Ombudsman Releases a Third Report on Canada’s Primary Reserve Force

Message from the Ombudsman | June 14, 2016

Part-Time Soldiers with Full-Time Injuries:
A Systemic Review of Canada's Primary Reserve Force and Operational Stress Injuries

Since 2002, this Office has been tracking and reporting on the issues of operational stress injuries and the adequacy of the health care provided to members of the Canadian Armed Forces. 

Because different rules apply, we have also focussed our attention on the same issues as they relate to Canada’s Reserve Force. Today, we are releasing the last of a series of three reports.

The first report was a collaborative effort with the Canadian Forces Health Services and titled The Feasibility of Providing Health Assessments to All Primary Reservists. The report examined periodic health assessments and found that approximately 6,000 members or 30% of the Reserve Force did not have a valid medical assessment.

In the second report A Systemic Review of Compensation Options for Ill and Injured Reservists, we found that the application process for Reserve Force Compensation was overly complex and relied on 1990s-style paperwork. We also saw that there was no tracking or performance measurement system in place to gauge the efficiency and effectiveness of the Reserve Force Compensation process. Furthermore, we found that ill or injured Reservists were largely unaware of the options available to them.

In this final report, Part-Time Soldiers with Full-Time Injuries: A Systemic Review of Canada's Primary Reserve Force and Operational Stress Injuries, we found that:

  • The policies concerning Reservists’ entitlements to health care, access to periodic health assessments, and eligibility for Reserve employment are unclear;
  • There is a lack of knowledge and awareness of the entitlements to care available to Reservists; and
  • There are gaps in the general follow-up activities with Reservists and, more specifically gaps in post-deployment follow-up activities

We recommended that the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces:

  1. Improve the clarity and administration of Reservists’ entitlement and eligibility for health care, periodic health assessments and future Reserve employment;
  2. Take measurable steps to improve the knowledge and awareness of the entitlements available to all Reservists, especially those who may be ill and injured; and
  3. Strengthen the responsibility and capacity to follow-up with Reservists.

In accordance with my mandate, the Minister of National Defence is given a report 28 days in advance of its release. In his response, the Minister states that he is supportive of the recommendations made in Part-Time Soldiers with Full-Time Injuries: A systemic Review of Canada’s Primary Reserve Force and Operational Stress Injuries, but offers comments related to the administrative challenges and timeline for implementing the recommendations.

While encouraged by the Ministerial support, I remain concerned about the timeline for improving the work, life and status of Reservists. I am pleased that the Minister has directed a thorough and comprehensive review of the Primary Reserves as part of the Defence Policy Review, but maintain that some of the changes recommended in my report can be made immediately to achieve a positive result. What can be done now must be done now.

My office will continue to track these issues and report back as well as posting any correspondence we have on this subject on our Office’s website.

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