By David Pugliese, Ottawa Citizen May 4, 2014 11:48 AM
Even as Canada's top soldier promises more help to those dealing with mental health issues, the military has threatened to use physical force against a master corporal suffering from post traumatic stress if she and her husband don't vacate their rental house on time.
Master Cpl. Jen MacLeod, 44, was booted from the Canadian Forces on March 26, the same day she was released from the psychiatric hospital where she was being treated.
But what upsets MacLeod is the letter sent by the commander of Canadian Forces Base Borden, Ont., which noted she must vacate the military house she has been renting by May 30. "Failure to leave the said premises by that date shall render you and your family liable to physical removal from the above housing unit," the letter to the Afghan veteran warned.
MacLeod and her husband had paid their rent in full up to that date and had every intention of leaving by May 30. They had already acquired a new house and were getting ready to move.
"I was shocked to get the letter," she explained. "I thought, what a crappy way to treat somebody. I have a totally clean service record. My house is clean. My yard is clean."
The letter came just weeks after the Canadian Forces embarked on a public relations campaign to convince Canadians and military personnel that those who have PTSD will be respected and treated fairly.
In a video message, Gen. Tom Lawson, the Chief of Defence Staff, appealed to those battling mental issues to come forward and seek help.
"Just as you would expect to be helped by your colleagues on the battlefield if you were physically injured, your brothers and sisters in arms are with you in the fight against mental illness," Lawson said in the video.
MacLeod, in the military for 11 years, served in Afghanistan as an intelligence operator with an unmanned aerial vehicle unit. Although she can't go into details about her job for security reasons, she viewed large amounts of imagery showing insurgents being killed. That led to PTSD and severe depression. She will receive a small veterans payment because of her illness.
MacLeod said she understands the Canadian Forces have to release her because she can no longer do her job.
She said she watched Lawson's video but said the letter she received, as well as other actions taken against veterans, show the Canadian Forces are having problems living up to their claims of fair treatment.
The Department of National Defence said in an email to the Citizen it allowed MacLeod to stay in the house until May 30, a short extension after her release date.
The email from DND stated all current notices for individuals to vacate such housing contain the statement about physical removal.
The email, however, noted that the DND "is currently reviewing its notice to vacate and eviction letter to ensure appropriateness of language."
The email also pointed out that military personnel have a wide range of medical and mental health care services to draw upon."CAF senior leadership is committed to each and every ill and injured member receiving high quality care and support," the email stated.
MacLeod said that previously, military personnel were given more than a couple of months to transition to civilian life and could continue paying rent for base housing as they prepared for a move.
"We are lucky because we have a house to move to," she explained. "There are veterans who have no place to go. The military doesn't care; it's 'Get out. Go find a bridge to live under.' "
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