Author Topic: Former Canadian contractor in AFG not getting federal help  (Read 1155 times)

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Offline milnews.ca

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Understand that the rules were what they were for civvy contractors, but it appears the best that can be done to this point is sending him to Workers' Comp?
Quote
The telephone call that changed Mohammad Amin's life came in the summer of 2005, while he was working as a supervisor at a manufacturing plant in Toronto.

An Afghan immigrant, he'd lived a quiet, peaceful life and was looking to get married and settle down.

But Amin also had skills and expertise that were in short supply in the Canadian military as it prepared for what was then expected to be a year-long deployment in Kandahar, his hometown. He spoke the local languages — Dari and Pashto — and knew the finer points of what many in the West still see as an inscrutable culture.

The army major on the other end of the call asked Amin to serve his new country as a "language and cultural adviser" to the mission. He agreed, seeing it as a way to give back to both his new home and the country of his birth.

The year-long deployment turned into a five-year combat mission for the Canadian Armed Forces. Like a lot of other Canadians who took part in that mission, Amin brought the war home with him in the form of post-traumatic stress disorder.

But unlike most of the Canadians he served with under fire, Amin went to Afghanistan as a civilian contractor — not a soldier. And when he reached out to the federal government for help with his condition, he was told he wasn't eligible because he had not applied for civilian benefits within three months of the end of his contract.

( ... )

Amin deployed seven times over the span of the mission. He earned rave reviews from his various commanders and a military General Service Medal for his work in translating and gathering intelligence outside the wire in one of the most dangerous places in the world.

(Amin conducted a number of high-risk missions that are classified and, because of security concerns, CBC News has agreed to not publish his full name.)

While he'd been offered a spot with the Canadian military training mission in Kabul, by 2011 Amin had decided he'd had enough. But coming home only meant trading one struggle for another — this time with the government that sent him to Kandahar in the first place.

He's experienced all the classic PTSD symptoms — nightmares, insomnia, crushing depression, flashbacks, panic attacks, bouts of uncontrollable weeping. He initially sought help for his condition by calling the Veterans Affairs helpline in 2012.

Canadian soldiers diagnosed with PTSD linked to their service can qualify for subsidized treatment, income supports and a job placement service. But civilian contractors aren't in line for any of those benefits. A spokesperson for Veterans Affairs, Josh Bueckert, said the department "does not provide benefits for civilian contractors hired" by the military.
'Loyal Canadians who served in a war zone'

Amin tried the Veterans Affairs help line, but his case was shuffled back to National Defence, where senior officials could only recommend he seek help through the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. After almost two years of waiting, he has yet to receive a decision from the board.

"We're talking about ... loyal Canadians who served in a war zone," he said. "You can't send them to [the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.] It should be the responsibility of the federal government."

( ... )

Sajjan was made aware of Amin's plight in 2017. His lawyers wrote to the minister twice.

They asked the federal government to set up a special program to offer treatment to this group of cultural advisers, to change the federal regulations so that they are considered "veterans" for the purposes of PTSD benefits, or to make ex-gratia payments to former cultural advisers on an individual level.

On Nov. 29, 2017, Sajjan wrote back to say he was "truly sorry" for Amin and that he had directed the department "to look into the case and find any and all possible solutions," which could include assigning a peer support co-ordinator.

A spokesperson for National Defence, Dan Le Bouthillier, said Canada hired up to 70 cultural advisers to serve with Canadian soldiers during the mission. He said federal officials are working with the WSIB and Health Canada to address the plight of people like Amin.

"The department is currently conducting internal verifications and exploring available options to assist civilians who supported CAF international operations," he said in an email ...
A bit more @ link
« Last Edit: June 18, 2019, 09:57:39 by milnews.ca »
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Offline AK

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Re: Former Canadian contractor in AFG not getting federal help
« Reply #1 on: June 19, 2019, 09:16:20 »
One of the most important rules about employing contractors is that we, as public servants, are not to build an employer-employee relationship with them. They are first and foremost, working for their companies and everybody that employs contractors is supposed to be cognizant of this distinction.

I have discomfort with this article trumpeting that civilians are being treated differently than military.  It is not that simple.  He is not, nor has he ever been a public servant.  The issue that should be addressed is the arbitrary three-month window for applying for benefits following his last tour.  It would be appropriate for the federal government to engage the provincial authorities to ensure that contracted employees taking risks like these have appropriate support in place, but DND is not in a position to take responsibility for contractors' benefits.

My  :2c:

Cheers,

AK 
« Last Edit: June 19, 2019, 09:25:12 by AK »

Offline SeaKingTacco

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Re: Former Canadian contractor in AFG not getting federal help
« Reply #2 on: June 19, 2019, 09:49:12 »
If DND takes responsibilty for a contractor in this case, I can about guarantee that the flood gates will open for contractors looking for liability protection from DND.

