Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Stop Casting off Ill and Injured Soldiers

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Stop Casting off Ill and Injured Soldiers

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Stop casting off ill and injured soldiers


An editorial from the Toronto Star, published Oct. 1:

Sick and injured soldiers are being pushed out of Canada's military with unseemly haste, before their veterans services and benefits are fully in place.

Mounds of papers work necessary to transition into civilian life only aggravate the plight of these vulnerable people. Many are left beset by stress, "couch-surfing" with friends or in danger of losing a home because they can't pay their mortgage.

Military ombudsman Gary Walbourne shed some much-needed light on their situation in a withering report this past week that shows how current systems are failing the ill and injured. He found that "far too many" fail to have a successful transition to civilian life.

The reforms Walbourne recommends should be implemented quickly, including creation of a special "concierge service" to help steer soldiers released on medical grounds through the tangled thickets of federal bureaucracy.

"The complexity of the programs and processes is staggering for members (of the military) who are well, let alone ill or injured members -- some of whom may be suffering from an operational stress injury," he wrote. The transition process "is simply too difficult for some members to navigate and they unfortunately fall through the cracks."

About 5,500 members of the Canadian Armed Forces transfer to civilian life each year, with about 1,500 released as a result of sickness or injury. The way they're treated has been a major source of complaints, said Walbourne.

"We hear the horror stories," he said in an interview with The Canadian Press. Often "it's because they're let go from one organization and haven't been accepted into another."

Many soldiers leaving the military slip into a bureaucratic void: they've been released by the defence department but they aren't yet receiving veteran's benefits. …

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