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Discharge rule for disabled soldiers must stay in place, general says

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Canada's top general says military must do better for released vets

Post by Guest on Sat 26 Nov 2016, 14:47

Canada's top general says military must do better for released vets

RENATA D’ALIESIO
The Globe and Mail
Published Friday, Nov. 25, 2016 8:43PM EST
Last updated Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016 11:37AM EST

The head of the Canadian Forces says fixing a casualty-support unit remains an “overriding concern,” along with significantly improving the assistance offered to military members slated for release, many of whom are coping with serious injuries and mental-health issues.

A Globe and Mail investigation, which included accounts of 31 soldiers, airmen and veterans who died by suicide after returning from the Afghanistan mission, found that eight of them had spent time in the Joint Personnel Support Unit, which has long lacked sufficient staff and resources to properly aid many of its vulnerable charges.

General Jonathan Vance, chief of the defence staff, ordered a review of the JPSU last year and a new unit commander was installed in August, but understaffing remains a problem and many changes are still being contemplated.

“It is an overriding concern for me. People are my top priority,” Gen. Vance told The Globe in an interview Friday. “There is a long way to go in [fixing] the JPSU construct.”

Gen. Vance said he’s confident that good building blocks have been put in place at the JPSU. But, he added, the Forces must develop a stronger system over all to assist releasing soldiers, sailors and air-force personnel. He noted that the Forces spends a lot of time training and monitoring recruits, but doesn’t provide its service members with anywhere near the same personalized attention when their military careers near an end.

“We have to invest in that,” Gen. Vance said. “I need to professionalize the way we transition people,” he added. “I don’t think we do that well enough.”

Some soldiers have struggled after their discharge. The Globe’s ongoing investigation has revealed that at least 71 military members and veterans who served in the Afghanistan war have taken their lives. Of those suicides, 15 had been released from the Forces.

New research released earlier this week from the Surgeon-General, the military’s top medical official, shows that the army’s suicide rate climbed during the Afghanistan mission. Those in combat-arms trades, such as the infantry and armoured corps, were the most at risk for suicide.

Gen. Vance said the increase is a “significant concern” and the Forces are “seized on the matter.” He noted that suicide has affected those who deployed and those who haven’t, and he said a lot more information and science are needed to better understand how to prevent suicides and to improve mental-health treatment for illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

Between 2002 and 2015, 161 regular-force males were lost to suicide. It’s unclear how many of them had deployed on overseas tours. Gen. Vance said about half were receiving mental-health treatment – a sign, to him, that new tools are needed to prevent these deaths. “We’ve got to find out how better to do this,” he said.

National Defence and Veterans Affairs are working on a suicide-prevention strategy and an expert panel is currently reviewing the Forces’ mental-health programs and suicide-prevention efforts. The strategy was mandated by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last year, two weeks after The Globe’s initial investigation on military suicides.

“I see there is a whole lot of things to do and we’ve got to get them done quickly,” Gen. Vance said. “It’s a bigger issue than just one single silver bullet.”

The military’s top commander said he does not know whether concerns about the anti-malarial drug mefloquine were identified in any of the 71 suicides of military members who served on the Afghanistan mission.

“I got to tell you I don’t know the answer to that question,” Gen. Vance said. “But we’ll take it under advisement. I got to tell you if there was a glaring link, we’d find it, but I’ll ask.”

The military’s Surgeon-General is reassessing the use of mefloquine, which can cause serious psychiatric side-effects. Although other anti-malarial drugs are more commonly given to Canadian soldiers, mefloquine is still prescribed five times as often to Canadian military personnel as it is to their U.S. counterparts.

Waiting times for mental-health care are lower in the Forces’ health system than in provincial medicare. Still, some soldiers fear asking for help will harm their army careers. That has to change, Gen. Vance said.

“I want to make certain that we have the right personnel policies in place that place a premium on getting someone into care while they’re serving, without penalty, so that they can continue to have a happy, progressive life,” he said.

Gen. Vance believes there are lessons to learn from soldiers who witnessed and experienced trauma in Afghanistan and have successfully coped with mental illness. He said for many military members, the Afghanistan mission was a high point in their career.