As AK noted- there must never be an employee/employer relationship built between DND and its contractors.

It may sound harsh, but there are both risks and rewards to being a contractor- you cannot collect the rewards and expect to have your risks waived.

Offline JesseWZ

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Re: Former Canadian contractor in AFG not getting federal help
« Reply #3 on: June 19, 2019, 11:37:22 »
Perhaps I need to don my tin foil hat here, but from reading the article, I feel like there is more to the story. We (the collective we) approached him to utilize his expertise in a war zone.

From all accounts, it sounds like he did an outstanding job. I have to wonder, since he was not a contractor by trade (being the supervisor at a manufacturing plant when approached) if some of the nuance in policy and coverage was not adequately understood by some or all of the parties at the time? It wouldn't be the first time someone set a (what was thought of as a) great plan in motion without knowing all the variables and later had to pay the piper... It also wouldn't be the first time someone misunderstood how contracting works. There are a lot of complaints of contract "fraud" at the $5000 - $10000 level that is simply persons who didn't know they couldn't do that (that being contract splitting, sole sourcing, contracting their nephew, etc)

I'm not laying the blame at anyone's feet here, but one would think if he knew he was not covered, he wouldn't apply for coverage. Perhaps it's naïve of me, but in this case we have a Canadian citizen, who servedworked loyally (and meritoriously at that), his word may be worth taking at face value here (unless/until it's found not to be)

Perhaps it will open the floodgates to contractors applying for benefits but as a civilian attached to the mission, was he subject to the Code?
« Last Edit: June 19, 2019, 11:48:09 by JesseWZ »
I will be seen and not heard... I will be seen and not heard... I will be seen and not heard...

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Re: Former Canadian contractor in AFG not getting federal help
« Reply #4 on: July 25, 2019, 19:29:46 »
No names mentioned, but this letter to the DM from the DND Ombudsman seems to point to a very similar situation ....
Quote
Ms. Jody Thomas
Deputy Minister
101 Colonel By Dr, 13NT-DM Suite
Ottawa ON K1A 0K2

Dear Ms. Thomas,

I am writing to share with you the findings of my Office's investigation into a complaint from an injured former public service term employee and to enlist your leadership in recognizing the former employee's contribution to Canada's mission in Afghanistan. Additionally, I seek your support to ascertain if other employees/former employees face similar challenges as a result of their employment alongside deployed Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members in Afghanistan, and to ensure appropriate assistance is made available to them.

Background

In 2005, the constituent who contacted my Office was approached by a seior officer in the CAF intelligence community to solicit the constituent's interest in working as a Language and Cultural Advisor (LCA) in Afghanistan. As a proud new citizen of Canada, the constituent viewed this as an opportunity to assist his adoptive country, as well as a change to help his country of origin. Inspired by a sense of duty, and fluent in the region's languages and culture, he left his management job, his home, and young family to work alongside CAF members on operations in Afghanistan.

The constituent’s work spanned seven consecutive deployments over five years. He endured hardship, witnessed casualties, and longed to return to his home and family in Canada but, when asked to continue his work by successions of Task Force leadership, he remained. All the while, he earned outstanding performance reviews and strong accolades from the CAF officers for whom he worked.

Upon returning home to Canada in 2011, our constituent declined further employment with the Public Service. Unfortunately, after his repatriation, his wife recognized he was not well and urged him to see his doctor. He was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Unable to work, he sold his home and depleted savings to support his family.

The constituent explored disability benefits, ultimately leading his to teh Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) compensation application process, in accordance with the Government Employees Compensation Act. With no specific date of injury and an inability to describe sufficiently the work performed (for reasons of national security), the application process stalled and the constituent sought legal representation in hopes of obtaining some assistance.

Investigation Findings

Our investigation revealed that the delayed onset of injury and the constituent’s reduced capacity to navigate the application process alone, presented significant barriers to the WSIB disability benefit application process. In July of 2018, and following numerous queries by this Office, the Assistant Deputy Minister of Human Resources (Civilian) [ADM HR (Civ)], Manager of Foreign Services Program advised that the constituent's WSIB claim was approved. However, further inquiries showed that while supplemental health benefits were funded through WSIB, income replacement has not been paid because the effective date of disability (used to determine benefits) coincided with the post-employment diagnosis (i.e. the constituent was no longer working and, therefore, no longer receiving and income).

Our investigation also allowed us to confirm that, in 2005, a draft policy to limit the frequency and duration of civilian employees' work in operational theatres had stalled due to departmental re-organization. Work on the policy only resumed in 2014, and it was finally promulgated in March of 2018. Additionally, in the absence of more permanent policy, interim PERSTEMPO policy for deployed CAF members was introduced in May 20071. Similar interim policy imposing limits for deployed Public Servants (and LCAs in particular) was not introduced until November 20112, after the CAF' combat operations in Afghanistan had concluded.

