MCF Housing for Seniors

October 31, 2011 15:13 ET

MCF Housing for Seniors: Seniors Housing Service Connects Veterans to Benefits

CALGARY, ALBERTA--(Marketwire - Nov. 1, 2011) - Many Canadian war veterans are eligible for special federal pensions and benefits – but they don't know it.

MCF Housing for Seniors, a Calgary non-profit organization that provides affordable housing for seniors, is working to connect its residents to the benefits they deserve.

"Many of our veterans have never applied for veterans pensions – they don't know to apply," says MCF Housing CEO Arlene Adamson. "Despite recent news that Veterans Affairs Canada is cutting more than $226 million from its budget in the next two years, we know they still want to help these people – they just don't know who they are. VAC gives great support to our residents/veterans – they just need our help to find them."

Ruth Loughlin, one of two MCF Community Resource Co-ordinators whose job is to help residents get the supports they need, such as pensions and benefits, says veterans may be eligible for assistance to help cover medical costs, housekeeping, hearing aids, aids for daily living and other things. "It's about giving them a better quality of life," she says, adding the benefits, while not a large sum of money, make a big difference for seniors on fixed incomes and facing expenses such as having to pay costs for filling prescriptions.

Ron Campbell, a gunner in the Second World War, never realized his hearing loss made him eligible for benefits. Loughlin walked him and his wife, Reta, through the application, and arranged for a hearing assessment, through which Veterans Affairs determined he was eligible for benefits. Although Ron died in August at age 87, soon after being approved, Reta will continue to receive benefits.

"It was a big surprise to me what we could get, and when I told Ruth that Ron had passed, I was told I'd still be getting benefits," says Reta. "We could have been getting it all these years, but we did not know about it."

Donald Paul, 87, joined the army at age 17 and received shrapnel wounds and hearing loss from his war service, including the Falaise Gap engagement of the Battle of Normandy. Loughlin linked him to veterans' benefits that'll pay for his hearing aids and batteries. "I never knew anything about it until Ruth came along – 68 years later," he says. "The war was over, I never claimed anything; I never applied for assistance. I fought for my country, and my family."

Reta says the benefits she gets, such as $150/mo. from the Veterans Independence Program for Housekeeping, will help increase her comfort and freedom. The monies also helped pay for her husband's funeral. Donald, meanwhile, expects to save money on batteries and upkeep on his hearing aid.

Loughlin says the benefits are also valuable for seniors who may need increased assistance as they get older, whether it be transitioning from a walker to a wheelchair, or increased need for medications or aids to daily living.

Loughlin notes many seniors are hesitant to talk about their military service, making it a challenge to identify those eligible for veterans' benefits. "It's hard for them to replay the past," she says.

But, adds Reta: "We'd have had none of this if Ruth hadn't gone to bat for us."

Background:

Benefits available through Veterans Affairs Canada:

  • Assistance Fund (covers emergencies)
  • Case Management (assistance with serious injury, career transition or bereavement)
  • Detention Benefits (lump sum available to those detained by an enemy)
  • Disability Award
  • Disability Pension
  • Financial Benefits
  • Funeral, Burial and Grave-Marking Assistance
  • Group Health Insurance
  • Health Care Benefits
  • Health Care Card
  • Mental Health
  • Prisoner of War Compensation
  • Surviving Dependent Benefits
  • Veterans Independence Program
  • War Veterans Allowance

Source: Veterans Affairs (http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/services)

About MCF Housing for Seniors

Chartered as a foundation in 1962 by the Alberta government, MCF Housing for Seniors provides safe, affordable housing and services for lower-income seniors through a range of independent and supportive living options in Calgary. MCF currently provides accommodation to some 1,700 older Calgarians. It operates 17 independent townhouse, apartment and cottage-style housing options throughout the city, as well as nine subsidized supported living lodges that provide seniors with food service, housekeeping, recreation and 24-hour non-medical monitoring.