“There is human strength that comes as a result of operations,” he said. “There is improvement in people’s lives. It’s not all bad for everyone.”

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/general-says-military-must-improve-supports-for-releasing-members/article33056913/

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Ottawa defends fit-to-serve rule that advocates say deters ill soldiers from seeking help

Post by Guest on Thu 03 Nov 2016, 05:46

Ottawa defends fit-to-serve rule that advocates say deters ill soldiers from seeking help

The Globe and Mail
Published Thursday, Nov. 03, 2016 5:00AM EDT
Last updated Thursday, Nov. 03, 2016 12:31AM EDT

The federal government is defending the Canadian Forces’ fit-to-serve rule, which has led to the expulsion of nearly 7,000 ill and wounded members over the past five years – many of them Afghanistan war veterans who wanted to remain in the military.

The policy known as universality of service has long been criticized as too stringent, forcing out members as they cope with job-related injuries and mental illness, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Veterans’ advocates argue the rule – which requires soldiers, sailors and air force personnel be capable of deploying at all times – deters some ill soldiers from seeking help, because they worry they’ll be discharged from the military.

A Canadian Forces working group has been studying the issue for more than two years, but change does not appear on the horizon. In a statement of defence submitted in response to legal action from injured veteran Louise Groulx, the Liberal government maintains the military’s employment standard is not discriminatory and is supported by the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Lawyers for the government also argue that the rule doesn’t demand military members be capable of serving in combat. Rather, they need to be “fit, employable without significant limitations and deployable for operational duties.”

Ottawa’s legal position buttresses comments made by General Jonathan Vance, the Chief of the Defence Staff, earlier this year. In May, Gen. Vance told The Globe and Mail there are many reasons the standard cannot be dropped, even for those who have been permanently injured in the line of duty, such as on the Afghanistan mission, but are still able to perform a job in Canada. “We are a small armed forces; everybody’s got to be able to pitch in all the way.”

Ms. Groulx’s lawyer, Corey Shefman, called the requirement that all 60,000-plus regular force members be ready to deploy any time “ridiculous.” He noted that there are many military jobs that don’t involve serving overseas.

“The Canadian Forces, like every other employer, needs to make reasonable accommodation for these soldiers and veterans,” Mr. Shefman said. “The Canadian people and the Canadian government owe a duty to our soldiers and our veterans for the risks that they put themselves in every day and for the service that they are giving to the country.”

Before becoming an air force instructor and aeromedical technician, Ms. Groulx was a medic and served in Haiti in 1995, part of Canada’s contribution to a United Nations mission. Her last job, which was based in Winnipeg, involved teaching pilots how to deal with medical emergencies and was unlikely to ever require her to work overseas, Mr. Shefman said.

The air-force instructor suffered a serious spinal injury in 1999, while participating in a military baseball game. She underwent six surgeries over 14 years, but was left with mobility problems, according to her statement of claim. She also experienced depression and PTSD, the claim adds.

While she returned to work and wanted to remain in the Forces, she was medically released in June, 2009. The retired master corporal’s lawsuit alleges the Forces’ universality-of-service rule violated her Charter rights.

“The fact is this is the 21st century. The American air force managed to put a double-amputee pilot back in his fighter jet and flying missions. If they can do that, I don’t see any good reasons why the Canadian Forces can’t put a person like Louise … in her non-deployable position,” Mr. Shefman contended.

The Forces’ universality-of-service working group was created in response to concerns that the rule was forcing too many ill and wounded members out of the military. The group last met in September to review findings from focus groups, and is scheduled to meet again in November, said military spokeswoman Jessica Lamirande. The focus groups helped identify “common and essential minimum operational standards” for Forces members, she said. It’s unclear when the review will wrap up.

