Medically unfit for deployment? We'll try to employ you elsewhere, says Canada's top general

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Medically unfit for deployment? We'll try to employ you elsewhere, says Canada's top general

Post by Trooper on Mon Oct 09, 2017 8:21 am

Medically unfit for deployment? We'll try to employ you elsewhere, says Canada's top general


After public and political criticism, Vance signals a cultural sea change for the military

By Murray Brewster
Oct 09, 2017



Under the universality of service rule, Forces members must be fit and ready to go into the field at a moment's notice. But Gen. Jonathan Vance, the chief of the defence staff, says it's time to change that approach.

The Canadian military is redesigning itself to make room for troops who may not be "deployable," but are still "employable," the country's top general said.

The remarks by Gen. Jonathan Vance, the chief of the defence staff, represent a social and cultural sea change for an institution that has been accused of discarding injured members who, in some cases, have begged to continue serving.

Since the release of the Liberal government's new defence policy last spring, Vance has telegraphed that he wants to improve the career prospects of the wounded and that he was open to being more flexible.

Indeed, the often-touted policy itself stipulated that wounded troops would be allowed to remain in uniform "on a case-by-case basis."

But Vance went a step further in his comments at the end of a marathon news conference last week related to the government's suicide-prevention strategy.

"We are in the process of redesigning the force structure of the Armed Forces," he said, noting that post-traumatic stress should not be barrier to serving your country.

"Give someone purpose. And more importantly, remove the automatic-ness, if that's a word, of leaving the Armed Forces simply because you come forward and manifest with a mental health challenge. We have lots of people inside the Armed Forces who are — have — are suffering mental illness, and they carry on."

The universality of service rule

What must be recognized, he said, is "that there are parts of the Armed Forces that we could consider employable but not part of that deployability chain," he said.

The military has long operated under what's known as the universality of service rule, which requires members to be fit and ready to go into the field, at home or overseas, at a moment's notice.

Those who are injured, physically or mentally, are given three years to recover and return to full duty. If they're unable to do so, they are forced out under a medical release.

This became a significant issue in the aftermath of the Afghan war with as many 1,700 troops a year, many of them with post-traumatic stress, being released in a medical category.

The former Conservative government, which insisted in 2013 that troops were not being summarily hustled out the door, faced a barrage of criticism from disaffected soldiers and a public backlash.

Even in the face of a public and political backlash, the universality of service rule remained sacrosanct, and Vance's predecessors refused to budge.

'A broken system'

Preserving the standard is something the current defence chief said he intends to do, but building in flexibility is now a major priority.

"We must be deployable. We are an armed forces, after all," said Vance. "We have to be able to do what we've got to do. But we also have to think in terms of the value of the individual is not just deployability."

The comments were greeted cautiously by former soldiers, including one who has long campaigned for the military to find alternative positions for wounded combat troops.

Retired corporal Glen Kirkland, who survived a Taliban roadside bomb attack that killed three of his comrades, said he will wait to see how it unfolds.

At the moment, "it is really a broken system," he told CBC News. "And the government is so used to using Band-Aid fixes, it needs to be re-evaluated and start from scratch."

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/medically-unfit-soldiers-employed-elsewhere-1.4344464
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Re: Medically unfit for deployment? We'll try to employ you elsewhere, says Canada's top general

Post by JAFO on Thu Oct 12, 2017 12:26 pm

Ohhh does this reek of a bureaucratic fiefdom being created.

Until I hear that the CF and VAC are getting their own "1-800 Suicide" phone line I'll start believing these programs are actually going to help.

Our current Crisis Line is under the control of Health Canada for ALL federal employees. It is NOT a VAC or DND Crisis Line.

Biggest issue with Health Canada operating this help is that they are not obligated to inform VAC or DND that there was a suicidal vet or CF soldier that called. The only way Health Canada is responsible is if the vet or CF member explicitly demands Health Canada calls VAC or DND.

So if the first step is a phone call to get that lifeline in motion it AIN'T happening under Health Canada's watch.
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Re: Medically unfit for deployment? We'll try to employ you elsewhere, says Canada's top general

Post by Trooper on Thu Oct 12, 2017 5:55 pm

I think the whole principal is to give less pensions or benefits to injured soldiers.

We see this now with the New Veterans Charter, the CF is just following the bureaucratic rule. You keep some of the injured in the service, which will put less of a burden on Veterans Affairs. You know they are trying to get the service to make the call on benefits before being medically discharged, there's a reason for this and it is not for the best interest of the outgoing service member. It's the same old screwed up system, both departments are being run by the bureaucrats, those who find themselves in the higher level of chain of command are going to walk softly when making such decisions, both from a change, and to fight a change. Here's the problem, go ahead and make these changes, they already went ahead with the New Veterans Charter, at the same time they should be totally changing policy on being forced to fight whenever being told to by the government. They want to treat service members, and disabled Veterans on the same scope or level as civilians, Well then they should not be forcing any service member to go to combat. Further to this, they should put this policy before each individual joining the forces, regular, or reserve.

If their not willing to do that, well then they should not be changing things that are not agreed to by the majority of service members or Veterans.

Those individuals who hold authority should start standing up for what is right, they should start to stand up to the bureaucrats and the politicians who run the Country. If their only looking after themselves, then they have no integrity, and become useless of their positions.  