We also looked into whether the LCA program continues, given the conclusion of operations in Afghanistan. Our inquiries revealed that the LCA program, under Canadian Forces Intelligence Command, continues to recruit and employ civilians as LCAs for other areas of operation.

Actions

I am encouraged to note that ADM HR (Civ) now has taken tangible steps to mitigate risk and exposure for civilian employees working in support of current and future international operations. The new policy promulgated in March 2018 imposes limits on both frequency and duration of civilian employment on such operations. The policy also provides guidance and key responsibilities surrounding pre-deployment health assessments, plus post-deployment follow-up care and support for employees, including briefings about operational stress injuries. The new policy does not add to–nor alter–employee disability insurance benefits themselves; neither supplemental heath services nor income replacement, as the department has no such mandate. I also acknowledge ADM HR (Civ)'s establishment of the Office of Disability Management, aimed at assisting employees to navigate provincial workers compensation schemes, as they can be a daunting barrier for employees suffering from employment-related injuries.

Our investigation revealed two other former employees in similar circumstances to the constituent mentioned herein. That said, the approximate 65 LCAs and other civilians employed in Afghanistan during CAF operations leaves me concerned that other former employees are in need of assistance for similar health and welfare challenges resulting from their employment in support of CAF operations.

Analysis

While an LCA's ethnicity and cultural background vary, depending on the specific area of operations, the constituent in this case is representative of a cadre of LCAs that tended to be newer Canadian citizens, knowledgeable of the culture, and fluent in several languages native to regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan. While the moral obligation to care for and support military members is prominent in contemporary Canadian consciousness, there is less consideration evident of similar obligations for civilian employees who can suffer injuries or illnesses similar to those suffered by CAF members, as a result of their contributions to the same international operations.

The nature and (sometimes) delayed onset of mental health injuries can present significant barriers to accessing disability benefits. In cases like the constituent's, term employees who left Pubic Service employment and had health challenges manifest subsequently are left to their own devices an resources to access required support and benefits. While military personnel undergo the training an socialization process that serves, to some degree, to inoculate them against the hazards associated with the profession of arms, such is not the case for civilian employees who deploy on international operations with only a minimal amount of pre-deployment training.

Recommendation

Based on my finding outlined above, concern for the health and welfare remains for other employees and former employees within this cadre. As such, I recommended that ADM HR (Civ) contact former civilian employees who deployed in support of operations in Afghanistan, to ascertain their welfare and to provide information and resources to those in need of assistance as a result of injury or illness stemming from such employment.

My Director General has also raised this in regular discussion with Deputy Vice Chief of Defence staff and the concern for this cadre of employees that contributed significantly to CAF operations was evident.

Conclusion

In closing, I am also informed that during this investigation, my staff received superb cooperation and noted genuine concern and effort within ADM HR (Civ)–in particular, Director Civilian Labour Relations and Directorate Total Health Management–to assist the constituent. There has also been positive response regarding the moral responsibility to reach out to other employees/former employees to ascertain their welfare and to offer assistance as appropriate.  I look forward to learning of their success and progress and recommend this be afforded due priority and resources. Along with my staff, we remain at your service should you require additional information or support regarding this matter.

Sincerely,

Gregory A. Lick
Interim Ombudsman
... with this response from the DM:
Quote
Mr Gregory A. Lick
100 Metcalf St.
Ottawa, ON K1P 5M1

Mr. Lick,

This letter serves to acknowledge receipt of your Office's investigative findings pertaining to an injured former Public Service term employee who served in support of Canada's mission in Afghanistan.

Your report represents a considerable amount of work and I thank you for your continued support and recommendation. I am pleased to learn of the significant degree of collaboration between your staff and ADM(HR-Civ) throughout the investigation and I have taken note of the substantial level of effort made by both teams to assist our former employee.

We remain committed to this important issue and accept your recommendation.

To that end, ADM(HR-Civ) is working with our partners in CFINTCOM, CJOC, and the provincial workers' compensation boards, to reach out to those former Linguistic and Cultural Advisors who might require assistance, in order to provide information and resources to those needing support as a result of their deployments to Afghanistan.

Work also continues with the Public Health Agency of Canada, as ADM(HR-Civ) actively participates on interdepartmental working groups on Bill C-211, The development of a federal framework for Post-Traumatic Stress Injuries. ADM(HR-Civ) is also contributing to the development of the Employee Wellness Support Program being Led by Veterans' Affairs and Treasury Board Secretariat.

We share your appreciation for the considerable contribution made by these former employees to CAF operations and will keep your Office apprised of our progress.

Sincerely,

Jody Thomas
Deputy Minister, National Defence
“The risk of insult is the price of clarity.” -- Roy H. Williams

The words I share here are my own, not those of anyone else or anybody I may be affiliated with.

Tony Prudori
MILNEWS.ca - Twitter