Foulup leaves troops out pay, benefits
‘Administrative error’ to blame: National Defence
By David Pugliese, The Ottawa Citizen
December 8, 2009
Troops now training at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa for a mission to Afghanistan next year are in the midst of a battle against the military bureaucracy over pay and health benefits.
It’s the second time in less than eight months that reserve soldiers assigned to the Afghan mission have run into pay problems. In February, soldiers contacted the Citizen after their pay was cut off while they fought in Afghanistan.
This time, soldiers say they have lost the extra pay they are entitled to because of a bureaucratic screw-up. According to the soldiers, the pay problems are due to a backlog in processing paperwork and an inadequate pay system at National Defence headquarters in Ottawa.
As well, there are problems with health coverage for families of the part-time soldiers.
“A caveat to the fact that they aren’t inputted into the regular force pay system is that their families (eligible dependents) at home are not eligible for medical coverage under the Public Service Health Care Plan (PSHCP),” one individual wrote to the Citizen, complaining about the problem.
“Soldiers who once had coverage under their previous civilian careers are left with the medical expenses for their children and spouses until their contracts are processed.” About 300 reservists training at CFB Petawawa will head to Afghanistan in the spring.
Army spokesman Lt.-Col. Jay Janzen confirmed there are problems with pay. “The army is aware of pay issues affecting some reservists conducting pre-deployment training at Petawawa and we’re working quickly to address them,” he said.
Janzen said the soldiers are receiving their basic pay, but the problem centres around incentive pay they would receive. That problem is “due to an administrative error.”
Janzen didn’t have specific numbers affected, but added it is believed to be fewer than 100 reservists. He said that once the problem is sorted out, the soldiers would receive the money owed. A military source said the health-care issue will also be taken care of once the paperwork goes through for the reservists and they are assigned to the full-time regular force.
It’s not the first time there have been pay problems for part-time soldiers. From December 2008 to February of this year, some reserve soldiers fighting in Afghanistan said they had their pay cut off because their contracts with the army expired while they were serving overseas.
The troops continued to serve, but some told the Citizen they were worried they would not be covered by health insurance and other benefits if they were injured in battle.
At the time, the army confirmed in an e-mail that there had been problems, but it claimed that “at no time were the members’ pay and benefits at risk.”
The e-mail also added that emergency financial assistance was offered to anyone who needed it while the error was being fixed.
In 2006, former Canadian Forces Ombudsman Yves Côté launched an investigation into what he warned was a lack of services and inconsistent care available to members of the reserves when they are injured on overseas missions or during training at home. The investigation, completed in April, revealed numerous problems for reservists injured in the course of duty to Canada and subsequently required health care.