” said Moore. “I mean, they’re living below the poverty line. If you have an estate of $12,000 or less, you’re not a wealthy individual.”
The Legion also raises issue with Veterans Affairs budget reductions passed in 1995, which reduced the survivor estate exemption from $24,000 to $12,000. Currently, veterans with estates over $12,000 are not eligible for any government assistance.
Moore said that Legion members have been advocating for changes to the Funeral and Burial Benefits Program at every biennial Dominion Convention since 2004. Now that the majority of Canada’s veterans are in their 90s, the issue has become particularly pressing.
A printable form letter, available in English and French, is available at the Legion’s website, www.legion.ca. While the Legion is calling on all of its 330,000 members to write their MPs, Moore said he hopes the cause will resonate with an even broader population.
“I would really like to see as many Canadians to get involved in this program as possible,” said Moore. “I would really, really love to see two million letters or more hit our MPs in Ottawa.”