Support to Bereaved Military Families
The Office of the Ombudsman has been tracking and reporting on issues related to the Canadian Armed Forces’ engagement of families during a Board of Inquiry process for the past 12 years. In short, engagement of families varied wildly from case to case, often unnecessarily resulting in heartache and confusion for those simply trying to understand next steps in the investigation and if, at all, they have a role to play in it.
Progress report on the status of recommendations
- 3 Recommendations Made
- 3 Recommendations Accepted
- 3 Recommendations Partially Implemented
It is recommended that the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces take concrete steps to better meet the information needs of families by:
- Producing plain language information for families on the specifics and impacts of key administrative documents that Canadian Armed Forces military members are required to complete in case of serious illness, injury or death; as well as make this information available to Canadian Armed Forces members as part of the Annual Personnel Readiness Verification
- Providing readily-accessible information based on bereaved families’ frequently asked questions. This needs to be consolidated into a single access point where families can find information explaining what to expect after a Canadian Armed Forces member dies; whether in the context of Canadian Armed Forces operations or not
- In addition to the information being provided as part of the board of inquiry process, developing clear guidelines and timelines for Commanding Officers to meet with families who express the desire for information about the circumstances of the death of a loved one, in a setting outside the board of inquiry process
- Providing families with information regarding bereavement and grief support programs, and services available for families
- Committing the resources required for the development and implementation of a communications plan. This would include activities, products, timelines, and metrics to better reach and inform family members on all the above documents, processes, benefits and support for families
Recommendation 1 status: Partially Implemented
The Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) have taken strides towards improving the informational needs of bereaved families. By implementing a communications plan, they have made significant efforts to ensure broad consistent communication of available programs, services, and support resources. For example, the DND and the CAF published 37 separate promotional social media postings on topics such as:
- Next of Kin travel benefits for families of seriously ill, injured, or deceased members;
- the Ombudsman’s Military Benefits Browser and other educational products;
- grief workshops and other Military Family Services (MFS) for bereaved military families; and
- the Family Information Line, which is a valuable information resource.
Work continues to further improve access to information through the CAFConnection.ca website. As some initiatives related to this recommendation are still underway, including updates to training material for Commanding Officers, our office will continue to monitor this recommendation. We will provide future updates.
It is recommended that the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces take concrete steps to provide the necessary tools to personnel responsible for Casualty Administration, inquiries and bereavement services by:
- Reviewing and updating simultaneously all Casualty Administration guides, investigations directives, the related references and training material to: accurately reflect the roles of the stakeholders, investigations, authorities, expected timelines, benefits entitlements for bereaved families, key service providers
- Providing adequate support to Designated Assistants, including: training, trained Casualty Support Administration Officers and earlier collaboration with Family Liaison Officers (before Designated Assistant disengagement)
- Building transferable expertise with regards to providing Casualty Support within Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces
- Reviewing employment competency requirements, workload, and training of Integrated Personnel Support Centre Services Manager positions to ensure they are provided with the necessary tools to assist individuals dealing with crisis
Recommendation 2 status: Partially Implemented
The DND and the CAF have made progress in reviewing and updating Casualty Administration reference materials such as the Designated Assistants Guide, Casualty Administration reference materials, and investigative directives. However, other initiatives related to this recommendation are still pending. These pending initiatives include the revision of investigation and casualty reporting directives as well as official course development for managers and coordinators. Our office continues to monitor progress on this recommendation, and will provide future updates.
It is recommended that the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces take concrete steps to enhance collaboration among stakeholders with a family-centric focus by:
- Ensuring all Command Teams are trained for casualty notification and administration upon assuming a command role
- Establishing a permanent Families in Focus working group, extend participants to operational commands, to meet a minimum of once per year to ensure policies, guides and training are consistent and remain responsive to needs
- Formally recognizing and including bereaved families, along with families of medically released ill and injured members, as families who are transitioning from military to civilian life
Recommendation 3 status: Partially Implemented
The DND and the CAF have made progress in the establishment of a permanent working group and the expansion of support services to bereaved families. In addition, work is ongoing to ensure that Command Teams are trained for casualty notification. Therefore, our office continues to monitor this recommendation.
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