Benefits flawed, military families say
System 'complex, inconsistent'
David Pugliese, Postmedia News
Published: Monday, August 06
Canadian Forces families say they're being denied services and benefits by the military or are forced to deal with an overly bureaucratic system that is sometimes not relevant to their needs, according to Defence Department records.
For years, various generals, as well as Defence Minister Peter MacKay, have publicly identified Canadian Forces families as the backbone of a wellfunctioning military. But the system set up to provide services and benefits to those families is facing a series of problems, military leaders were told in November and December.
In providing feedback to the military, families said the system is "overly bureaucratic" and "complex to navigate" and "inconsistently implemented nationally" and "not relevant to the need of different family types." The system was also described as being inflexible in solving problems.
The records were obtained by Postmedia News using the Access to Information law. The documents summarize the presentations made by the National Military Family Council to Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Walter Natynczyk and other senior leaders. The council is an advisory group that provides a voice for military families to the senior leadership of the Canadian Forces and Department of National Defence.
The group noted a number of concerns, including reports from families who say they are being denied services and benefits.
"Families feel they only receive support if they meet the narrow definitions provided in program policies and mandates," the council said.
There were also a number of barriers to accessing services, including red tape, geography and language issues.
In addition, military families reported they lacked awareness on the scope and availability of programs offered for them. There are a large variety of services available, ranging from health care to counselling to help with relocating to a new city or base.
The senior leaders were also told that the military family services program used too narrow an interpretation of family. The program was further faulted for providing services only during the workday and making its services "only available to those who live very close."
The "parameters for practice" governing the program, set up in 1991, have not been updated in a decade.
Natynczyk highlighted his concern that decisions being taken at a higher level were not being followed up at lower levels.
The outcome of the meeting was the development of a series of recommendations, including the proposed creation of a national publicity campaign to highlight the role of National Military Family Council to military members.
In a presentation in May, and published on the Internet, Candace Thorne, chairperson of the military family council, pointed out that there are many issues affecting the services provided to military families, including those dealing with relocation, the extra living allowances personnel receive if they are sent to particular cities, problems accessing services and child care.
"These themes are not new and we don't expect them to disappear or be easily resolved," she noted.
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