Ill and injured soldiers will no longer be forced to leave the Canadian Forces until their pension cheques are set, closing an administrative loophole that left some veterans without incomes and no way to pay bills for months.
It’s a major policy shift for the Department of National Defence, which had been criticized for the delays.
CTV’s Mercedes Stephenson has reported on personal stories of soldiers who came close to losing their homes and had to turn to charities to cover mortgage payments. Military ombudsman Gary Walbourne said last year that he had received 1,300 complaints about similar delays since 2007, with many veterans waiting up to three months for their cheques.
Lieutenant General Chuck Lamarre, the new head of military personnel, says the payment system will be up and running before ill and injured military personnel leave their jobs.
Sources also say a new face will take over the much-criticized Joint Personnel Support Unit, which handles cases of ill and injured soldiers.
Major policy change for DND: injured troops will no longer be released from the military until their pension cheque is ready #CAF— Mercedes Stephenson (@CTVMercedes) April 20, 2017
Thousands of ill & injured troops faced months long pension delays meaning they were forced out of the CF without their pension income #CAF— Mercedes Stephenson (@CTVMercedes) April 20, 2017
Sources say this was direction from the CDS General Jon Vance (to stop forcing ill/injured soldiers out before pension ready)— Mercedes Stephenson (@CTVMercedes) April 20, 2017
CTV News has learned that the directive came from Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance, who has pledged to overhaul the system.
Afghanistan veteran Kevin Sweeney spoke to CTV News last year. He said his family nearly lost their home while he waited five months for his pension to kick in. Sweeney, who suffered mental health injuries, eventually turned to Veterans Emergency Transition Services (VETS) Canada, which bought food for the family and helped with their mortgage.
“It looked very, very close,” he said. “My wife was very scared about (losing the home). I was crossing my fingers.”
At the time, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, a veteran himself, called the delays “unacceptable.”
“We can’t immediately change the backlog,” Sajjan said. “We’re going to put all the resources in the right areas to making sure that those backlogs are taken care of.”
With a report from CTV’s Mercedes Stephenson