Chief of Defence Staff Responds to Ombudsman's Pension Delay Concerns

19 April 2016

Mr. Gary Walbourne
National Defence and Canadian Forces
100, Metcalfe Street
Ottawa, ON K1P 5M1


Dear Mr. Walbourne,

I would like to thank you for your letter of 16 March 2016 in which you highlight deficiencies related to the CAF release process that lead to unacceptable delays in the payment of pensions and pension related benefits.  In your letter you raise a number of concerns that I would like to briefly address.

Your letter mentions that following the Office of the Auditor General (OAG)’s recommendations the backlog and chronic excessive delays persist.  To illustrate this situation you refer to the delays associated with the buyback process.  A review of the statistical information that the Director of Canadian Forces Pension Services (DCFPS) maintains on a monthly basis show that great progress has been made in eliminating the backlog.  In December 2011, the DCFPS went before Parliament to address the backlog issue and committed that the backlog of Reserve buyback would be eliminated by 31 Dec 2017.  As if 31 march 2016, 19,900 buyback requested were received and of those I am pleased to say that 10,547 have been completed, a 75.88% completion rate.  In comparison at the time of the 2010 OAG audit, DCFOS had received 8,808 buyback requests and of those 342 had been competed, a 3.88% completion rate.  We are on track to complete the remaining files ahead of the commitment date.  I would also like to mention that, out of the 3,353 buyback files or so remaining, 700 of them are members not responding to DCFPS letters or requests for information.

There are very few releasing reserve members today who have to wait for their buyback to be completed before the pension can be calculated. As it has been widely advertised in the past, reserve members with incomplete buybacks are encouraged to notify DCFPS if they are intending on releasing and their file will be prioritized.  However, the current delay faced by the m embers of the Reserve Force before they receive their first pension check and pension related benefits is still too long.

As well, you referred to the upcoming merger of CAF pension services with Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) and the required training as a potential source of additional delays. As a result of the merger, CAF member pension files will be transferred electronically to the PSPC pension center satellite office in Ottawa. The file transfer has been a phased approach and DCFPS has augmented its team by 40 temporary staff to prepare the files for imaging through the Cheque Redemption Control Directorate (CRCD). Moving to a paperless environment will help stream line the process. Additionally, the DCFPS staff members are scheduled to start end-user training for the new pension solution starting this week until 3 July 2016. Not all staff will be training at once, as there are operational requirements that must be adhered to, such as processing Pension Benefits, Service Buybacks, Supplementary Death Benefits, Survivor Benefits, etc. It is very important that we are still able to provide the pension services to CAF members through this transition.

As stated in CAF member communication and on the DCFPS websites regarding the Government of Canada Pension Project, there will be a three week shutdown period in June 2016, to be able to take the data from the existing pension module and convert it into the new Government of Canada Pensions solution. During this time it will not be possible to perform pension calculations, but there will be staff available to take phone and email inquiries from members. During the shutdown period DCFPS employees will be moved from their current location to the new location. This will ensure that the new pension centre will be able to provide services to CAF members immediately on the transition date of 4 Jul 2016.

Strategies are now being developed to manage and mitigate the effects of backlogs. Furthermore, the new pension solution will streamline a number of current processes, due to its increased automation. This solution is shared by all three Government of Canada Pension Plans (PSSA, RCMPSA, and soon CFSA). In some instances the pension centre will have to follow the common service delivery for all three plans. One aspect of the common service delivery is that retirement termination cases will be automatically triggered when the CAF HR/Pay interface sends a release transaction to the new GCPENS solution. This will trigger a Pension Expert to start the process as soon as the transaction is received. This process is more streamlines than the current process and will allow payment of benefits in a shorter time span.

As mentioned, I understand and recognize the frustrations of CAF members in regard to the timely provision of retirement benefits. As part of this recognition, Commander MILPERSCOM has directed a CAF-wide Business Process Re-engineering (BPR) effort of the whole release process. An initial scoping was held on 13 January 2016 with representatives from the primary organization involved in administering and auditing release requests including processing pensions when applicable. As well, the Deputy Commander MILPERSCOM will be hosting a steering committee meeting this week, to which a member of your staff as well as from Veteran Affairs Canada have been invited. The all-inclusive BPR effort will evaluate the release process from the Base/Wing level through to pension payment. The aim of the BPR effort will be to achieve significant improvements in critical performance measures, such as cost, quality, and service and, especially, speed of processing.

Finally, while it is easy to group all our issues under the pension’s umbrella, the specific issues are diverse. So, while a CAF member may be receiving their pension, the delays may be in the areas of severance pay or leave cash out. Although this list of items are somewhat related, in that they are all retirement benefits, the provision of one is not necessarily linked to the other. By narrowing members’ specific complaints, I believe that you can greatly aid us in our endeavour to improve the retirement process.

As you can see we have taken tangible steps to improve the release process and the timeliness of payment of pensions and pension benefits. However, as you rightly pointed out, there are still unacceptable delays that impact the men and women who served Canada. We owe them a more responsive release and pension system. To that I am committed.



J. H. Vance


c.c. Lieutenant General C.T. Whitecross

      Commander MILPERSCOM

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