Ombudsmen write to Ministers with preliminary findings from their joint investigation into the transition process for releasing Canadian Armed Forces members

11 September 2014

The Honourable Robert Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P.
Minister of National Defence
National Defence Headquarters
Major-General George R. Pearkes Building
13th Floor, North Tower
101 Colonel By Drive
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0K2

The Honourable Julian Fantino, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Veterans Affairs
66 Slater St., 16th Floor Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0P4

Dear Minister Nicholson and Minister Fantino:

On 17 June 2014, we advised you that a joint systemic review on the transition process from military to civilian life for releasing Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members was being launched by our offices.

The intent of this letter is to provide our preliminary findings and recommendations related to the June 2014 Report of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs,  “The New Veterans Charter:  Moving Forward” and to highlight the areas that we will study further.

During this initial phase of our review, the joint investigation team mapped the transition process and experience of a medically-releasing CAF member from the point at which they receive their release message through to their integration within Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC). The team also reviewed reports and recommendations made by the House of Commons Standing Committees on National Defence and Veterans Affairs, the Senate Sub-Committee on Veterans Affairs and the Fall 2012 Auditor General of Canada’s Report (Chapter 4: Transition of Ill and Injured Military Personnel to Civilian Life).

Through a review of Department of National Defence (DND) and VAC policies, regulations, business processes and procedures, and interviews with key DND/CAF and VAC stakeholders, the team identified deficiencies, duplication, and administrative barriers to a seamless transition. Specifically:

  • DND and VAC lack common transition and process language. Roles, responsibilities and overall authority remain unclear and most groups involved in the process operate in “silos” using their own directives and policies without regard for the potential impact on the overall transition process for a CAF member.
  • There is a duplication of resources and effort for the processing of medically-releasing CAF members, including two assessment processes  and concepts of case management, multiple consent forms and a lack of a common process language.
  • DND/CAF and VAC have embedded resources within each other’s organizations, but have yet to establish an integrated process with a single point of contact for CAF members.
  • There is limited performance measurement, monitoring, client tracking and outcome validation; and little collaboration between DND and VAC for either performance measurement or defining a successful transition.
  • The onus is on the releasing member to apply for disability benefits and to provide the burden of proof to determine service relationship. Furthermore, there is no business process or policy to ensure that the member has completed and submitted their VAC application package prior to release. This could result in delays in receiving VAC benefits and services and could create barriers to ensuring medically releasing CAF members have seamless and continuous access to the programs and services they require following release.
  • Important information related to transition benefits and services is provided at the end of a member’s career in a condensed timeframe. The volume of information a member receives during transition has been described to us as “overwhelming” and may contribute to what is already a stressful and confusing situation for an injured member who may not be leaving the CAF voluntarily.      


  1. One Definition of Transition. DND and VAC should develop and implement an integrated definition of transition that clearly outlines roles, responsibilities, resource requirements and measurable performance standards. Establishing a member-centric, integrated business process, delivered by both departments with one single point of contact for the member, would result in a seamless transition process without duplication of effort. 
  2. Establishing Service Attributable Injury and VAC Disability Entitlement.  The service relationship of the injury or medical condition should be established within 30 days of receipt of the release message in order to grant eligible members early access to the priority hiring application process.   The case manager should coordinate with the member as early as possible after a release message is issued in order to assist with the application process, ensure prompt adjudication, and grant timely access to VAC care and services.  The DND/VAC transition process should include the mandatory completion of applications for VAC Disability Benefits prior to release.
  3. Early Engagement and Follow-up. DND and VAC should establish a follow-up protocol for medically released military members to see how they are fairing post release. A joint DND/VAC website portal, such as an enhanced My VAC Account, provided to all CAF members at enrolment would integrate VAC earlier into a member’s career and provide a “cradle to grave” portal to the member. Members could update their profile, submit applications, and conduct secure communications with VAC at all times. This joint portal would proactively communicate benefits and programs offered by VAC and give the Department the opportunity to engage with members throughout their careers.

We urge you to take action on these three key areas. Reducing duplication would achieve cost savings while providing a seamless, more efficient and streamlined transition process.

Further Study

Our team will continue to work on follow-on phases of the transition process in order to identify ways of reducing red tape and duplication of effort. Topics will include:

  • Conducting further mapping, validation and gap identification of the transition process;          
  • Completing the review of the recommendations and validation of departmental responses stemming from the Parliamentary, Senate and Office of the Auditor General reports mentioned above;      
  • Reviewing the disability benefit application and adjudication processes to streamline and simplify access to benefits and services prior to medical release;
  • Examining the transition process for Reserve Force members;
  • Examining the role of family members and support provided to families in the transition process;
  • Reviewing previous analysis and recommendations related to the Service Income Security Insurance Plan (SISIP) and VAC’s Rehabilitation Program; and
  • Reviewing the role and impact of third-party service providers.

We will provide regular updates to you as we move forward on this important file.

Gary Walbourne
DND / CAF Ombudsman

Guy Parent
Veterans Ombudsman

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