Letter to Chief of Defence Staff re Pension Delays

16 March 2016

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

 

Dear General Vance:

In 2009, our office launched a preliminary investigation into issues related to Canadian Forces pension, in part, to determine the cause of noted delays in the processing of Reserve Force pension benefits, severance pay, and gratuities.

In June 2010, the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) formally notified the Department of National Defence (DND) that it would conduct a performance audit of the Reserve Force Pension Plan.   As a result, we decided to wait and review the OAG’s audit report before finalizing our own position on the matter. In the interim, we continued to monitor the concerns raised and addressed complaints on an individual basis.  

Following the OAG’s recommendations, our Office conducted a number of follow-up activities to determine the extent to which improvements have been made to the system and, ultimately, to the reduction of wait times for Reserve Force members to receive the pension and severance benefits to which they are entitled.

Unfortunately, despite the DND’s commitment to not only implement the OAG’s recommendations but also eliminate its backlog of pension files and put in place measurable and meaningful service standards, the backlog and chronic, excessive delays persist.  

While we continue to address complaints on an individual basis, this matter has become a great concern for my Office. In fact, between the coming into effect of the Reserve Force Pension Plan in May 2007 and February of this year, we have received over 1,300 complaints related to delays with the buy-back process, payment-in-lieu, first pension cheque and severance pay.  Since December 2015, we have been receiving 2 pension delay complaints a day.

As you are certainly aware, the DND’s Pension Services are now scheduled to merge with Public Services and Procurement Canada in July 2016. This merger will result in all existing and future pension files being transferred to Public Services and Procurement Canada for processing.  Further, our Office was informed that Pension Services staff will be attending training from April to June 2016, in anticipation of this merger, followed by a two-to-three week period of delay while the transition of files and employees occurs.  This, in our view, will drastically limit the work that can be done on the backlog between now and the merger in July.  It seems clear at this point that the DND will be transferring a substantial backlog to Public Services and Procurement Canada as a result.

I am requesting an update on the current backlog of pension files and how the DND and Canadian Armed Forces are going to resolve this backlog before the merger with Public Services and Procurement Canada in July 2016.  I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

 

Gary Walbourne

Ombudsman

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