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Cut unnecessary duplication, says military ombudsman

The military ombudsman has called for changes that would eliminate Veterans Affairs Canada’s long vetting process each year for some new veterans.

Of the 1,500 Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members medically released annually, about 600 are released due to illnesses or injuries directly related to their military service, National Defence and Canadian Forces Ombudsman Gary Walbourne says in his report, Determining Service Attribution for Medically Releasing Members.

Once medically released from the CAF, veterans’ claims are reviewed for eligibility by Veterans Affairs Canada to determine that they have an illness or injury, that it is attributable to service, and that it has resulted in disability. This can take up to 16 weeks, adding to the stress of releasing members and their families and complicating the transition process. 

The VAC review relies heavily on CAF documents, says the report. “This begs the 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 determine whether a medically releasing member’s condition is related to, or aggravated by, military service.” 

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan responded that releasing members should have quick and simple access to VAC benefits, but “the CAF has no extant statutory or policy mandate to systematically determine if an illness developed or an injury sustained during a member’s career is related to their military service.”

Sajjan said time is needed to review the suggestion. And meanwhile, VAC case managers are now working with releasing members earlier in the transition process.

“Any recommendation that challenges the status quo will likely find some resistance by those who are entrenched in the existing administrative processes or service delivery model,” said Walbourne’s report. What’s needed, the report argues, is a shift in mindset—and that might entail creating new policy.


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