Can You Get Disability If Injured as a Member of the Canadian Armed Forces?October 22, 2018
Serving in the Canadian Armed Forces is an honorable way to give back to one’s country, and provide a benefit that can never be fully quantified. But, what if you get injured? Can you get veteran disability if injured as a member of the Canadian Armed Forces?
The type of work required and the situations in which service members are asked to operate can present significant risk of severe illness or injury that may lead to disability and an inability to work.
While the federal government does provide several programs related to Canadian Forces disability benefits and compensation for service members, like any government program, it is complex, and difficult to fully grasp which option is applicable and how to access it.
Working with an experienced disability lawyer can alleviate any confusion, and give a disabled veteran or current service member a legitimate chance at establishing eligibility for these benefits.
Disability Benefits Generally
The Canadian government provides disability coverage for all federal employees. Canadian Forces and Reserve Force members fall within this group, but the benefits available to each group differs.
Notably, Reserve Force members are permitted to collect compensation for lost earnings, medical care, rehabilitation costs, and other benefits for injuries or illness caused by their work under the Government Employee’s Compensation Act (GECA) or the Canadian Forces disability benefits offered to all service members, but must choose between the military program or GECA, and may not collect from not both.
Canadian Forces long-term disability benefits is a group plan available to both active and reserve personnel. It is effective from the first day of service since 1982, and members are automatically enrolled without the need to sign up. Regular Force and Class C Reserve members can receive up to 75% of the disabled member’s salary at the time of release from service, minus other income. Primary Reserve Force Class A and B members are entitled to 75% of the basic monthly salary of $2,700, or 75% of additional disability coverage, if purchased.
Unlike Canadian Forces long-term disability, Canadian Forces disability pension benefits are only available to those who are under the age of 65 and served for a sufficient amount of time (10 years for Regular Forces and two years for Reserve). The service member must qualify as disabled, which requires a severe and prolonged ailment, supported by an assessment of the member’s service records, medical documents, and claims made within the disability application.
In addition, the extent to which the disability is related to military service and the extent of the disability itself will influence the likelihood of approval for Canadian Forces disability pension benefits. If approved, the benefits are paid at a flat-rate, the same for all recipients, and an earnings-related component that is 75% of the service member’s retirement benefit at the time of release from service.
Veteran Affairs Disability Benefits
Finally, Veteran Affairs disability benefits are also offered for injuries or illness-inducing disabilities sustained during service. This benefit, referred to as a disability award, is paid as:
- A lump-sum;
- Annual payments over a number or years; or
- A combination of lump-sum and annual payments.
This award is tax-free, and as of April 1, 2017, the maximum award was increased to $360,000 for all qualified recipients awarded disability benefits since April 1, 2006, meaning those already approved would receive an additional payout. The amount of the award is directly related to how closely tied the disability is to military service and the extent of the disability, assessed in 5% increments up to 100% for total disability. Note that pension benefits and a disability award are not mutually exclusive, and a disabled service member may qualify to receive both.
The federal government enjoys immunity from civil liability claims under the Crown Liability and Proceedings Act. The Veteran Review and Appeal Board has exclusive jurisdiction to deal with applications for review of pensions and disability claims.
There are exceptional circumstances under a breach of fiduciary duty, Charter rights and Bill of Rights which can give rise to civil claims against the Crown.
Get Legal Advice
Serving your country requires great sacrifice, and sustaining a life-altering disability is always a larger sacrifice than anticipated or deserved. Struggling with a disability related to military service is never easy, and seeking experienced legal advice is the best way to support your claim. A disability lawyer knowledgeable about Canadian Forces disability benefits will know how to assess a claim and navigate the procedural barriers that can block the receipt of benefits.
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