Letter to General J.H. Vance: Issue of unfairness in changes made to the Intended Place of Residence (IPR) benefit.

8 January 2016

 

General J.H. Vance
Chief of the Defence Staff
Department of National Defence
National Defence Headquarters
Major General George R. Pearkes Building
13th Floor, South Tower
101 Colonel By Drive
Ottawa, ON K1A 0K2

 

General Vance:

I am writing to raise an issue of unfairness related to the way in which changes made in 2014 to the Intended Place of Residence (IPR) benefit are affecting certain ill and injured Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members transitioning to civilian life. 

The Intended Place of Residence benefit, which provides entitlement to a Crown-paid move to certain CAF members on release, was modified in 2014. The time in which members must select their intended place of residence and use the benefit was reduced from two years to one. CAF members now have one year from their date of release to exercise the IPR benefit. Discretion exists to extend the deadline by one additional year in specified circumstances involving illness or injury, vocational rehabilitation, completion of an education program, or circumstances delaying a move that are beyond the control of the eligible person.

My office has received complaints about the unrealistic time frame to exercise the benefit for medically released members who are undergoing a Service Income Security Insurance Plan (SISIP) Long Term Disability Vocational Rehabilitation Program. The vocational rehabilitation program can last up to 30 months, with a maximum of six months occurring before a member’s release from the CAF, or 24 months post-release. 

A released member undergoing a 24-month post-release vocational rehabilitation, even with the discretionary one-year extension, is disadvantaged because the end of the vocational rehabilitation coincides with the expiry of the period to complete the move to the IPR. This simultaneous expiry means that the member must make all decisions, preparations for transition to civilian employment and move during the same period of vocational rehabilitation or risk losing the IPR benefit entirely. In reality, the reduced time to elect and complete the IPR since 2014 is unfairly limiting ill and injured members from benefiting from the programs specifically in place for them.

In an effort to maximize the success of the vocational rehabilitation, ill and injured CAF members should be permitted to focus on the program and, upon completion of the program, focus on the IPR move. By doing so, medically released members and their families would have time to consider where it would be best to reside, taking into account all relevant factors such as family, finances, access to medical services, and the likelihood of finding work in the field in which he or she has invested training time. 

I recommend a change in policy to address this unfairness and to ensure the time and resources expended by members, the Crown, and insurers of vocational rehabilitation are optimized. Members who, at the time of release from the CAF, are undergoing or scheduled to begin a vocational rehabilitation program, should have one year from the end of the SISIP vocational rehabilitation program to elect and use their IPR benefit.  This would put them on par with healthy releasing CAF members who have the time to plan and implement their transition to a civilian career.

As always, I am grateful for your openness to exchanges aimed at improving the experience of those members whose illness or injury prevents them from continued service. I look forward to hearing about the implementation of this measure, and to bringing forward concerns as they become apparent to me.

Sincerely,

 

Gary Walbourne

Ombudsman

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