# 2014-171 - Allowances and Benefits, Relocation Benefits, Special Commuting Assistance (SCA)

Allowances and Benefits, Relocation Benefits, Special Commuting Assistance (SCA)

Case Summary

F&R Date: 2015–04–23

The grievor submitted a grievance after being informed of a 16 December 2013 decision by the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) to grant benefits associated with a move at public expense to another CAF member. Like the grievor, the CAF member was posted within the same Montreal geographic area, from one “place of duty” to a new place of duty located more than 40 kilometers from his principal residence. The grievor alleged that it was unjust that he was forced to pay for his daily commute from his residence to his new place of duty, a return trip of nearly 100 kilometers through heavy traffic.

The Initial Authority (IA) acknowledged that the CDS had determined in the other case that the geographic area in question, which was changed following an amalgamation of two areas, was not compliant with the provisions of the Canadian Forces Administrative Order (CFAO) 209-28 and that it had to be corrected. The IA nevertheless indicated that he was not bound by the decision regarding the other grievance and that the grievor, having been posted after the amalgamation, knew or should have known that a future posting within the same geographic area would not entitle him to a move at public expense or to special commuting assistance (SCA). Notwithstanding, the IA denied the grievance, considering that it had been submitted outside the prescribed time limits.

The Committee found that the grievance submitted on 26 February 2014 following the CDS decision of 16 December 2013 met the six-month time limit to submit a grievance.

The Committee had to determine whether, following his posting, the grievor was entitled to the allowances and benefits related to a move at public expense, as this entitlement is required to receive SCA.

The Committee first noted that a CAF member in circumstances such as the grievor's may submit to the Director of Compensation and Benefits Administration (DCBA) a request for a move at public expense under paragraph 4 of the CFAO 209-28. The Committee found that the instructions issued to this effect by the local command were ambiguous, that the IA had failed to address the possibility of submitting such a request and that the grievance file contained no information to this effect. The Committee further found that the grievor's circumstances were identical to those of the CAF member to whom the CDS granted SCA retroactively and that the same redress should be granted to the grievor.

The Committee also inquired about the implementation of the review of the geographic areas ordered by the CDS. It was found that the staff of the responsible command had been attempting unsuccessfully to change the areas since 2012 in order to rectify the situation affecting some members in that region. The changes were delayed, apparently due to a legal opinion received by the DCBA stating that a change to the areas would extend Treasury Board (TB) benefits and result in financial consequences requiring TB approval.

Following the review of CFAO 209-28 and section 208.971 of the Compensation and Benefits Instructions (CBI), the Committee found that the concept of “place of duty,” rather than geographic area, prevailed and that these references were consistent with each other, granting relocation benefits to members who are posted to a new place of duty located more than 40 kilometers from their current residence. Moreover, the Committee was of the opinion that there is nothing in the CBI that restricts or obliges the CDS to obtain TB approval in order to define the geographic areas associated with a place of duty.

The Committee recommended that the CDS allow the grievance and authorize the move at public expense in order for the grievor to receive the amounts relating to SCA.

CDS Decision Summary

CDS Decision Date: 2015–12–02

The CDS adopted the Committee's findings and recommendation to uphold the grievance. The CDS agrees with the Committee that the discrepancies between the CBI, CFIRP and CFAO cause confusion. As a result, the CMP must ensure that all the policies are subject to a major review. Concerning the geographical boundaries, the CDS adopted the Committee's recommendation to review all the files of CAF members posted in the Montreal region since 2008. Therefore, those who were denied a posting message with entitlement to be relocated would receive a message enabling them to claim SCA. Pending a review of Montreal's geographic areas, the posting messages for places of duty between Montreal and St-Jean must include entitlement to be relocated.

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