Rights & Money

Feds Making It Easier for Military Spouses to Get OAS

If you spent much of your working life abroad because your spouse (or parent) was serving with the military, you can count that period as time spent working in Canada when you apply for your Old Age Security Pension (OAS) benefits—but it’s been your job to provide proof of your time away.
For many military spouses, that need to document their time out of the country has meant difficulties and delays in getting their benefits. Until now.

Employment and Social Development Canada is overhauling the process for enrollment in ways that should make life much easier for military spouses. For a start, automatic enrolment for OAS—and for the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) by the end of 2017—was rolled out last October, so about half of those approaching 65 no longer have to apply, and this may help some spouses. The department is also asking military spouses for supporting documentation as soon as they apply for benefits, giving them a longer lead-time to obtain the necessary information.

Problems arose for military spouses for several reasons. First, many didn’t know that they would need to provide the documentation and often learned of the requirement only when they were waiting for their benefits. Second, documentation about deployment was not always easy to obtain from the military, especially as it pertained to spouses of serving members, and further complications arose if those people had since divorced or separated.
Further improvements to the system of getting benefits to Canadian retirees are in the works, as this is part of a four-year overhaul expected to be finished in 2019.

Photos: iStock/Dean Mitchell (top) and dolgachov (bottom).