Top general urges new approach to injured soldiers

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Top general urges new approach to injured soldiers

Post by Trooper on Wed 21 Jun 2017, 17:26

Top general urges new approach to injured soldiers


Gen. Jonathan Vance, chief of the defence staff, says the military must become more flexible to accommodate soldiers suffering mental and physical wounds.


By BRUCE CAMPION-SMITHOttawa Bureau
Tues., June 20, 2017


OTTAWA—Canada’s top general says the military must become more flexible to accommodate soldiers recovering from mental and physical wounds, rather than forcing them out of uniform.

Gen. Jonathan Vance, the chief of the defence staff, says it’s time to change the rigid approach now used — when soldiers unable to be deployed are deemed unfit for service, effectively ending their military career.

Indeed, Vance told MPs on Tuesday that approach likely deters some in uniform from seeking medical help for fear it could jeopardize their career.

“At this juncture our timelines to release someone on what we call a permanent category, permanently disabled, need to change,” Vance told a meeting of the national defence committee.

“If someone will take longer than what we prescribe right now, but they will recover, then maybe we can give them more time,” he said.

Vance made the comments on a day when the Commons’ veterans affairs committee released a report that flagged problems with the mental health services for personnel in the military and after they leave the forces.

Vance told MPs that the military intends to make further improvements to its mental services “so there is more first-line care for people on bases, on deployment, more capacity to treat people.”

And he said the military is also working to improve the transition of personnel out of the Armed Forces and into the care of the Veterans Affairs Department, a process that has come under criticism.

“People leaving the Armed Forces in the past have gone through a bureaucratic process that is essentially designed to get you out,’ he said.

Indeed, the newly released defence policy says the military will create a new unit with a staff of 1,200 personnel to better manage the transition of soldiers out of the armed forces.

But Vance also wants to improve the career prospects of personnel who have suffered mental or physical wounds that at least temporarily impair their ability to do their jobs.

With the military set to grow under the new Liberal defence policy, Vance suggested that would give it more flexibility to keep those personnel in the ranks.

“We’ll have more room, because the Armed Forces will grow, to retain people inside the Armed Forces for a longer period of time if they are in fact dealing with a long-term injury so there is a better chance that we’ll be able to treat them, help them recover and perhaps go back to duty,” Vance said.

The military has been under pressure to relax its “universality of service” rule which dictates that everyone in uniform must be fit and able to be deployed. In some years, up to 4,500 soldiers leave the Armed Forces each year, and about 1,700 of those are have been deemed “forced release,” meaning they’ve been forced from the ranks.

But Vance said he wants to make a “concerted effort” to ensure that personnel are not avoiding treatment, in this case for mental health, “for fear of losing your job.

“I think there can be a great deal more done over a longer period of time … to retain people so that they can serve. All that will help relieve people, I think, of the inordinate stress that goes on,” he said.

Still, the veteran soldier made clear that soldiers with limited hopes of recovery will have to leave the military.

“There’s no question about it. If you cannot be a productive member of the Armed Forces, then at some point you have to part ways,” he said.

He also stressed that military life is “hard.”

“It’s hard for a reason because we’re put in challenging arenas. They must be able to handle the rigours, the stress of military operations,” he said.

Vance said that’s why the military is looking to build resilience of new recruits — “we want people that can handle the rigours of military duty” — and that will extend to the screening before they are accepted.

“We need to ensure we do adequate screening for mental health to ensure that we don’t hire somebody in the armed forces that we hurt further,” he said.

https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2017/06/20/top-general-urges-new-approach-to-injured-soldiers.html






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