Message from the Ombudsman (April 12, 2016)

Ombudsman Releases Report Into Compensation Options for Ill and Injured Reservists


Today I released the second in a series of three reports which focus exclusively on Canada’s Reserve Force. 

The first report, The Feasibility of Providing Periodic Health Assessments to All Primary Reservists, looked at Periodic Health Assessments and found that 30% of Canada’s military Reserve Force – roughly 6,000 members – are missing valid medical assessments. 

Today’s report examines the processes which ill and injured Reservists must follow to obtain coverage for lost income.  We found the application and review processes for Reserve Force Compensation to be too complex and cumbersome, relying on old-school paperwork. Moreover, the three environments of the Reserve Force follow different procedures – some faster than others. In all cases, the weakest link of the administrative chain determined how fast (or slow) an application was processed.

We found there is no tracking or performance measurement system in place to gauge the efficiency and effectiveness of the Reserve Force Compensation process.

Another huge challenge for both individual Reservists and the Reserve Force itself was a low-level of awareness of the available options when Reservists find themselves ill or injured.

The broad recommendations I presented to the Minister of National Defence were:

  • Have the Canadian Armed Forces and Department of National Defence improve the governance and administration of Reserve Force Compensation; and
  • Improve the knowledge and awareness of the available compensation options.

Specifically, the compensation process should be streamlined by standardizing and simplifying forms, and by identifying one functional authority that is accountable for the entire Reserve Force Compensation process.

Ideally, a 30-day deadline should be applied so that compensation applications are forwarded to the designated final decision maker (Director of Casualty Support Management) in a timely manner. The current ‘In box and Out box’ processing model results in delays of up to six months. This is simply unfair to individual Reservists who are already dealing with health issues. Delays only hurt the individual, not the system.

I am pleased to report that the Minister of National Defence has agreed to the report’s recommendations. As a former Reservist and Commanding Officer of a Reserve unit (The British Columbia Regiment), Defence Minister Sajjan clearly understands the need to fix shortcomings in the Reserve Force Compensation system.

While agreeing to the report’s two recommendations, the Minister also outlined steps the Department of National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces will undertake over the next 18 months. I’ve had an opportunity to review each of the planned measures and I am cautiously optimistic that the handling of compensation cases for ill and injured Reservists will be significantly improved if the changes are indeed made.

My office will continue to track this issue and I will report back on progress in the Fall of 2017.

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