Ombudsman for the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces



Ombudsman for the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces

November 21, 2012 09:45 ET

National Defence and Canadian Forces Ombudsman Releases Follow-up Report into the Treatment of Injured Reservists

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Nov. 21, 2012) - The Ombudsman for the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces today released a report into the medical care of Canadian Forces Reservists who become ill or injured while serving in Canada.

The report, entitled Reserved Care: A Follow Up into the Treatment of Injured Reservists, reviews the progress of 12 recommendations made by the Ombudsman in 2008 to help ensure Reservists have proper access to medical care and administrative support.

The assessment was undertaken to ensure that the Minister of National Defence is fully advised on the status of these important medical care improvements.

While it is disappointing that only four of 12 recommendations have been fully actioned in the past four years, a further six recommendations have been partially implemented. Two have not been addressed at all.

Of particular note, no change has been made to the Accidental Dismemberment Insurance Plan, which maintains an unfair disparity as some Reservists are still not entitled to the same compensation as their counterparts for exactly the same dismemberment. The Ombudsman has called for a ministerial intervention in order to correct this grave unfairness.

On a positive note, the Canadian Forces has made a significant improvement with the implementation of recommended measures to ensure that all Reservist members of the Canadian Forces now have electronic medical files accessible anywhere within the Canadian Forces medical system.

However, the Ombudsman also notes that Reservists are still not subject to periodic health assessments and routine immunizations. Although there is a limited trial underway, inconsistent medical screening standards applied to the Reserve Force poses two problems - a risk to the medical well-being of reservists, and the potential inability to deploy medically-fit Reservists on domestic operations (floods, ice storms, etc.) because they lack the appropriate medical screening.

While the Department of National Defence released an interim guidance in 2009 which clarified the entitlement to medical care for Reservists, the Ombudsman's office has found that the guidance is not widely known by Reservists, the Reservist Chain of Command or the Canadian Forces medical system. The policy needs to be formalized and disseminated throughout the entire Canadian Forces.

"The true value of a vital report of this nature is the degree to which accepted recommendations are followed-up on and implemented," said Ombudsman Pierre Daigle. "It's my job as Ombudsman to flag items of concern to the Minister of National Defence which impact members of the National Defence and Canadian Forces community."

The 12 recommendations below were the culmination of an extensive special report to the Minister of National Defence released in April 2008 (http://www.ombudsman.forces.gc.ca). The report drew upon the inputs of some 389 people - most of whom were Reservists.

Status of Recommendations

Recommendation 1 (Development of the New Health Care Framework)

Partially Implemented - While steps have been taken to clarify entitlement to care, the known distribution deficiencies and the lack of a formalized policy have resulted in awareness gaps.

Recommendation 2 (Canadian Forces' Obligations to Provide Comprehensive Health Care to Reservists)

Partially Implemented - Given the interim status of the guidance and the lack of proper distribution of the information within the various chains of command (i.e., service providers and Reservists), which have resulted in a clear awareness gap.

Recommendation 3 (Provision of Health Care to Reservists Serving Away from their Civilian Health Care Providers)

Partially Implemented - Interim status of the guidance and the lack of proper distribution of the information have resulted in a clear awareness gap.

Recommendation 4 (Fair and Generous Application of Health Care Entitlements to Reservists)

Partially Implemented - Interim status of the guidance and the lack of proper distribution of the information have resulted in a clear awareness gap.

Recommendation 5 (Periodic Health Assessments)

Not Implemented - The provision of periodic health assessments remains in trial mode with no commitment of future implementation to all Primary Reservists.

Recommendation 6 (Immunizations/Vaccinations)

Partially Implemented - Even though the requirements for immunizations/vaccinations are published, the fact that their provision is linked to the implementation of the periodic health assessments renders the implementation of this recommendation partially implemented.

Recommendation 7 (Fair Compensation for Lost Income)

Implemented - The changes made to Compensation and Benefits Instruction 210.72, Compensation for Disability - Reserve Force meets the intent of the recommendation.

Recommendation 8 (Custody and Handling Standards of Reserve Health Records)

Implemented - The advancements made with the Canadian Forces Health Information System and the steps taken with the members' paper health records satisfy the recommendation.

Recommendation 9 (Portability of Health Records)

Implemented - The advancements made with the Canadian Forces Health Information System satisfy the recommendation.

Recommendation 10 (Accidental Dismemberment Insurance Plan)

Not Implemented - No changes have been made to the Accidental Dismemberment Insurance Plan since the 2008 recommendation.

Recommendation 11 (Supplementary/Primary Reserve Benefits)

Implemented - Given the policy change in 2009, this recommendation is considered implemented.

Recommendation 12 (Reserve Administration)

Partially Implemented - While the changes to the release process will likely contribute to improving the timeliness of medical releases for members of the Reserve Force, it is unknown what the eventual impact will be considering the recent promulgation of these changes.

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