Message from the Ombudsman August 18, 2014

Ombudsman Releases 2013-2014 Annual Report

I was honoured to be appointed Ombudsman for the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces in April of this year. Having just spent three years as the Deputy Veterans Ombudsman, preceded by 10 years at the Department of National Defence, I’ve been able to adjust to the new role with relative ease.

I’m grateful to have inherited a professional, committed team. Case Intake and Investigations operations at the Ombudsman’s office have undergone reorganization over the past year two years to become more innovative and service-standards based. I intend to ensure that my team continues to evolve and has the right mix of skills and talent to provide the defence community, and Canadian tax payer, with effective and efficient services.

The number of contacts to the Office remained relatively stable this fiscal year, with 1,507 new cases received. The majority of new cases related to benefits, release from the Canadian Armed Forces, medical issues, postings, harassment, redress of grievance and recruiting. We also assisted members of the Defence community with questions and concerns related to promotions, grievances, leave/vacation, access to information, training and disciplinary action. In total, our Office handled 1,811 cases and closed 1,617 (this includes new cases, cases re-opened and cases carried over from previous fiscal years).

The Office also completed five systemic investigations and released three special reports. The first to be published was the findings of our investigation into the adjudication of financial claims associated with door-to-door relocations (postings) and delays in the handling of related grievances.

In mid-2013, the Office released a report following a comprehensive investigation into quality of life issues for Canadian Armed Forces members and their families posted to Cold Lake, Alberta. An Examination of Canadian Forces Base Cold Lake (4 Wing) detailed a number of issues and made nine recommendations, including a call to immediately re-establish a Post Living Differential allowance that reflects the Cold Lake economic environment.

Additionally, in November 2013, we released the findings of our very first investigation into military families. The resulting report, On the Home front: Assessing the Well-being of Canada’s Military Families, identified 12 findings and made 18 recommendations on how the Department and the Canadian Armed Forces can address the identified concerns.

Looking ahead, one of the main priorities for our Office this coming fiscal year is the completion of two investigative reports (on the board of inquiry process and the treatment of Reservists suffering from operational stress injuries). We will also continue to monitor issues we have identified with the Joint Personnel Support Units, the Reserve Force Pension Plan, and the Integrated Relocation Program.

An additional priority for the office will be the issue of helping identify ways to harmonize the transition process for ill and injured military personnel to the care of Veterans Affairs Canada and life as a civilian. We are already working jointly with the Veterans Ombudsman on this important issue.

Finally, I will personally invest considerable time in building relationships with senior officials of the Department and the Canadian Armed Forces, as well as parliamentarians and other stakeholders, in order to ensure that the needs of the Defence community are being considered throughout decision-making processes.

For more information on the work carried out by the Office this past fiscal year, I invite you to read the full annual report.

Mr. Gary Walbourne

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