I have passed on my concerns regarding the pension to my Honouraries to bring up at the their upcoming Conference this weekend in Edmonton. If we are to raise the profile of this issue, we must find a forum to move this issue into the consciousness of the decision makers. Right now, all we seem to be doing is blowing smoke, and nobody who can do anything about it either doesn't care, or doesn't realize the effects of the terms of the pension.
For those interested I have included an answer to an email query (dated May 2009), to show the prioity DND is putting on this issue. Remember this is now over two years after CIF; (also with 1 Mar 2010 coming up, the implications of the reply are staggering).
> -----Original Message-----
> Subject: RESERVE PENSION CONCERNS
> Good morning ,
> As you will read in my signature block, I am currently employed with xxxxxxxxxxxx. I know that there is no need for me to explain what our jobs are, as nowadays, our mission is to ensure that we provide assistance to our injured, their family and of course, our Veterans. All of the programs we have, equally apply to both the Regular and Reserve Forces.>
> At a recent SCAN seminar, there were many questions about the Reserve Pension plan and the long delays in providing released individuals with information they need to make a safe and sound decision prior to releasing from the CF. Releasing from the CF is not easy. One must be able to financially plan for the future and this should be done months before a release date has been determined.
> The big issue that people have, is that they have not been able to obtain a figure from Ottawa as to how much they will have to pay in order to secure a pension at the end of their service. In most cases, they are ready to pay now but no one appears to be willing to tell them the amount owed. I know one individual who applied two (2) years ago and has yet to receive any info back on his request. He's not planning release now but still, why is it that we can provide this info sooner?
> I spoke with another one who is about to release from the Regular Force. His wife has been in the Reserves for years and although she too is retiring, they have not been able to make any financial commitments as she has not received information from Ottawa regarding her pension pay back with the Reserves. My understanding is that she applied for it some 18 months ago and nothing has come through.
> Is there any way of expediting the process of the requests your office receives? As I am sure you know, this issue has a major effect on the Reservists serving in this area and I am sure, across Canada.
> Thanks for your assistance,
ANSWER FROM PENSION OFFICE:
As background, in advance of the implementation of a new pension plan for the reservists introduced 1 March 2007, the Department undertook significant preparations to administer these changes. To prepare for implementation of the changes to pension administration, new staff was hired to address the significant workload increase that was anticipated. The staffing levels required to manage all of the increased workload, however, were unfortunately limited by accommodation capacity. This was coupled with a scarce supply of subject matter experts to do the work relating to the pension changes using legacy systems that are difficult to learn and use. As a result, there has been a significant impact on the ability to meet service targets in a high demand period.
Unfortunately, until the accommodation issues are resolved, expected in Dec 2009, it is unlikely that further significant improvements in service levels will be able to be achieved. Pensions Services has been given priority for space allocation with the accommodation plan briefed recently at DMC. In the interim, we have taken incremental steps to address these issues including maximizing tele-work arrangements to accommodate increased staffing levels, establishing a night shift to maximize use of limited office space and have very recently secured a limited number (fifteen cubicles) of space to hire an additional twenty employees.
Other steps that have been taken to improve services to members. This includes the ongoing work of CMP and Fin CS staffs as well as the substantial work of DGCB staff in recently providing policy interpretations on nine issues, allowing work to proceed on several different types of files, have also contributed to addressing service demands. It is also worthy to note that a number of computer related problems that we faced when the changes to pension administration were implemented, and which had prevented the processing of hundreds of files, have now also been resolved.
There are still many system limitations inherent in the legacy applications used for pension administration that result in the requirement for labour intensive manual processes to process pension files. While still years away, DND is actively pursing investment in a new and modern pension system with automated and streamlined business processes, oriented to service improvements for members.
Recognizing that there are a number of stakeholder organizations involved in the processing of pension service requests and that our service levels have been negatively affected by the implementation of the new pension plan, the steps outlined above have resulted in relatively predictable turnaround times as follows:
· two months for a MCU,
· six months for a released reservist, and
· No timelines for reserve members that have not retired as their files are only worked on when there is down time in the above two types of files.
With regards to your concerns about member communications, following an initial submission of information by a Reservist to Pension Services, there is regular and ongoing communication back and forth with the member. That communication continues until all information is gathered to ensure that a complete file has been submitted. At that point there one of two situations that occur:
a. If the member is released or releasing, their file is processed. At any time that additional information is required, the member is contacted immediately to provide any missing documentation. If there are no issues, the file is processed within a six month period, on average. There is no additional communication from a service perspective needed to support the processing of the file. If the member does request a status update, they may contact their pension specialist and an update is provided.
b. If the member is not immediately retiring, the file is not actioned and there is no additional communication with that member until a release notice is received or information is requested by the member. This is the case that you have mentioned below.
Although we recognize that this is not ideal from a communications perspective, it is the most efficient use of limited resources that support both communication activities and the work required to actually process the files. If you have specific files that need urgent action, you can send them to me. Please keep in mind that the more work my staff does on these type of files, it delays the paying of pensions of retiring Reservists. This will be the case until well into 2010 when we get our additional space, can hire the people to fill the space and have them fully trained.
I understand your concerns, but with limited resources we have to prioritize the work that gets done and retiring members will continue to be our top priority until we have the capacity to handle all pension admin issues as they arrive.