Medical discharges hit a 17-year high in the 2014 fiscal year, with 1,908 personnel deemed unfit for duty – a 52-per cent increase from the year before, according to figures provided by the Forces. Last fiscal year, 1,533 members were dismissed from the military for medical reasons, which is far higher than before the Afghanistan war. Between 1999 and 2002, no more than 722 personnel were expelled in a single year.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/canadian-government-defends-military-fit-to-serve-rule/article32655133/

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Re: Discharge rule for disabled soldiers must stay in place, general says

Post by Guest on Sun 05 Jun 2016, 09:17

yup .

propat

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Re: Discharge rule for disabled soldiers must stay in place, general says

Post by RobbieRoyal on Sun 05 Jun 2016, 09:14

Cut and dried troops we joined to fight, the machine prep'd us to fight. Can't fight get out, the machine doesn't train to die or become injured, it hires other entities to fix or process those that cannot produce efforts in maintaining the momentum period. Saying that the standard has to be a standard regardless, no retention of Joe because Joe is a good guy, can't fight get out stop the double dipping while serving.
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Re: Discharge rule for disabled soldiers must stay in place, general says

Post by RCN-Retired on Wed 11 May 2016, 22:18

I must agree with General Vance, the size of our armed forces is so small that there is pretty much one job per one person. I also agree that if we allowed permenantly broken soldiers to take admin or training billets others will be adversely effected in that rotation for such things as the sea/shore ratio or equivalent in the Army and Air Force would have the same people never getting a break because there would not be a place for them to be posted to. If we kept the broken soldiers in that there would soon be a human rights issue that would succeed and things would open for disabled recruits. I say this cause when I joined you had to be under a certain age (25) and not owe more then $500. Human rights got hold and then we were seeing 45 year old recruits coming in on a privates pay and one I had work for me had 6 kids all in school. This guy could not be deployed because the wife bitched and complained to the admiral that she needed her husband home. In this loosey goosey society that we reside the bleeding heart courts will see things such that could jeopardize the whole vialbity of being an effective force with what little we have. I do though Rex agree that there should be no deduction on pension.
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Re: Discharge rule for disabled soldiers must stay in place, general says

Post by Teentitan on Wed 11 May 2016, 16:22

Rex I totally agree with you but if you look at your example of not shipping 100% of the unit that is SOP for if you have an injury/death on the deployment and you go back to fill that lost position. You can't because you have non-deployable CF members.

Until the GoC jacks the number on CF personnel the CF is just barely getting by. Remember the multiple tours in the 90's? CF numbers went down but deployments went up. So positions have to be created.
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Re: Discharge rule for disabled soldiers must stay in place, general says

Post by bigrex on Wed 11 May 2016, 16:14

It's not about creating positions, but actively moving these individuals into existing positions where they can still be productive members of the military. No unit, other than the ships, deploys at 100%. And no single MOC will deploy at 100% either. But if they refuse to budge, and allow them to complete their contracts, then those individuals should not be further penalized by having their pensions reduced through no fault, or choice, of their own.
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Re: Discharge rule for disabled soldiers must stay in place, general says

Post by Teentitan on Wed 11 May 2016, 15:48

Rex I totally agree with your ideas. I'd love to see it happen.

But the reality is the cost. Borden is about 1 to 1 1/2 years behind in training. At the height of the Afghan conflict they were 3 years behind because instructors were deployed.

The idea of hiring vets or retired CF with instructors experience did not fall on deaf ears. It was the cost.

I don't think even the Libs will go down this road. I discussed this with VAC/DND/TB back in 2000 under Chretien/Martin and they all said the same thing. If the position is created, money budgeted then veterans and injured vets can apply like everyone else in Canada.

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Re: Discharge rule for disabled soldiers must stay in place, general says

Post by bigrex on Wed 11 May 2016, 15:41

Even combat units that are deployed will keep a handful of personnel home for administrative duties. There is no reason that each unit could not employ a couple of these wounded soldiers for that very purpose. Or retrain them to work in the BOR, or base hospitals. or if experienced enough, instructing the younger soldiers. An instructor at the fleet school for example, does not need the use of his legs to teach radio procedure. And they will never be told to deploy all the instructors at the same time. All I know is that often the decision to medically release a member is made long before they know if there will be any long term affects to the soldiers ability to deploy. Just look at single and double amputees that are now running marathons. Having a disability doesn't always have to be a handicap.


