Veterans turning to charity due to military pension delays

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Veterans turning to charity due to military pension delays

Post by Guest on Mon 27 Jun 2016, 06:10

Veterans turning to charity due to military pension delays.

June 27, 2016

Kevin Sweeney’s is a tale of a man who suffered from a faceless and troubled bureaucracy, but it is not unique. Canadian Force Ombudsman Gary Walbourne says the military has been working on a 13,000-case pension backlog that has resulted in 1,300 complaints to his office since 2007.

After a bomb-scarred tour in Afghanistan, a descent into a cloud of anger and anxiety and forcible retirement from the military due to his psychological problems, Kevin Sweeney thought he had finally hit rock-bottom last January.

As he waited for his first pension payment on that winter day about a month after his release, a government case manager charged with easing his transition into civilian life referred the 45-year-old veteran, a married father of two, to the Kingston food bank.

The suggestion left him feeling humiliated, but it only foreshadowed the problems ahead as he was forced to wait five months to begin receiving a military pension — a $1,188.91 monthly cheque that he earned during more than a decade of service to the country.

As he waited, it felt like his world was caving in. Sweeney, his wife Lorie and their children were forced to live off of donated gift cards for food and gas; they had a charity paying their mortgage and utilities; and he had to pay out of pocket for the medication that keeps the mental scars of his deployment in check.

“To be honest, it seems like it would have been better had we died over there. Then they could hoist us up as heroes, because in Canada a war hero is somebody who died in combat,” Sweeney said in an interview.

Sweeney’s is a tale of a man who suffered from a faceless and troubled bureaucracy, but it is not unique. Canadian Forces Ombudsman Gary Walbourne said the military has been working on a 13,000-case pension backlog that has resulted in 1,300 complaints to his office since 2007.

In response to questions from the Star, Walbourne’s office said that the problem appears to be caused by an overloaded and understaffed department within National Defence that is responsible for processing pension applications.

There have also been nearly 20,000 requests from reservists who want to pay money in lieu of service in order to access or increase their military pensions — a process known as a “buy back.” The sheer number of requests has overwhelmed the Canadian Forces Pension Services department, according to a letter that Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance sent to the military ombudsman’s office in March.

A spokesperson for the defence department said the goal is to have a retiring member’s pension application processed in time for their release, but files can become more complex if an individual has served in both the regular and reserve forces, or if information is missing or incorrect.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, a military veteran himself, considers the pension delays “unacceptable” and “he is committed to fixing the problem,” his spokesman, Jordan Owens, said in a statement.

Starting on July 4, the department of public works will take over responsibility for processing military pensions — a development that is intended to modernize the application system and clear up the backlog by December 2017.

Public works has set a goal of ensuring initial pension payments are made to retiring soldiers, sailors and air force personnel within 45 days of receiving all the necessary paperwork, said department spokesman Jean-François Létourneau.

While there has been a sharp increase in the number of Afghan war veterans with physical and psychological injuries being medical released from the force in recent years, Walbourne said those individuals are given “priority” status over other pension applicants and do not appear to be responsible for the delays.

But the ill and injured are being affected by the delays, resulting in frustration, uncertainty and despair that only compound the problems that many of them are already living with.

Some are falling through the cracks, and both the military and Veterans Affairs Canada have been funding charities and non-profit groups that are now acting as a social safety net for at-risk veterans.

The Royal Canadian Legion operates a national program for homeless veterans that was launched in Ontario and has helped more than 450 former military member by providing things like rent, transportation, groceries, clothing and furniture.

Dave McGregor, executive director of the legion’s Ontario branch, said pension delays are indeed prompting some veterans to access their services.

“I wouldn’t say it’s frequent but it seems to be happening more than it was in the past,” he said.

In Kingston, Sweeney initially contested his forced release from the military, asking his superior officers for more time to improve his psychological condition and, perhaps, be able to work again. In a letter of appeal, he also explained that Lorie, his wife, had suffered a brain injury and was unable to work, meaning that retirement was certain to be a financial strain.

It was to no avail. He ceased to be a soldier in December 2015, about a week before Christmas. The military said it could not comment on the specifics of Sweeney’s pension fight because of privacy restrictions.