We all see this everyday, don't we?
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Re: Medically unfit for deployment? We'll try to employ you elsewhere, says Canada's top general

Post by ScottyG on Sun Oct 15, 2017 10:45 am

I actually think its just talk. I do not think an actual policy will come into place to keep members in long term after an injury. Nevertheless, if it did for many of us who enjoyed our careers and the military community it may give us more time to adjust to new physical and/or mental issues within a familiar situation where we are not feeling like forgotten beggars.
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Re: Medically unfit for deployment? We'll try to employ you elsewhere, says Canada's top general

Post by Pengo93 on Sun Oct 15, 2017 5:35 pm

I don't think it will ever happen either.

Sure they may be a few that are found other employment, but hasn't that always been the case.

We'll try to employ you elsewhere, is a problem I think, who is going to decide where you go? And what about the soldier who is found employment elsewhere, and never sees promotion, never has the chance to progress in career? That I would think may hurt some, or add stress to some.

If they want to help, keep medically ill soldiers in service until they have sufficient benefits in place.
If they want to employ them, they should be asked too, it should be left to the soldier to decide on whether they want to continue to be employable in service, or stay in the service not employed until sufficient benefits are in place.
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Relaxing universality of service rule risks creating a system of two-tiered military service

Post by Trooper on Sat Oct 21, 2017 8:21 am

Relaxing universality of service rule risks creating a system of two-tiered military service


Joining the Canadian Armed Forces is not simply a career choice. It is a commitment


By Tony Keene
Oct 21, 2017



If the Forces are going to make exceptions to the rule to allow wounded soldiers to continue to serve in desk jobs, then it will have to be carefully monitored in order to prevent the type of gaming which occurred prior to 2006.

There's an old saying that supposedly sums up what service in the Canadian Armed Forces means: "When you wear the Queen's Cloth, you do the Queen's bidding."

Simply put, this means that if you wear the uniform, you go where you are sent.

It's called universality of service, and it means that all members of the Forces must be fit and ready to serve in the field on operations at any time. While it has existed for decades, it seems to me it only began to be really enforced in 2006, when the chief of the defence staff of the day decided that the time had come to make sure that everyone was in fact capable of operational service. We were strained by our commitments in Bosnia and in Afghanistan. There simply were not enough people.

Trying to keep people in uniform

The intent of the move was to ensure there would be no more people in the Forces who could keep putting off going into the field because of chronic medical problems. There were quite a lot of them, because prior to Bosnia and Afghanistan, the Forces were suffering from low recruitment and retention. More people were leaving than coming in, and commanders at all levels tried as hard as possible to keep people in uniform by juggling postings, and cutting deals to put non-deployable people into support jobs where they could continue to serve.

But with rotation after rotation eating into the available force, people were starting to burn out. It was recognized that unless everyone took a turn, the missions could not be continued. As well, there was a morale problem, because those who were forced to go into theatre time and again while others sat safely in cubicles — protected by a doctor's note — became increasingly resentful.

The crackdown, such as it was, was not intended as a means of kicking wounded and maimed soldiers out of uniform. That was an unintended consequence caused by rigid bureaucracy.

But the closure of Veterans Affairs offices, cuts to funding in all departments (including Defence), the moving of the military pension system to the public service system and the effect the Phoenix pay system fiasco had on civil service morale all combined to create a sort of "perfect storm," which struck our wounded veterans when they were most vulnerable.

And so it came about that soldiers wounded on operations could be drop-kicked out of the Forces without regard for whether there was a safety net ready to receive them on the other side. And there was not. Even non-wounded retirees waited sometimes more than a year to get their first pension payments.

But now, Gen. Jonathan Vance, the chief of the defence staff, has indicated the Armed Forces are preparing the roll back the universality of service policy once again. Remarking specifically on the challenges faced by troops suffering with mental illness, Vance said: "We have to be able to do what we've got to do. But we also have to think in terms of the value of the individual is not just deployability."

If the military implements a more lenient policy, it is to be welcomed. It's not only the more humane option, but in terms of training and experience, it makes sense. When I was a young officer cadet in the '60s, my instructors were wartime veterans — many of them wounded or disabled in some way, yet they still had a wealth of knowledge and experience to pass onto us.

But if this change inadvertently creates a two-tier system of military service, it will once again cause a crisis of morale. Military personnel should not be sent on mission after mission, while their colleagues sit at home due for medical reasons as happened prior to 2006. A caste system such as this will destroy cohesion, morale and military effectiveness.

Careful monitoring needed

If the Forces are going to make exceptions to the rule to allow wounded soldiers to continue to serve in desk jobs, then it will have to be carefully monitored in order to prevent the type of gaming which occurred prior to 2006. The Department of National Defence and Veterans Affairs Canada will have to work more closely together to ensure that released personnel do not fall between the cracks.

(By the way, the greatest cause of time-off-work injuries in the Forces is not operational or training incidents, but sports and physical activity. And the most injurious sport is hockey. Since Forces personnel are required to maintain a high level of physical fitness, these injuries were usually considered work-related.)

While I'm not generally a fan of American war films, except sometimes for comic relief, there are some scenes that stand out. One of these is in the film Battle of the Bulge, where Charles Bronson's character walks into a field kitchen and tells the apron-wearing staff to pick up their rifles.

"But we're cooks!" exclaims one.

The answer: "Not any more."


That's the way it is.

Joining the Forces is not a career choice, and it is not, as a cringe-worthy recruiting slogan once said: "Something to do for a few years." It is a commitment. We cannot afford a two-tier system of military service.

About The Author

Tony Keene

Tony Keene was a reservist in the Canadian Armed Forces for 40 years and completed multiple overseas tours of duty. He has worked as a journalist in newspapers and broadcasting.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/opinion/universality-of-service-1.4363985

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