'We have to get this thing fixed': Military ombudsman sounds alarm over injured soldiers

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'We have to get this thing fixed': Military ombudsman sounds alarm over injured soldiers

Post by Guest on Sun 24 Jan 2016, 18:46

Canada’s growing numbers of ill and injured soldiers are being failed by an understaffed, overburdened system in desperate need of an immediate and radical overhaul, says military Ombudsman Gary Walbourne.

In an exclusive interview with the Citizen, Walbourne praised a new, rapidly prepared and “brutally honest” report into the Joint Personnel Support Unit (JPSU) ordered by Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance, but says its conclusions are merely an acknowledgment of what critics of the unit have been saying for at least three years.

“These are not show stoppers,” said Walbourne of the report’s recommendations. “(But) I tip my hat to the CDS. He came in, saw this as a priority, and tackled it head on. ”

The JPSU report, finished in September last year, notes that ‘we can and must do better.”

It addresses issues that Walbourne and his predecessor Pierre Daigle have been warning DND about for several years and is the first time that senior military have fully acknowledged that the complaints about JPSU are justified.

DND gave a redacted copy of the report to the Citizen shortly before the interview with Walbourne. It had previously refused to release it.

The ombudsman said he worries that as a swell of injured Afghanistan war veterans begins to enter the system, the report will either gather dust or that existing bureaucratic obstacles will block meaningful improvement.

He said is also concerned that JPSU has yet to make it onto the agenda of the Armed Forces Council, the military’s senior body.

“I’m not going to sit here with my head in the sand,” he said. “Everyone is busy. I get it. However, we can’t continue to talk about these things. We’ve got to get this thing fixed.

“This is the biggest unit inside the Canadian Armed Forces,” he added. “Is it that difficult to have another meeting with this as the sole subject?”

JPSU is an umbrella unit for 24 Integrated Personnel Support Centres (IPSCs) across Canada and was created to offer programs to support and enable mentally and physically injured troops to resume their military careers or, more commonly, to make a gradual transition into the civilian world with sellable skills.

Critics praise the concept, but there has been overwhelming evidence that the units are understaffed, often with ill-trained personnel, and the ill and injured clients left for long periods to their own devices.

According to the latest figures, 1,386 regular troops and 41 reservists are posted into the unit and staff is “tracking” 5,690 cases outside of the unit.

There are 59 staffing vacancies.

While the welfare of injured serving soldiers is getting much-needed political and bureaucratic attention, strategies to quickly and effectively fix JPSU are lacking, said Walbourne.

“It’s good to see it’s getting attention, but what’s the overarching strategy and who’s got the lead on this?” he said. “Who is co-ordinating the pieces? We continue to do the same thing and expect different results.”

Walbourne was particularly scathing about Department of National Defence and Veterans Affairs bureaucratic “silos” that require ill and injured troops to repeat the same bureaucratic processes two and sometimes three times before they enter the JPSU system.

“It’s time for some radical change and for one decision maker to make the decision and then allow the other supports to come in to help the soldiers transition,” he said. “It would change the dynamic on the ground completely.”

The ill and injured, unsure about their futures, are often pigeonholed and not consulted about further education opportunities and career options or fully informed about compensation.

“If you’re a soldier being transitioned out and you have a family and you don’t know what your income is going to be nine months down the road, it’s a real stressor,’ he said.

JPSU staffing and staff burnout remain major problems, he said.

“We were talking about staffing levels in 2013,” he said. “It’s now 2016 and we’re still talking about staffing levels.”

Walbourne’s investigators found a caseload of 113 to one case manager at one IPSC.

“A lot of the front line case managers say they have no time. And if one gets sick, the workload of another doubles. They aren’t getting the training they need because there isn’t time

“I’m not so confident that if we use standardized staffing models we are going to get there fast enough,” he added. “Something immediate needs to happen. It needs to happen fast.”



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Re: 'We have to get this thing fixed': Military ombudsman sounds alarm over injured soldiers

Post by johnny211 on Sun 24 Jan 2016, 19:17

Reading this I flashed back to when I got out, and this unit was not around. Anyone on here who went thru the 70/80/90's knew how an injured soldier ended up. And god forbid you came back mentally broken from a tour. You where labelled and sent out of your unit, like you had a deadly disease, never to be seen again. I do hope for our brothers in, that they can fix this JPSU mess. VVV...
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Re: 'We have to get this thing fixed': Military ombudsman sounds alarm over injured soldiers

Post by bigrex on Sun 24 Jan 2016, 20:35

I know I wish that they had this unit when I was being medically released. I was in Ottawa, and was harassed non stop by my superiors, until it got to the point that I was afraid of going to work, and was placed on stress leave for several months waiting for my release date. In one meeting, as a Leading Seaman, I was sitting alone across from a Master Seaman, a PO2, a PO1, a CPO2, a LT(N) and LCDR when they threatened to change my release note to 5F, so that I wouldn't get my medical pension, because I had talked to a social worker about how I was being treated. It was obvious that they didn't want me, but yet blocked any attempts to find employment elsewhere. But with the JPSU, those getting medically released wouldn't have to endure the things that I went through.
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Re: 'We have to get this thing fixed': Military ombudsman sounds alarm over injured soldiers

Post by Guest on Sun 24 Jan 2016, 21:19

Injured soldier's finally getting respect instead of physical and mental abuse. Decades late but so essential for the injured to prevent permanent damage to an individual.


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Re: 'We have to get this thing fixed': Military ombudsman sounds alarm over injured soldiers

Post by Teentitan on Mon 25 Jan 2016, 11:46

Sounds like a good place to put some of the 400 new hires. Afterall JPSU/IPSC are supposed to be a joint effort of VAC/DND.
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