Update from your Ombudsman

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I am now half-way through my mandate as Ombudsman. I have been privileged to meet members of the Department and the CAF –and their families— across the country. Wherever I go, I find members of the Defence Team working hard to protect Canadians.

This October, I testified in front of the House Committee on National Defence. I briefed Parliamentarians about the functions of my Office, my reports that contain evidence-based recommendations to the Minister of National Defence, and my views on other issues facing the Defence Team.

I believe the Defence community should get the same update.

Since 2014, my Office has released reports pertaining to priority hiring in the Public Service; operational stress injuries; compensation options and periodic health assessments for Reservists; an investigation into the tragic events at Valcartier Cadet Camp in 1974; attribution of service; and simplifying the service delivery model for medically releasing members of the CAF.

Transition to civilian life
Both medically and non-medically releasing members face a daunting administrative process at the end of their career. The maze is so complex that it took my Office in collaboration with the Veterans Ombudsman’s Office months to map out the release process. The process is overly complex, but it is fixable.

In my report Determining Service Attribution for Medically Releasing Members, I recommended that since the CAF has control of the member’s career and has responsibility for the member’s medical health throughout their career, the determination of service attribution, whether or not the injury is caused or aggravated by service, should be presumed to be evidence in support of a member’s application for benefits at Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC).

In the second report, I proposed a new service delivery model for releasing members. The report contains three achievable recommendations:

  1. The CAF should retain medically releasing members until all benefits from all sources, including VAC, have been finalized and put into place.
  2. A concierge service should be established for all medically releasing members to assist in their transition. This service should be administered by the CAF.
  3. The CAF should develop a tool capable of providing members with information so that they can understand their potential benefit suite, prior to their release.

My recommendations of having the CAF determine service attribution, in conjunction with a change to the service delivery model, could cut wait times for VAC benefits by 50 percent or more.

Other issues of concern

We have heard the need for benefit parity for all who wear the uniform. Whether it be Regular or Reserve Force, a Canadian Ranger, a Cadet or a Veteran, my position has always been: a soldier is a soldier; an aviator is an aviator; and a sailor is a sailor. Once you put on the uniform, you are in service to Canada. If you get hurt while you are in uniform you should be treated equally. I have promised still-serving and former members across this country that I will continue to pursue benefit parity for all members of the CAF.

Members and their families should be properly protected from the impact of huge variations in the cost of living at different posts to which they are sent. The Post Living Differential allowance has not been updated since 2008. This is untenable. Someone needs to make a decision and correct the situation.

We are also working on reports on the care received by ill and injured Cadets, the Canadian Rangers, and a follow-on study on military Boards of Inquiry.

You can contact us by visiting our website http://www.ombuds.ca or by calling 1-888-828-3626. LiveChat is now available.

—Gary Walbourne

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