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Veteran sues Ottawa over pension-payment delays

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Veteran sues Ottawa over pension-payment delays

Post by Guest on Wed 05 Jul 2017, 06:21

Veteran sues Ottawa over pension-payment delays

GLORIA GALLOWAY
OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail
Published Tuesday, Jul. 04, 2017 8:51PM EDT
Last updated Tuesday, Jul. 04, 2017 8:51PM EDT


A veteran who was forced to wait more than six months for his first pension cheque is the lead plaintiff in a proposed class-action lawsuit that accuses the federal government of breaching its obligations to former soldiers, sailors and aviators by being slow to deliver their retirement benefits.

Although retiring military members are told it can take eight to 12 weeks after they have been discharged for their first cheque to arrive, thousands of veterans over the past decade have waited months and sometimes years for the money. The military is taking steps to rectify the situation, but the delays persist.

Among those who endured the wait was Doug Jost, a former lieutenant who spent 25 years in the navy, some of them with the reserves and some with the regular force. Mr. Jost found himself on the verge of bankruptcy after he retired on July 1, 2015, and had to wait until Jan. 20, 2016, for any money from his pension.

Now, Mr. Jost and his lawyers are inviting other veterans who were in the same situation to join the suit against the federal government, which says Canada “engaged in chronic, excessive and unreasonable delay” in paying pensions to its discharged members. Although the problem has been particularly acute for reservists, members of the regular force have also waited long periods for their retirement income.

“The point is to say, ‘Enough is enough,’” Mr. Jost said.

The first pension cheques for other federal employees usually arrive within 45 days after they retire, but that has not happened for ex-military personnel, Mr. Jost said. “Ultimately, it is the issue of fairness,” he said.

A spokesman for the Canadian Forces said the military is aware of the lawsuit but, “given the ongoing nature of legal proceedings, we cannot comment further.”

An auditor-general’s report of 2011 examined the Reserve Force Pension Plan, which was introduced four years earlier, and found that it had been implemented without adequate planning. That created significant backlogs, the auditor said.

Senior military officials told The Globe and Mail in January of last year that the situation was exacerbated by outdated human-resources computers and processes at National Defence.

The job of processing the military pensions has since been transferred to the Public Works department, and a new defence policy introduced in June says all of the administrative work to get the cheques rolling must be completed before a member is discharged. The policy also calls for the creation of a personnel administrative branch made up of experts in military human resources, and for a new Canadian Armed Forces transition group to be headed by a general.

The statement of claim filed in Federal Court by Mr. Jost and his lawyers says Canada has not properly compensated all of the veterans who experienced pension delays.

Former members of the Canadian Armed Forces who waited long periods for their money have faced personal and financial crisis, the statement of claim says. “Discharged members are humiliated,” it says, “and are not permitted to transition to civilian life with dignity.”

The suit accuses the government of breaching its fiduciary duty to veterans by failing to rectify the delays when they became known and by providing incorrect information to vets about how much they were owed. In Mr. Jost’s case, the military told him while he was still working that he would get $859,980 if he took his pension as a lump sum, but that was reduced, without explanation, to $703,180 months after his retirement.

The claim also says the government was negligent in failing to take care of the former service members’ financial, physical and mental well-being, and that it breached the contract it had with military personnel to provide a pension upon discharge.

The suit asks for interest on money that was delayed and other costs as well as compensation for pain and suffering. Mr. Jost’s lawyer, Jody Brown of Koskie Minsky LLP, said more information will be needed from the government to calculate the total amount of the damages.

“These are retired veterans who are owed money,” Mr. Brown said. “It doesn’t matter that they are doing a better job at processing pensions now. They didn’t serve the past veterans appropriately.”

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/veteran-sues-ottawa-over-pension-payment-delays/article35550905/


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Military has made serious effort to reduce pension delays: Lieutenant-General

Post by Guest on Thu 06 Jul 2017, 07:16

Military has made serious effort to reduce pension delays: Lieutenant-General

GLORIA GALLOWAY
OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail
Published Wednesday, Jul. 05, 2017 8:18PM EDT
Last updated Wednesday, Jul. 05, 2017 8:18PM EDT


The number of veterans facing financial hardship while waiting for their pensions has decreased dramatically over the past year as the public service depleted a massive backlog of unprocessed claims.

At the same time, says Lieutenant-General Charles Lamarre, the commander of the Military Personnel Command, the Canadian Forces recently instituted a new policy that says no member will be discharged until all of the administrative work for pensions and benefits has been completed.

For years, soldiers, sailors and aviators have complained that their departure from the military has been abrupt and that too many loose ends are left dangling, including the processing of their postretirement income. This week, former lieutenant Doug Jost proposed a class-action suit against the government after his first pension cheque was delayed for more than six months, leaving him in debt and on the verge of bankruptcy.

But much has changed over the past year in terms of easing the transition from the military to civilian life, Lt.-Gen Lamarre said, including the speed with which pensions are processed.

“We have a moral obligation to do this properly,” he said on Wednesday in a telephone interview. “Once folks have decided to come and serve and work with you for a significant portion of their lives, their exit from the military should be made simple and it should be straight forward and it should be well co-ordinated. And we’re realizing that we have to pick it up in that respect.”

Gary Walbourne, the Defence Ombudsman, said in April of last year that his office was receiving, on average, two new complaints each day about pensions.

“Few retiring soldiers, sailors and aviators have savings set aside to handle months of delays before they receive any retirement income,” Mr. Walbourne said. “In extreme cases, retiring members have been left unable to pay their mortgages or rent while awaiting their pensions.”

Mr. Jost retired on July 1, 2015, and did not get any money from his military retirement plan until January, 2016, a problem the Defence department attributed to its outdated processes and computers. In July, 2016, a backlog of 13,549 military pension request files was waiting to be processed.

“We were well behind at that point,” Lt.-Gen. Lamarre said.

But the job of processing the pensions was turned over to Public Service Procurement Canada (PSPC) that month. By May, 2017, the backlog had been reduced to fewer than 3,000 cases, most of them related to reservists, whose attendance sheets and service records were not always well maintained. “We do think the PSPC has proven to be extremely good at this, and kudos to them,” Lt.-Gen. Lamarre said. “And the teams that are working through the backlog are confident that we are going to achieve that by the end of December of this year.”

Meanwhile, he said, a new service standard is in place that means military personnel who complete the required forms within a specified time will get their first pension cheque within 30 days of leaving the service.

And the new defence policy calls for the creation of a Canadian Armed Forces transition group that will provide support to retiring soldiers, who will spend their last month in uniform preparing for their post-military lives. The defence policy also calls for expanding the regular and reserve forces by 5,000 members. It is Lt.-Gen. Lamarre’s job to make the military an enticing place to build a career, and fixing problems with pensions is part of that.

“If things are going well, if folks are well administered, if they work in an environment that’s free of harassment or inappropriate behaviour, if they work in a place where they know the chain of command is going to be looking after their well-being and the well-being of their families,” he said, “then all of that becomes part of one of those organizations you want to work for.”

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/military-has-made-serious-effort-to-reduce-pension-delays-lieutenant-general/article35569414/

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