The pension problems began almost immediately, Sweeney said. In January, he said he received a pension application, which he thought — correctly — that he had already completed in the months leading up to his discharge. When he inquired, he was instructed to call back in two weeks. He said he suspected his file was either lost or that processing had not yet started.

Next, he said he received an email from bureaucrats in Ottawa with more paperwork to complete, while also discovering that Veterans Affairs had him fill out and submit the wrong health insurance forms.

“I’m feeling like I’m getting wrapped around the bend,” Sweeney recalled. “The anxiety level is going up. I’m starting to get really angry and I have no idea what to do.”

The bills were piling up, forcing Sweeney to take out a second mortgage on the family’s home, he said. That’s when the family turned to Veterans Emergency Transition Services (VETS) Canada, a national charity that receives $300,000 a year from the federal government to help veterans in crisis.

The organization paid three months worth of mortgage and utility payments for the Sweeney family, and are helping about 10 other veterans, said Debbie Lowther, co-founder of the group.

“It should be very seamless and the people that we’ve helped, many of them have done everything right. They’ve planned for retirement, but then they have to spend their retirement savings to live on before they get their pension,” she said.

By February, Sweeney sought access to the monthly disability insurance payment of $2,000 that he was supposed to receive upon his release. But he learned that the Service Income Security Insurance Plan payments depended on his pension being approved. He said that the insurance company eventually approved the payments on the condition that he pay back the difference if his monthly entitlement was assessed at less than $2,000.

Access to health insurance was also blocked because of the pension delays, meaning that when Sweeney ran out of his antidepressants, he had to pay $97.53 out of his own pocket for the pills.

“It’s very possible you have a vet that is not only getting no money, but getting no drugs that they were on or no therapy at all because their pension hasn’t been released,” Sweeney said. “If he is the head person on the medical plan, none of his family can get any benefits. Everything is gone.”

In the Sweeneys’ case, that meant their daughter, who has asthma, was no longer covered for her medication, said Lorie Sweeney.

The pension application was finally processed in early April. The first cheque arrived on the 27th of the month, but it was only for $499.77 — the military deducted some $700, most of it back payments for medical and dental insurance coverage. In May, the cheque was for $508.25, with the bulk of the deductions going toward missed life insurance payments.

“We literally have been living off gift cards until the end of last month,” Lorie Sweeney said. “And if something doesn’t happen at the end of this month we’re going to have to live off of more gift cards.”

https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2016/06/27/veterans-turning-to-charity-due-to-military-pension-delays.html

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Six-month wait for military pension drove vet to the brink

Post by Guest on Mon 27 Jun 2016, 16:11

Six-month wait for military pension drove vet to the brink.

June 27, 2016

Donald Hookey said he ended up having to wait until January 2010 — more than six months — to receive his initial pension payment. He’s now working with Veterans Emergency Transition Services (VETS) Canada to help former military personnel who are homeless or in crisis.

Donald Hookey, 41, was released from the military in July 2009 with a body full of physical ailments. He also had Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that he said stemmed from his time in the navy aboard HMCS Preserver, responding to the 1998 Swissair crash off Nova Scotia and his 2006 tour in Afghanistan.

When he was medically released, he was initially told his application was a fairly simple calculation that could be dealt with quickly. He nevertheless had taken the advice of his superior officers to squirrel away the equivalent of three months’ salary in case of a processing delay.

Hookey said he ended up having to wait until January 2010 — more than six months — to receive his initial pension payment. Citing privacy restrictions, the military declined to comment on the specifics of Hookey’s case.

Now working with Veterans Emergency Transition Services (VETS) Canada to help former military personnel who are homeless or in crisis, Hookey spoke to the Star from his home in Conception Bay South, Nfld. The interview has been condensed and edited.

Do you understand what happened in your case?

Somebody in Ottawa screwed up. They created two files on me in Ottawa and I guess they just weren’t talking to one another, or to me, about it … One person had half of the file. The other half of my file was on somebody else’s desk.

It was six months before you got your pension. How did you stretch your three months of savings into six months?

Use of credit cards . . . I’d say it was probably close to $10,000.

