Minister of Veteran Affairs Kent Hehr speaks to Cpl. Stuart MacNeil prior to a funding announcement at the Pacific Activity Centre in Colwood on Tuesday morning. (Joel Tansey/News Gazette staff)

Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr announces new spending for former military personnel

Hehr tells Colwood audience that families play a huge role in supporting our troops

Veterans and their families will have added support from the federal government following an announcement at the Colwood Pacific Activity Centre this morning.

Minister of Veterans Affairs Kent Hehr spent the morning in Esquimalt and Colwood sharing the details of the federal government’s 2017 budget and the enhanced support that’s coming for military families.

“Families play a huge role in supporting our troops when they are serving as well as when they are released. I see it every single day in my interactions with past members, veterans and families,” Hehr told an audience that included many Greater Victoria service men and women.

Highlights include expanding the Veteran Family Program, allowing medically-released veterans access to Military Family Resource Centres, and $133.9 million over six years to create a new Veterans’ Education and Training Benefit. The latter will provide veterans with funding for college, university or a technical education of their choice, covering costs ranging from tuition to living expenses.

Veterans with six years of service may be eligible for up to $40,000 while veterans with 12 years of service can receive up to $80,000.

Hehr spoke to reporters about the importance of Military Family Resource Centres, which includes the Colwood Pacific Activity Centre.

“Military Family Resource Centres are the heart of military communities,” he said. “This great place navigates the road map and provides support.”

“By opening this up to ill and injured veterans, we’re allowing them to keep being part of the military family because they feel a loss of that when they are forced to take the uniform off … we want to keep helping them transition to their post-military lives and having access to these are very important to their physical and emotional well-being.”

Also announced was a redesign of the Career Transition Services program, a $1,000 monthly tax-free benefit for veterans’ caregivers, $4 million over four years to establish a Veteran Emergency Fund and $13.9 million over four years to establish a Veteran and Family Well-Being Fund which would provide financial support for organizations looking to conduct research and implement veterans-oriented initiatives and projects.

Hehr also unveiled plans to create a new Centre of Excellence in Veterans’ care, specializing in mental health, post-traumatic stress disorder and related issues.

Hehr noted that the government is prepared to “walk and chew gum at the same time” by adding funds for both services and research.

“We believe that our investments have to be across a continuum. They have to be in both having professionals working with our men and women who are ill and injured as well as keeping on the front line of advancements in this research. It’s not an either/or,” he said.

joel.tansey@goldstreamgazette.com

Twitter: @joelgazette

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