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Joint Personnel Support Unit (JPSU) is in disarray

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Re: Joint Personnel Support Unit (JPSU) is in disarray

Post by Teentitan on Wed 07 Aug 2013, 11:24

In February of 2011 CFB Borden opened an IPSC. I attended the grand opening. There was the usual opening banter by the Base Commander, MP Patrick Brown and a room full of brass.

No one from the press had any questions so I asked a few. One of them was "Why isn't VAC involved? This is only half way to helping the injured. VAC has the skill set to help the veteran who needs to start the transition to civilian life because the injuries are to severe to continue a career in the CF."

Typical reply of I will convey your concerns to Minister MacKay.

I showed the Major the CO of Southern Ontario JPSU/IPSC the snakes and ladders diagram of the benefits and rehab. His eyes bulged, he fidgeted a bit but said nothing.

I have met Col. Blais. First at a VAC townhall meeting at Borden then at a VAC Stakeholder Meeting.

Did anyone catch the irony of the above statement? I met the head of the JPSU/IPSC at two VAC events! If the JPSU/IPSC program doesn't want VAC involved in their program then why is the CO attending these events?

It's a PARTNERSHIP between DND and VAC. If you don't integrate one with the other then any program is doomed to fail.

So to all the brass in the room at the grand opening in Feb 2011 I have one thing to say to you all..."I told you so!!!"
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Joint Personnel Support Unit (JPSU) is in disarray

Post by Jeffery M on Wed 07 Aug 2013, 10:53

OTTAWA — Howard Richmond, charged last week in the brutal stabbing death of his wife, was under the supervision of an Ottawa military rehabilitation unit that is overloaded to the point of being dysfunctional, says a former senior soldier.

There is no way Richmond or any other ill or injured Canadian soldier in the support system could be properly tracked, Barry Westholm told the Citizen.

“It’s in disarray, it’s a disaster,” said Westholm, who until earlier this year was the senior non-commissioned officer overseeing the Joint Personnel Support Unit’s (JPSU) Eastern Ontario region.

The JPSU is the military’s umbrella company for 24 Integrated Personnel Support Centres (IPSCs) across Canada where mentally and physically injured soldiers are supposed to be monitored and sent for appropriate treatment and re-training.

Richmond, who told news media before his arrest that he is being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), was posted into the Ottawa IPSC, which is officially a platoon with a traditional personnel strength of around 30.

According to Westholm, the Ottawa IPSC is now trying to cope with 182 ill and injured, the bulk of whom are “Red Cases” — “high intensity people who need a lot of care” he said.

“When you’re 152 people overborne you can track no-one,” he added. “There is no possible way a section commander can support that load of soldiers.”

If 50-year-old Richmond is found guilty of murdering his wife Melissa, 28, the inadequacies of the system will be at least partly to blame, says Westholm, who recently testified at an inquiry into a soldier’s suicide at Kingston IPSC.

“These things are going to happen,” said Westholm, “because if you go to a unit and basically get dumped down a deep hole without proper leadership it magnifies the injury.

“These people need and expect discipline,” he added. “Rob them of leadership at a time when they need it most and it’s like kicking them in the guts.”

Richmond, a warrant officer, joined the Canadian Forces in 1988 and was a geomatics technician — a job that can include land surveying and mapping.

He had several overseas tours, including Afghanistan.

The ill and injured stay with the support units, typically for up to three years, until they can return to their military careers or, as is most often the case, are transitioned out into civilian life.

The Citizen reported on Saturday that the entire JPSU system is understaffed, underresourced and overcrowded with injured troops.

Although the ill and injured often work off base or attend college and other training facilities, their progress is supposed to be monitored, their whereabouts tracked and reports written.

Staff members at many of the units are overwhelmed with paper work, said Westholm.

Several soldiers posted into the units in various parts of the country have told the Citizen that staff are so overwhelmed the ill and injured are basically left to their own devices.

The Department of National Defence has said it will not specifically discuss the Richmond case, so details of his posting at the unit are unavailable.

DND did not respond to questions Tuesday about the Ottawa IPSC staffing situation, but previously, JPSU head Col. Gerard Blais said he considers the staffing throughout the system to be “adequate” but “challenging” because of a federal government hiring freeze.

JPSU was formed almost five years ago and is recognized to have produced significantly positive results, but since the end of Canada’s fighting mission in Afghanistan it has slowly deteriorated at a time when an increasing number of veterans are coming forward for help.

Retired Brigadier-general Joe Sharpe, who works closely with Senator Romeo Dallaire on issues of mental illness among soldiers, told the Citizen that the military has become more concerned with its public image than with helping soldiers.

“JPSU is the lowest priority,’ he said. “I worry about what some of the young guys will end up doing if you create an environment where the ill and injured feel they can’t make their voices heard. And I know dozens of them.”

JPSU’s decline is, claims Sharpe, a failure of leadership.

“The obligation is on the government — an implied covenant that if you’re injured you’ll be taken care of.”

According to Westholm, the current commander at Ottawa’s IPSC is on a month’s obligatory leave — a so-called annuitant break — which is a requirement of all former military people who return from civilian life to work in the support units.

One section commander is on stress leave, which is an increasing occurrence across the IPSC system.

Westholm warned military brass in his long and detailed resignation letter that because of understaffing and other managerial issues, the support units were in danger of losing track of ill and injured troops in their care “perhaps with mortal results.”

The soldier added: “Given my inability to influence my superiors to correct these critical issues, I am no longer comfortable holding the position of Regimental Sergeant Major as it conflicts with the ethical values instilled in me by my Branch, my Regiment and the Canadian Armed Forces.”

Along with his own superiors and DND brass, Westholm copied the Governor General David Johnston, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, former Defence Minister Peter MacKay and the Canadian Forces Ombudsman.

None replied.

ccobb@ottawacitizen.com

twitter.com/chrisicobb

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

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