I know there are some charitable organizations that have sprung up in recent years, but in 2009-2010 you were one of the early ones to get out. Was there any sort of support available to you?

I honestly didn’t know at the time. Getting out and all that information that’s piled on top of you when you do release is kind of stressful in itself . . . I didn’t even know that Veterans Affairs could help me out. I never even asked.

I did call the (Canadian Forces) pension office about three times throughout that six-month period and got the same answer: it’s in process. The only reason it got fixed is because of a person at the Integrated Personnel Support Centre who knew someone in Ottawa. I told her what’s going on and she said, ‘It’s Christmas. You have no money whatsoever?’ She made a nice phone call to someone she knew in Ottawa and they were the ones to discover there were two half-files sitting on two individual desks.

The fact that you went through this in 2009-2010 and others are going through this right now, what does that make you think about how this is being handled?

It seems like there’s no retribution . . . I won’t say incompetence. I’ll say misguidance . . . There’s no retribution for anyone making a mistake in the pension office. At least none that I know of . . . Somebody dies if we make a mistake.

I don’t know that anyone’s died or taken their lives, but is this a stress for many people who don’t need it?

I don’t tell a lot of people this, but I should: the only time that I ever tried to commit suicide was during that time frame.

What happened?

I was released for multiple things, both physical and mental issues. It just took its toll on me. I said I wanted the pain to stop. I want the physical pain to stop. I want the mental pain to stop. I want the emotional pain to stop. I was popping a lot of pills, prescription pills. The physical pain started to go away so I started to feel a bit better … I told some friends who were paramedics what had happened because I scared myself out of it. I didn’t know if it was too late or not, so they watched me through the night. Luckily I didn’t take enough to actually do it.

https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2016/06/27/six-month-wait-for-military-pension-drove-vet-to-the-brink.html

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Veterans are still fighting

Post by Guest on Mon 27 Jun 2016, 18:05

Veterans are still fighting.

June 27, 2016

If there is one single thing that a country should be able to get right, it’s giving its veterans straightforward, fast and no-nonsense access to pensions and medical support.\

But we’re clearly failing at that.
There are plenty of Atlantic Canadians in all branches of the Canadian military; there are veterans in all four of the Atlantic provinces who have done active duty in war zones, and who have mental and physical scars as a result of their service.
The least we could do is treat them right, so they don’t end up feeling the way Kevin Sweeney does.
Here’s what he told the Toronto Star in a story published on Monday: “To be honest, it seems like it would have been better had we died over there. Then they could hoist us up as heroes, because in Canada a war hero is somebody who died in combat,” Sweeney said.
Imagine even thinking that – that, for financial reasons, it might be better for your family if you had died.
Sweeney was forced out of the military – forced to retire – as a result of psychological problems after service in Afghanistan.
He’s been out of the Forces since last December, and has had to live without his pension, disability insurance payments and medical insurance for his family (including coverage for Sweeney’s antidepressant prescriptions) because of lengthy delays at the Department of National Defence.
He and his family have been forced to use food banks, accept donations from a charitable organization to cover the family’s mortgage payments, and buy food on donated gift cards.
But he’s just one face of the problem; there are 13,000 former military pensioners caught up in a massive backlog at National Defence.
It’s something that this region has a vested interest in seeing addressed properly, especially because of the high proportion of our residents who choose to serve in the military. As a Montreal Gazette story once put it quite bluntly: “The four provinces with the highest unemployment rates are the Atlantic provinces: Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. These have the highest recruitment rates in the country.”
It’s always been an option for employment in an area where jobs were tight. With the war in Afghanistan, it became dangerous employment as well. And not only physically dangerous, though 158 soldiers were killed and another 2,000 were injured in the campaign.
Nearly 40,000 soldiers served in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2011 – some eight per cent of those suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and another 5.2 per cent have other mental health issues related to their service in that country.
Any backlog in treatment or pensions is absolutely unacceptable. People who have served this country in combat should not have to return to fight a bureaucratic battle with their own government.

http://www.ngnews.ca/Opinion/Editorials/2016-06-27/article-4572541/Veterans-are-still-fighting/1

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Re: Veterans turning to charity due to military pension delays

Post by 1993firebird on Mon 27 Jun 2016, 20:29

I was released medically in July of 2009 and I received my pension in around a month mind you I started the paperwork 6 months prior to my release so that my pension would be processed in that time frame and I would receive it shortly after my release date.

