Determining Service Attribution for medically releasing members

Message from the Ombudsman | September 13, 2016

As you would expect, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) maintains a high level of health and fitness requirements for individuals who serve in the nation’s military. With this in mind, some 1,500 members are medically released from the CAF each year. Approximately 600 of those members have illnesses or injuries directly related to their military service.

As has been well documented by media over the past several years, medically releasing members often find the transition to civilian life to be very challenging. Those members requiring services from Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) often find themselves uncertain about what, if any, services will be available to them when they depart the military. The complexity of the transition process adds angst to an already stressful situation for the member and the member’s family.

My office has received numerous complaints from releasing service members who rightly question why a protracted bureaucratic process is required for VAC to review records prepared by the CAF when it is possible for the CAF to quickly determine whether a medically releasing member’s condition is related to, or aggravated by, military service. CAF has possession of all of the required information.

The Department of National Defence and CAF could significantly improve the process and reduce the bureaucracy and waiting for members to gain access to benefits and services  by resolving the question of service attribution of an illness or injury.

 Today I released a report on Service Attribution with recommendations on simplifying the cumbersome bureaucratic process for determining military-service related illnesses and injuries. It is my view that process should not trump service. The only parties affected by the imposed bureaucratic delays and requirement to submit endless forms and paperwork to VAC are the ill or injured service members and their families.