Last edited by bigrex on Wed 11 May 2016, 16:00; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Discharge rule for disabled soldiers must stay in place, general says

Post by Teentitan on Wed 11 May 2016, 13:30

Rex all the points you made were discussed about 15-17 years ago and because the CF is a small military they cannot make special units, download to reserves, or no promotion. Every position in the Reg Force and Reserves is important and needs to be ready to deploy.

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Re: Discharge rule for disabled soldiers must stay in place, general says

Post by Guest on Wed 11 May 2016, 13:11

Well one thing the general points out here is that all members must be physically and mentally able to deploy anywhere , at any time.

He certainly reiterates what I have been saying all along , and that is that "All Forces Members" sign the line to answer the call of duty or war regardless the trade , regardless of the front line combat deployments.
This is what makes us unique in our careers , it clearly without a doubt separates us from the outside civilian career environment.
In other words he is saying we all fall under the same "Umbrella".

Therefore I think or truly believe that it is unfair to stand by a system that is geared towards the categorization of medically released forces members when they are medically released in terms of the disability benefits they are to receive.

That's why we had the pension act in place , it kept all medically released forces members under the same "Umbrella"

One Veteran ! One Standard !

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Re: Discharge rule for disabled soldiers must stay in place, general says

Post by bigrex on Wed 11 May 2016, 13:06

There are always jobs on the back lines, in offices across the country, even in reserve units, that could be filled with those that are unable to deploy any more. Maybe there could be caveats to these types of continued employment, such as no promotions, and are only offered to those injured while in an SDA. So those who get injured while on base or routine deployments, while still eligible for benefits from VAC, would still be subject to an early medical release. Not everyone will even take the opportunity, but it should at least be on the table. And those that are released, should get the pension that would have received if they finished their contracts, with a minimum threshold of 25-30% for those injured early in their career. I know that when I was involuntarily medically released, I lost out on almost $500/month from my pension because of the unfair deduction.
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Re: Discharge rule for disabled soldiers must stay in place, general says

Post by Guest on Wed 11 May 2016, 12:38

ya I worked for Vance before great guy . very relaxed when its time and very go get em when it was time . he believes in fit fit fit . if I recall correctly it was him that brought in the JTF fitness standard to 2RCR and busted or not EVERYONE was to participate in BN PT cook to chief if ya cant do what was planed you could do something.

I thought that was great and I can tell ya that statement was not a marching order one from the MVA this is something he truly believes and I agree .

propat


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Re: Discharge rule for disabled soldiers must stay in place, general says

Post by Teentitan on Wed 11 May 2016, 11:21

Well Rex I agree with your statement and I also agree with Vance.

Canada is a small military and every job number assigned to every CF member is important and must be deployable.

One very important issue that is always absent from the CF's explanation is how would Cpl Bloggins, who deploys, feel if Cpl Wiggins, who cannot deploy due to a severy injury, gets promoted to Mcpl?

What kind of message would that promotion send to the deployable troops?

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Re: Discharge rule for disabled soldiers must stay in place, general says

Post by bigrex on Wed 11 May 2016, 07:39

What a load of BS from Vance. First of all, they are not going to be forced to accept new recruits that are disabled or unfit, because the ones who are allowed to remain, are only disabled due to their service. It would be a sign of respect for their sacrifice, not a human rights issue. And until he is disabled, he has no right to say whether a continued career in the CF, in a different capacity, would be satisfying or not. Not everyone needs to be a front line soldier or sailor. Vance could still do his job if he was in a wheelchair. Even when an entire unit is deployed, it doesn't send 100% of their personnel. There is always a contingent that remains at home to deal with paperwork, and family issues of those deployed.

But if they refuse to make those changes, then they should be prepared to pay up. If a person is injured and being medically released, they should not face further penalties to their CF pensions. End the 2% deduction for every year less than 20, that was served. Pay the full 40% pension for those released while on an IE, and a 30% pension for those released while on a BE.
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Re: Discharge rule for disabled soldiers must stay in place, general says

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