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Veteran nearly lost home while waiting for pension

Post by Guest on Tue 28 Jun 2016, 05:20

Veteran nearly lost home while waiting for pension.

June 27, 2016 10:40PM EDT

Afghanistan veteran Kevin Sweeney says his family nearly lost their home during five months spent waiting for his military pension to kick in.
“It looked very, very close,” he said. “My wife was very scared about (losing the home). I was crossing my fingers.”
The retired Master Corporal had to leave the military in December because of mental health injuries. He applied for his pension but it did not come.

When he found himself struggling to afford food for his family, a Veterans Affairs employee suggested he go to a food bank.
“It felt like they worked against us than working for us,” he said. “It felt almost like they became our enemy.”
His wife Lorie Sweeney said they felt like they had to “beg to keep a roof over (our) heads, to have food on the table, money for gas.”
The couple turned to a charity that helps at-risk and homeless veterans pay the bills. Veterans Emergency Transition Services (VETS) Canada bought Sweeney food and helped with the mortgage too.
Debbie Lowther, co-founder of VETS, says the charity are currently working with four people in similar circumstances, including a single mother with three children.
Sweeney is getting his benefits now, but said he is speaking out to try and help other veterans avoid bureaucratic delays.
Military Ombudsman Gary Walbourne has suggested it’s a common problem. In April, he noted that he has received 1,300 complaints since 2007 about delayed pensions and severance pay, with many veterans waiting three months or more.
“In extreme cases, retiring members have been left unable to pay their mortgages or rent while awaiting their pensions,” Wallbourne noted.

“Additionally, members find themselves out of pocket for medical expenses while awaiting coverage to be activated as a CAF pension recipient,” he added.
“It has been my experience that Canadian Armed Forces members tend not to complain when they are well within their rights to do so,” Wallbourne went on.
The government concedes that there is not enough staff to process the paperwork. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, who is also a veteran, called the delays “unacceptable.”
“We can’t immediately change the backlog,” Sajjan said.
He added, “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

http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/veteran-nearly-lost-home-while-waiting-for-pension-1.2964338

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Re: Veterans turning to charity due to military pension delays

Post by Dannypaj on Tue 28 Jun 2016, 07:00

Any suggestions for Kevin, I can PM him with it. Just PM me your suggestion.
Ah, Private messaging works wonders.
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Re: Veterans turning to charity due to military pension delays

Post by 1993firebird on Tue 28 Jun 2016, 09:00

When I retired I thought what I was told about the waiting time for pensions was ridiculous , up to 6 months , very glad I was able to start the process before retiring and I contacted the pension office while still serving to get an update because I was concerned and thought that it can not be this way because things must be paid. I was told by the pay office to start saving as much money as possible prior to release in order to have money while waiting for my pension. THIS IS SHAMEFUL.

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Re: Veterans turning to charity due to military pension delays

Post by bigrex on Tue 28 Jun 2016, 10:30

I agree, and it will only get worse, because people are not getting Severance pay anymore. I know that is what I used to survive with while I was waiting for my CF pension to kick in.
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Re: Veterans turning to charity due to military pension delays

Post by 1993firebird on Tue 28 Jun 2016, 13:41

I invested my severance pay in an RRSP in order to reduce my income to save on taxes.

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Military vet files for bankruptcy after clerical error leads to a full year without pension

Post by Guest on Mon 14 Nov 2016, 18:10

Military vet files for bankruptcy after clerical error leads to a full year without pension

After decades of service, Cameron Jones has to keep working to pay off debts incurred during wait

By Brett Purdy, CBC News Posted: Nov 14, 2016 4:12 AM CT Last Updated: Nov 14, 2016 4:12 AM CT


Chief Petty Officer 2nd Class (Retired) Cameron Jones looks over correspondence with Department of National Defence officials regarding the error on his retirement paperwork.

Cameron Jones didn't have huge plans for his retirement from the Canadian Armed Forces, but he didn't plan on filing for bankruptcy or having to work full-time as a commissionaire. Now, an administrative error with his pension has left him out in the cold.