Media and photo opportunity to meet with all of the people mentioned above:

Tuesday, Nov. 1

10:30 – Noon

MCF's Bow Valley Lodge

1020 Bow Valley Drive NE

(Directions: On Memorial Drive, head towards the Calgary Zoo; take the exit at St. George's Drive and then north to 12 ST NE; take the first left on to McDougall Rd, take the 2nd left on to 11 ST. NE; and turn right on to Bow Valley Drive - visitor parking is at the west end of the parking lot).

CP story on budget cuts – Oct. 14, 2011

THE CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA _ Veterans Affairs Canada plans to cut more than $226 million from its budget in the next two years in what's expected to be the first wave of reductions in the department, according federal documents.

The department's plans and priorities report, which lays out spending up to 2014, shows compensation and financial support for ex-soldiers will see the biggest reduction.

The budget adjustment is long planned and matches the dwindling population of Second World War veterans.

A spokeswoman for Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney says the individual benefits, including new measures for the most seriously wounded, will continue without change or interruption, but the country will have fewer veterans overall.

"There will be no cuts to benefits for our veterans," said Codi Taylor in an email.

"The reduction in planned spending indicated in the Report on Plans and Priorities is due to the anticipated reduction in program uptake. The reduction is related to the sad reality that the number of Second World War and Korean War veterans and survivors of 'traditional' veterans is declining."

The department's budget is roughly $3.5 billion a year.

But like other arms of the federal government, Veterans Affairs is looking for savings beyond the planned $226-million reduction.

The Harper government's current program review wants to see existing spending in all departments and agencies slashed between five and 10 per cent.

The Royal Canadian Legion argued this week against any program review cuts, saying it accepts there will be fewer elderly veterans, but that the department is not taking into account the number of modern soldiers who will need services.

The most recently quarterly report from the Treasury Board, which tracks the federal budget, backs up the group's assessment. It shows compensation and financial support to veterans, in the current budget year, is running about seven per cent over what the department expected.

Veterans Affairs is forecast to spend $163.2 million more on disability awards and allowances because of a higher uptake in applications. The department is also expecting to hand out $10 million more in earnings-loss benefits than expected.

Taylor said if there are shortfalls in future, the department will ask the federal Treasury Board for a top up.

However, one of the things former veterans ombudsman Pat Stogran complained about last year was the reluctance of senior bureaucrats to ask the treasury for more money.

Blaney himself recently acknowledged the need to cut expenses, but insisted former soldiers would not feel the impact and that reductions would be made through the unspecified elimination of red tape.

"What I hear (from) our veterans is that they're really seeking to simplify the process and I intend to address this issue very rapidly," Blaney said last week in restating the government's pledge to invest $2 billion in better benefits for soldiers over 50 years.

"What I can tell you is we're working to streamline the process and I'll be coming back to you with an update in the near future."

The budget planning report indicates the department will put more money toward memorials and monuments, but trim its outreach activities with veterans groups.

The Office of the Veterans Ombudsman will be spared the budget axe and the forecast doesn't anticipate any staffing reductions.

The Legion has called on the Harper government to exempt Veterans Affairs from the program review, the way the Obama administration has pledged not to touch its own programs in the U.S.

Patricia Varga, the legion's president, has challenged the prime minister to do the same.

"It is one thing to say that you care, it is another to show that you do by concrete action," she said in an opinion piece released Friday.

"It is time that our federal leadership owned up to the moral debt they owe to the veterans and their families. They can do that by saying cut if you can but do not touch programs or operations that have any effect on Canada's veterans.

"The government of Canada can pay down its financial debt, it just takes time to do it. But it must not pay down the debt with funds taken from veterans programs."

Contact Information

  • MCF Housing for Seniors
    Silvana Saccomani
    Manager, Marketing and Communications
    403.567.5308 or Cell: 403.669-1597
    www.mcfhousing.com