Military pensions not as sweet as most think, survey shows

Only 30 per cent of vets retire with pension

Many veterans have to find employment after retirement because they don’t qualify for a pension. Ryan Bergen

Many Canadians falsely believe that most Canadian Forces (CF) veterans retire with full pensions after 20 years of service, a new survey reveals. The survey was conducted by the Commissionaires, a non-profit organization that does some contracted security work for the government.

The reality is that only 30 per cent of Canadian Forces retire with pensions, while a strong majority of survey respondents believed that at least half retire with full pension eligibility.

“In order to be eligible for a military pension, individuals must stay with the Canadian Forces for a minimum of 20 years and a maximum of 35,” said Tom Reimer, chief executive officer for Commissionaires Manitoba.

Reimer maintains that Canadian Forces often leave the service before eligibility due to the stress of multiple tours in volatile places like Afghanistan.

“Looking at a career in the Canadian Forces there is always another half of the equation,” he said. “And that’s the personal and family side.”

The Commissionaires employ over 8,000 veterans across the country.

Some Canadian Forces believe the survey demonstrates that not only are more Canadian Forces retiring without a pension, but that veterans aren’t provided with adequate funds after retirement.

“In order to maintain quality of life after retirement, or make the same income when serving, I will have to get another means of employment,” said Daniel Donaldson, a military fire inspector stationed in Winnipeg.

The survey results come as a recent NDP private members bill (C-201) tabled by MP Peter Stoffer was defeated at the committee level in the House of Commons.

The bill was meant to address a long-standing pension issue for veterans and retired RCMP. To ease the financial burden, Canadian Forces have their existing pension contribution split between the Canada Pension Plan and their military pension plan. After retirement but before reaching 65, retirees receive their full pension along with a bridge benefit to ease the transition into full retirement.

Upon turning 65, however, the bridge benefit ends and their pension is reduced by the amount of Canadian Pension Plan they had been receiving.

“As it stands right now, as soon as I reach 65, my pension will be ‘clawed back’ $454 a month,” said Donaldson. “I think that Canadians aren’t informed by the federal government on a lot of our [Canadian Forces] issues.”

C-201 was tabled to eliminate the “claw back.”

According to the Winnipeg Free Press, the federal government has defended the defeat of C-201 by pointing to numbers that indicate $7 million for implementation along with $110 million in annual operating costs. Reimer supports these claims.

“My impression is that there are a lot of veterans that believe they should receive both a military and CPP pension,” Reimer said. “But the reality is that veterans ultimately don’t suffer a net loss because the ‘claw back’ reconciles prior bookkeeping ... I feel that the federal government is doing a good job in providing employment for these veterans [whether they are receiving a pension or not].”

Published in Volume 64, Number 14 of The Uniter (December 3, 2009)

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