In October Jones filed for bankruptcy after he was told his pension, which is valued at approximately $2,200 a month, was not going to be backdated to his retirement date of November 2015.

"After 37 years of service to my country, it's very upsetting," said Jones.

Jones joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 1977, and worked on and off for the military over the last four decades — in between a career as a Winnipeg police officer — earning 19 years of pensionable service.

Still enlisted

Jones filled out paperwork to be released, but unbeknownst to him it was the wrong form. Instead of being released from the military, he was released from his reserve unit, and subsequently assigned to a supplemental reserve unit.

He'd been told that pension payments can take six to nine months to process, so he didn't start inquiring about the delay until the spring — and when he did, he was told there was simply a backlog. The error wasn't discovered for months.

Last month Jones re-filed his paperwork but was told that because his retirement date is now in November of this year, the military won't pay out the past year of his pension. Jones said he has almost $100,000 in debt. Without the pension money he had been banking on he'll have to work full-time at his current job for 60 months to pay that debt off.

He admits he was "not the most fiscally responsible person, but I knew with the back pay and the pension starting that I was going to be OK, I would have been able to manage things. And now it's past managing," said Jones.

While waiting for the back pay, Jones says he dug himself into a financial hole.

Child support on credit

"I was in shock, and then I found out I wasn't going to get back pay, I knew I was in trouble because I was paying my child support on credit to keep it up," said Jones.

Jones no longer has to pay child support, which he said helped his financial situation a bit.

The former military diver had gone back to work full time as a reservist in the Navy in 2008, after retiring from the WPS. In 2014 his full-time contract with the Navy ended, so he took a leave of absence and used his diving knowledge to land a job working for a tourism company in Africa. He returned from Africa last year and planned on officially retiring from the military at age 55.

"I'm hoping that they'll come to their senses and realize that I should be getting back to the end of October of 2015. And maybe they can hire some more people for Veterans Affairs so the claims can go through in 16 weeks like they claim on their website. If any of those things had occurred prior to August, I would be fine, I wouldn't be where I am now," said Jones.

Officials with the Department of National Defence said on Sunday that they are looking into the matter.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/military-vet-bankruptc-clerical-error-year-without-pension-1.3849338

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Backlog in military pensions won't be cleared until end of year

Post by Guest on Fri 24 Feb 2017, 06:44

Backlog in military pensions won't be cleared until end of year


Humiliating and insulting': ex-naval officer says he prepared for pension delay, but still ended up in debt
By Murray Brewster, CBC News Posted: Feb 23, 2017 5:02 PM ET Last Updated: Feb 23, 2017 5:02 PM ET



Former naval lieutenant Stephen Wight is one of thousands of ex-military members who has been left in debt while waiting for pension cheques.

It will be the end of the year before the enormous backlog of military pension payment files is cleared up, National Defence officials say, and it will likely be October before a similar stockpile of outstanding severance payment claims are rectified.

Both of these long-standing logjams have left an increasing number of newly retired military members in a financial lurch.

CBC News has learned of at least one veteran who was tired of waiting and recently threatened legal action — something that jolted the system into action and resulted in delivery of his outstanding payments.

The veteran declined an on-the-record interview, but military ombudsman Gary Walbourne said he was aware of the case and voiced concern that frustration among those affected has reached a boiling point.

Others, such as retired naval lieutenant Stephen Wight, say waiting more than five months for his pension, severance and Veterans Affairs benefits caused him financial chaos.

Wight is now receiving his military pension, but is still waiting for a separate top-up of benefits for injuries received while in the navy, as promised by the Veterans department.

Wight says he has maxed out his credit, borrowed from family and even took a job to stay afloat. Yet despite all of that, he has missed mortgage payments and is about to miss a car payment.

'From the time I started filling out the paperwork, to the time I received my first cheque, it was almost a year. That's unacceptable.'
- Retired naval lieutenant Stephen Wight


"It's unacceptable, it's insulting — no matter how much time you've put into the military," said Wight, who lives in Fredericton and spent 34 years in uniform. "Departing with dignity ends at the gate. We're just a number. It's insulting and humiliating."

