Canadian military thinning heard when they need troops

OTTAWA The number of Canadian Forces members who were fired because they were too ill or injured to serve in a battle zone doubled between 2002 and 2005 a puzzling increase that comes even as the military tries to bolster its ranks.
"They are letting go of so many people," said Brenda MacDonald, an ex-military nurse who was released because of a medical illness and who wants the Forces to find jobs for the released soldiers within the Department of National Defence.
The trend appears to be at odds with a recent decision to forgo physical-fitness tests for new recruits. But some veteran members of the Forces suggest there has been a concerted effort to drive out people with disabilities, even as the standards are being weakened for newcomers.
Under a policy called "universality of service," all members of the military must be physically able to participate in missions. If a medical condition prevents deployment, a member of the Forces is released with no guarantee of being placed in another job within the Defence Department or any other branch of government.
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Figures released to The Globe and Mail by the military this week show 557 people were let go from the Canadian Forces in 2000 because of their medical conditions. That number began to climb in 2002 when Canada became actively engaged in the conflict in Afghanistan and hit 1,067 in 2005.
In 2000, medical conditions were responsible for 13 per cent of all releases. By last year, they accounted for 24 per cent.
The military is unable to explain the increase. The Afghanistan mission has boosted the injuries incurred within the Forces but military spokesmen say the number of badly wounded soldiers who had to be flown home is about 210, just a fraction of the more than 4,000 medical releases since 2002.
Some veterans say the ill and the injured are simply being pushed out and they fear the forced exodus is about to expand.
"I was told that now they are going to play hardball," said Bradley MacDonnell, a 31-year-old former bombardier who was recently forced out of his job at CFB Gagetown in New Brunswick because he had kidney stones six years ago.
"Anybody with kidney stones, Crohn's [disease], arthritis they are kicking them all out."
Mr. MacDonnell and others say it's time that people who are capable of working outside the military and want to do so are placed in another job.
The Canadian Forces not the Defence Department is their official employer, so they are excluded from a DND policy that obligates the department to find suitable occupations for civilian workers who are injured on the job.
Elaine Coldwell, the director of civilian employment policies for the Canadian Forces, said soldiers who are discharged for medical reasons have priority for placement in government jobs, provided they meet the qualifications.
Since 2001, 278 medically discharged personnel asked to be put in that priority queue, Ms. Caldwell said, and 175 were placed.
"There is not a guarantee," she said. "But we do our best and I think we've proven we're doing quite well in placing our CF members through this process."
But the priority placement process leaves people behind, Mr. MacDonnell said. He said he applied for a civilian position in a warehouse on the Gagetown base and did not get called back for an interview, although two non-commissioned officers who were still fully employed were considered.
Ms. MacDonald said she understands why military personnel who cannot be deployed should be forced to leave the Canadian Forces.
But "why are the ones who choose not to retire and who still have time left on their contract not accommodated as a DND civilian person would be?" she asked.
"While everybody's painting this rosy picture of our guys getting jobs, 1,000 were released and how many got accommodated?" Ms. MacDonald said.
"Of all the things they offer, they don't guarantee a job."

Yeah good Canadian policy to assist soldiers.
If a soldier was injured in combat and suffered permanent disability, I think we should help him/her get a job. If a person is just too fat and flabby, or out of shape, they should be released. Soldiers have to be fit.
In the words of Sgt. Hartman, in the movie "Full metal Jacket".

"My orders are to weed out all none hackers that who do not pack the gear to serve in my beloved Corp. Do you maggots understand that?"

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