Minister: War Veterans Pension Benefit Increase

July 6, 2019 | 4 Comments

Government will increase the Pension Benefit for Bermuda’s war veterans, Minister of National Security Wayne Caines said in the House of Assembly, explaining that “even with the various pulls on the Government purse, the Government is committed to ensuring that our veterans are adequately supported.”

Minister Caines said, “Recently, the War Pension Commissioners, a group of former military members, submitted a proposal to increase the pensions for War Veterans benefit recipients. There has been no increase to war veteran pensions’ since April 2007, when the monthly benefit was increased from $400 to $800. For 2019, the Commissioners recommended a further $200 increase from $800 to $1000 per month.

“I am pleased to share that the Government has accepted the recommendation of the Commissioners and intends to continue to honour those who fought for the people of Bermuda in previous years by introducing an additional increase to the Pensions Benefit. The reality is that, over time, the living expense for war veterans has increased. It is intended that this pension increase will provide additional assistance to our veterans and their families.

“The cost to Government for the proposed increase in pensions will be approximately $162,000 in fiscal year 2019/20. Partial budgetary provision has already been made within the budget allocation for the war vets programme administered by the Department of Social Insurance. The additional cost will be funded from savings within the current Ministry of Finance budget allocation.

“In addition to the pension benefit, war veterans also receive various medical benefits which include, all expenses for treatment at KEMH including vision care; unlimited prescription drugs; medical office visits to GP’s and specialist and limited denture coverage. Funeral expenses up to $5,000 are also covered under the Act.”

The Minister’s full statement follows below:

Mr. Speaker, I would like to advise this Honourable House of the Government’s intention to increase the Pension Benefit for Bermuda’s war veterans.

Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members will be aware that Bermuda has a long history of military and war involvement. Unfortunately, our veterans have not always gotten the respect and recognition they deserve due to a myriad of racial and economic injustices that were inscribed into the laws and policies of the day.

Mr. Speaker, during the First World War the Bermuda soldiers were members of the Bermuda Militia Artillery, and as it was decided that they were too small and inexperienced as a unit to be involved in combat, they served as essential support staff behind the lines in Italy and Egypt . The 1919 War Pensions Act stipulated service overseas to receive a pension, so these particular soldiers did not have issue.

Mr. Speaker, pension issues arose for those soldiers who served at home in later wars. These Bermudians volunteered for service, but were not sent overseas for a number of reasons. Volunteers in reserved occupations including masons, builders, engineers, shipwrights, carpenters, and police were kept in Bermuda as their skills would be required if the Island came under attack. Men with families were not sent overseas. Soldiers who remained to guard Bermuda, some for over six years, included members of the Bermuda Militia Artillery, the Bermuda Militia Engineers, Bermuda Militia Infantry and the Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Company. They comprise both black and white veterans: but until amendments to the Act in 2007 brought forth by the then PLP administration, these soldiers were denied benefits and even the title of War Veterans.

Mr. Speaker, it is especially disheartening that these men and women, and their widows and widowers have had to fight for their just recognition as they are seniors in our community. This Government is committed to advancing policies that help to right this wrong.

Mr. Speaker, recently, the War Pension Commissioners, a group of former military members, submitted a proposal to increase the pensions for War Veterans benefit recipients. There has been no increase to war veteran pensions’ since April 2007, when the monthly benefit was increased from $400 to $800. For 2019, the Commissioners recommended a further $200 increase from $800 to $1000 per month.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to share that the Government has accepted the recommendation of the Commissioners and intends to continue to honour those who fought for the people of Bermuda in previous years by introducing an additional increase to the Pensions Benefit. The reality is that, over time, the living expense for war veterans has increased. It is intended that this pension increase will provide additional assistance to our veterans and their families.

Mr. Speaker, the rate of pensions for war veterans are prescribed in accordance with section 16A of the Pensions and Gratuities [War Service] Act 1947. Later today, as the Minister of National Security with responsibility for Defence, I will table the Pensions [War Service] Order 2019 that will formally amend the rate.

Mr. Speaker, the cost to Government for the proposed increase in pensions will be approximately $162,000 in fiscal year 2019/20. Partial budgetary provision has already been made within the budget allocation for the war vets programme administered by the Department of Social Insurance. The additional cost will be funded from savings within the current Ministry of Finance budget allocation.

Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members are reminded that in addition to the pension benefit, war veterans also receive various medical benefits which include, all expenses for treatment at KEMH including vision care; unlimited prescription drugs; medical office visits to GP’s and specialist and limited denture coverage. Funeral expenses up to $5,000 are also covered under the Act.

Mr. Speaker, even with the various pulls on the Government purse, the Government is committed to ensuring that our veterans are adequately supported. We remain sympathetic to the financial needs of the island’s veteran population. These men, and some women, served their country in this capacity because it was the right thing to do. They have never sought hand-outs, and deserve to be honoured at every opportunity. The Government is hopeful that this increase will assist not only the veterans themselves, but will also offer some relief to the family members who care for them.

Mr. Speaker, we pay tribute to Bermuda’s military veterans, including those of all ethnicities who made the ultimate sacrifice to help provide the peace and freedoms we enjoy today.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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Comments (4)

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  1. sailor says:

    makes sense. There are less war vets alive now so the savings the govt has been making due to having less war vets can be passed on to the surviving war vets

  2. Terry says:

    Sorry Mr. Caines but your faux concern for war vets rings a bit hollow. When you pay incompetents like Wayne Furbert 5,000.00 a month for doing nothing and your 2 ministers without portfolio approx. 8-10,000.00 a month, $200.00 doesn’t cut it. Pay those 3 what they are worth and you could increase the Vets pension to $200.00 per week

  3. Kevin says:

    I do believe it will be greatly appreciated but this again is nothing more than an election ploy move …It is so unfortunate that we wait until year 4 to make this happen ,to be honest it raises their payout to what an additional $5k to do this but want big recognition for it …plp want to be seen as for the people but are really not ….they need to be the next opposition they are better equipped to be

  4. And Black War Veterans were not paid for years.

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