The last five years of his career were spent as a human resources manager in Halifax.

Wight says he was well aware of the problems in the system and prepared to meet them by budgeting and setting aside money. But the wait turned out to be even longer than he anticipated, and promised benefits have arrived piecemeal, if at all.

"I did everything I possibly could not to be in this position," said Wight, who conceded it will be a year or more before he can dig himself out of debt.

Backlog is shrinking

Documents and slide presentations, obtained by CBC News, show the National Defence department has thrown at least 50 extra clerks at the buildup.

But the impending relocation of staff this month to the new national headquarters building in Ottawa is expected to slow the processing of severance payments.

Military pensions are now being administered by Public Works and Procurement Services, which has whittled the backlog of cases down to 5,264, from about 13,000.



"I understand backlogs and I understand the people who are doing the paperwork are probably doing three jobs. I know, I was there," said Wight.

"Nobody should have to wait three months for money that they have contributed. From the time I started filling out the paperwork, to the time I received my first cheque, it was almost a year. That's unacceptable."

Professionalizing release of members

Since Public Works took over the processing of military pensions, National Defence says 96 per cent of new claims are being turned around within 30 days, according to an email statement.

Internal documents, however, take a wider view and attempt to capture the scope of the problem. Currently, there are approximately 10,000 to 12,000 troops released each year. A 2013 study commissioned for the federal government show nearly one-third of military members (27 per cent) "reported a difficult adjustment."


Gen. Jonathan Vance says his objective is to 'professionalize' the process of releasing military members.

The country's top defence chief acknowledged the growing public complaints in a recent speech, saying his objective is to overhaul and "professionalize" the process of releasing military members.

"We want to make certain — I have the same ambition that anybody else would have: I'd love for your pension cheque to be ready the next day, all of your care in place, everything from your move," Gen. Jonathan Vance told the Conference of Defence Associations Institute. "That is our aspiration and it has improved a great deal even this past year."

The country's military ombudsman is worried that patience has been exhausted and that more ex-soldiers will see the courts as a reasonable recourse instead.

"It's just going to gum the system up with a whole of bunch of litigation," said Walbourne. "It's going to cause more delays and more bureaucracy to come to bear. So I'd rather we didn't find ourselves having to get to that extreme."

Walbourne has been advocating for the military to not release members until all of their financial and health arrangements are in place.

An impersonal process

Vance, in his speech, countered that the system has been trying to do that.

The internal documents say a variety of factors caused the pension and severance backlogs.

Staffing cuts under the former Conservative government, the introduction of pensions for reservists in 2007 and the increasing number of soldiers released on medical grounds — roughly 2,500 per year — have made the system ungainly.

The internal documents acknowledge the system is impersonal and "intended to terminate employment rather than assist the member from military to civilian life."

The role and expectations of well-meaning politicians and military brass have also made things worse, according to one presentation contained in the documents, dated Dec. 16, 2016.

"The many significant personnel initiatives encouraged by senior leadership to look after our people have incrementally complicated the release/transition process to the point where a radical revision was warranted … re-engineering rather than tweaking," the presentation said.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/military-pension-backlog-1.3996097

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Backlog in military pensions won't be cleared until end of year

Post by Bruce72 on Tue 28 Feb 2017, 08:03

'Humiliating and insulting': ex-naval officer says he prepared for pension delay, but still ended up in debt


It will be the end of the year before the enormous backlog of military pension payment files is cleared up, National Defence officials say, and it will likely be October before a similar stockpile of outstanding severance payment claims are rectified.

Both of these long-standing logjams have left an increasing number of newly retired military members in a financial lurch.

CBC News has learned of at least one veteran who was tired of waiting and recently threatened legal action — something that jolted the system into action and resulted in delivery of his outstanding payments.

The veteran declined an on-the-record interview, but military ombudsman Gary Walbourne said he was aware of the case and voiced concern that frustration among those affected has reached a boiling point.

Others, such as retired naval lieutenant Stephen Wight, say waiting more than five months for his pension, severance and Veterans Affairs benefits caused him financial chaos.

Wight is now receiving his military pension, but is still waiting for a separate top-up of benefits for injuries received while in the navy, as promised by the Veterans department.

