Minister Response: Letter regarding Potential Inequities With Respect to Entitlement Benefits

Mr. Gary Walbourne
Ombudsman
Office of the Ombudsman for the
Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces
100 Metcalfe Street, 12th Floor
Ottawa ON KIP 5M1

 

Dear Mr. Walbourne,

Thank you for your letter of January 12, 2016, about the entitlements to benefits for Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members who are injured in the course of providing search and rescue (SAR) services. I regret the delay in replying.

The issue has been studied by the Department of National Defence and the CAF on several occasions.

The designation of a Special Duty Area (SDA) is established for administrative efficiency in the face of possible mass casualties by streamlining the process with Veterans Affairs Canada, and SDAs must occur outside of Canada. A Special Duty Operation (SDO) can be either inside or outside Canada, but must include an elevated risk in comparison with peacetime service.

The recompense for injury or death on an SDO is based on the insurance principle, whereas the recompense for injury or death while not on a SDO, but still attributable to military service, is based on the compensation principle. The amount of compensation awarded for an injury or death is the same regardless of which principle is applied. The difference is that under the insurance principle, which would apply to any SDO, the Government assumes complete responsibility for death, illness, or injury 24 hours a day while on that SDO, whether it is attributable to military service or not.

Without a doubt, the SAR community faces risk and potential for injury in the execution of their daily activities. SAR technicians receive specialist pay and risk pay to compensate them on a daily basis for the very important job they do to protect Canadians. However, it is important to note that other members of the CAF are also at risk of death or injury while conducting operations within Canada. Some of these other higher risk trades also receive daily financial compensation to accommodate these risks.

In addition, should an injury, illness, or death occur as a result of these military operations, the member affected would be compensated, and the benefits they would receive would be no different than any other injury or illness as a result of military service, whether that illness or injury is in an SDO or not. Disability payments and other mechanisms of support to our ill and injured soldiers who are injured on military duty are based on the degree of disability and not where the injury or illness occurred. There is no current disadvantage to SAR members, or other members of the CAF, who become ill or injured as a result of their military duties.

I would like to assure you that military operations both within Canada and abroad are done on an ongoing basis. Should a specific operation be deemed to have risks that are above normal peacetime levels, then an application can be made for an SDO designation and will be considered at that time.

I appreciate your bringing this matter to my attention.

Yours sincerely,

 

The Hon. Harjit S. Sajjan, PC, OMM, MSM, CD, MP

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