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Vets showered in federal cash, but critics wonder if it will make life better

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OTTAWA – The new federal budget showers the country’s veterans with cash, but there are questions about the details and how far the money will go in making the lives of ex-soldiers better.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s fiscal plan delivers $5.6 billion — $3.7 billion booked in the current fiscal year — for better programs and services for the most critically injured former military members.

It raises the lump-sum disability award next year for wounds suffered in the line of duty to a maximum of $360,000 from the current $310,000 — a rate far below other countries such as Britain, where the payout is closer to $1 million.

Mike Blais, of Canadian Veterans Advocacy, is unhappy and says he’ll continue to describe it as the “chump sum award.”

The Liberals main promise to veterans in last year’s election campaign was that the lump-sum system would be returned to the previous pension-for-life system — or soldiers would be given a choice between the two, but there was no sign of this in the budget.

The fiscal plan also increases the salary replacement for the wounded known as the earning-loss benefit, but notes the minimum benefit will be based on a senior private’s salary instead of a basic corporal’s salary, something that Don Leonardo, of VeteransVoice.ca, says will disadvantage the lower ranks.