Wight says he has maxed out his credit, borrowed from family and even took a job to stay afloat. Yet despite all of that, he has missed mortgage payments and is about to miss a car payment.

"It's unacceptable, it's insulting — no matter how much time you've put into the military," said Wight, who lives in Fredericton and spent 34 years in uniform. "Departing with dignity ends at the gate. We're just a number. It's insulting and humiliating."

The last five years of his career were spent as a human resources manager in Halifax.

Wight says he was well aware of the problems in the system and prepared to meet them by budgeting and setting aside money. But the wait turned out to be even longer than he anticipated, and promised benefits have arrived piecemeal, if at all.

"I did everything I possibly could not to be in this position," said Wight, who conceded it will be a year or more before he can dig himself out of debt.

Backlog is shrinking

Documents and slide presentations, obtained by CBC News, show the National Defence department has thrown at least 50 extra clerks at the buildup.

But the impending relocation of staff this month to the new national headquarters building in Ottawa is expected to slow the processing of severance payments.

Military pensions are now being administered by Public Services and Procurement Canada, which has whittled the backlog of cases down to 5,264, from about 13,000.

"I understand backlogs and I understand the people who are doing the paperwork are probably doing three jobs. I know, I was there," said Wight.

"Nobody should have to wait three months for money that they have contributed. From the time I started filling out the paperwork, to the time I received my first cheque, it was almost a year. That's unacceptable."

Professionalizing release of members

Since Public Services took over the processing of military pensions, National Defence says 96 per cent of new claims are being turned around within 30 days, according to an email statement.

Internal documents, however, take a wider view and attempt to capture the scope of the problem. Currently, there are approximately 10,000 to 12,000 troops released each year. A 2013 study commissioned for the federal government show nearly one-third of military members (27 per cent) "reported a difficult adjustment."

The country's top defence chief acknowledged the growing public complaints in a recent speech, saying his objective is to overhaul and "professionalize" the process of releasing military members.

"We want to make certain — I have the same ambition that anybody else would have: I'd love for your pension cheque to be ready the next day, all of your care in place, everything from your move," Gen. Jonathan Vance told the Conference of Defence Associations Institute. "That is our aspiration and it has improved a great deal even this past year."

The country's military ombudsman is worried that patience has been exhausted and that more ex-soldiers will see the courts as a reasonable recourse instead.

"It's just going to gum the system up with a whole of bunch of litigation," said Walbourne. "It's going to cause more delays and more bureaucracy to come to bear. So I'd rather we didn't find ourselves having to get to that extreme."

Walbourne has been advocating for the military to not release members until all of their financial and health arrangements are in place.

An impersonal process

Vance, in his speech, countered that the system has been trying to do that.

The internal documents say a variety of factors caused the pension and severance backlogs.

Staffing cuts under the former Conservative government, the introduction of pensions for reservists in 2007 and the increasing number of soldiers released on medical grounds — roughly 2,500 per year — have made the system ungainly.

The internal documents acknowledge the system is impersonal and "intended to terminate employment rather than assist the member from military to civilian life."

The role and expectations of well-meaning politicians and military brass have also made things worse, according to one presentation contained in the documents, dated Dec. 16, 2016.

"The many significant personnel initiatives encouraged by senior leadership to look after our people have incrementally complicated the release/transition process to the point where a radical revision was warranted … re-engineering rather than tweaking," the presentation said. 


http://www.cbc.ca/beta/news/politics/military-pension-backlog-1.3996097

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Re: Veterans turning to charity due to military pension delays

Post by Bruce72 on Tue 28 Feb 2017, 08:18

Gen. Jonathan Vance says his objective is to 'professionalize' the process of releasing military members. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian press)

So General Vance admits that there is nothing professional about the process for releasing members. (bruce72)

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Injured soldiers won't be forced to wait months for pensions

Post by Guest on Fri 21 Apr 2017, 05:41


Injured soldiers won't be forced to wait months for pensions



CTVNews.ca Staff
Published Thursday, April 20, 2017 9:00PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, April 20, 2017 10:31PM EDT

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.

http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/injured-soldiers-won-t-be-forced-to-wait-months-for-pensions-1.3378119


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