Statement by the DND/CF Ombudsman on Pension Delays (April 1, 2016)

I’m hearing a lot of complaints from retiring members of the Canadian Armed Forces about pension delays.

In addition to hearing the complaints directly from Canadian Armed Forces members and their families at Ombudsman town halls across the country, my office also receives an average of two new complaints each day about pensions.

Few retiring soldiers, sailors and aviators have savings set aside to handle months of delays before they receive any retirement income. It comes as an unpleasant surprise to most. The frustration level cannot be understated.

In extreme cases, retiring members have been left unable to pay their mortgages or rent while awaiting their pensions. Additionally, members find themselves out of pocket for medical expenses while awaiting coverage to be activated as a CAF pension recipient. One member had to pay $12,000 out of pocket while awaiting his pension and family medical coverage to commence.

It has been my experience that Canadian Armed Forces members tend not to complain when they are well within their rights to do so. But this issue is a touchstone for many. Those members approaching retirement are hearing about the pension delays from their retiring colleagues.

“Ragging the puck” and “the cheque’s in the mail” are two of the less colourful terms used to describe the sentiment with regards to having to wait a number of months for a pension cheque.

My office has been tracking the pension delay issue since 2007. We’ve received about 1300 complaints on pensions and severance pay since then.

The Office of the Auditor General published a performance audit on the Reserve Force Pension Plan in spring 2011. The OAG identified a number of required fixes and improvements. The recommendations were accepted and committed to also eliminate its backlog of pension files and put in place measurable and meaningful service standards.

However, the backlog and chronic, excessive delays persist. According to the Director Canadian Forces Pension Services website, the average payment timeline for a retiring reserve force member is between four to 36 weeks, and three to 14 weeks for regular force members. Based on the many complaints received by my office about delays, these timelines are not reliable or accurate, and many are waiting much longer to receive their pension.

I am very concerned that the pension delays are about to get even worse with Department of National Defence’s Pension Services set to merge with Public Services and Procurement Canada in July 2016.

This merger will result in all existing and future pension files being transferred to Public Services and Procurement Canada. I’ve been informed that the Department of National Defence Pension Services staff will be attending training from April to June 2016, in anticipation of this merger, followed by a two-to-three-week period of delay while the transition of files and employees occurs. This will obviously limit the ability of staff to tackle the existing backlog between now and the merger in July. It seems clear at this point that the Department of National Defence will be transferring a substantial backlog to Public Services and Procurement Canada.

On 16 March 2016 I asked the Chief of the Defence for an update on how Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence plan to tackle the backlog. I have committed to the many Canadian Armed Forces members and families I myself heard from that I will report back to them on what actions will be untaken to eliminate pension delays by the department.

Gary Walbourne


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