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BG–11.006 - March 25, 2011
In the civilian workplace, employees are generally obliged to perform only those duties specified in their job description. In contrast, military service is comparatively open-ended. The Canadian Forces (CF) principle of Universality of Service holds that all personnel must be capable at all times of performing a broad range of general military tasks, common defence and security duties, in addition to the specific duties associated with their occupations.
The Universality of Service principle is also known as the “soldier first” principle, identifying the men and women of the CF as members of the profession of arms first – before they are identified as pharmacists, logistics officers or pilots. Every member, regardless of their military occupation, or whether their place of work is a desk, a ship or the cockpit of an aircraft, must meet the Universality of Service standards in order to remain in the CF.
The Universality of Service standards
All CF personnel must be able to do the following basic tasks:
To be considered deployable, CF personnel must be able to do the following:
Additionally, because strength and endurance could mean the difference between success and failure in a military operation, CF personnel must be more physically fit than the general Canadian population. In order to meet the Universality of Service standards, CF personnel are required to undergo an annual physical fitness evaluation, known as the CF EXPRES test, where they must meet a minimum physical fitness standard.1
A legal basis
Universality of Service has a legal basis. It is imposed by section 33(1) of the National Defence Act, which states that all Regular Force members are “at all times liable to perform any lawful duty.” The legislative imperative means that a member who cannot “at all times … perform any lawful duty” may not serve in the Regular Force except during a carefully limited period of recovery from injury or illness as a period of transition out of the military and into civilian life.
Exceptions to Universality of Service standards are few: CF personnel under the age of 18 may not be deployed to a theatre of hostilities, but they must remain fit enough to be able to deploy upon reaching age 18. Chaplains are not required to perform any duty other than those pertaining to their calling; accordingly, they are exempt from the requirement to perform general military duties and common defence and security tasks. However, chaplains are required to be medically and physically fit, and deployable.
Section 33(2) of the National Defence Act foresees that Reserve Force members “may be called out on service to perform any lawful duty other than training at such times and in such manner as any regulations or otherwise are prescribed by the Governor in Council.” Since the Primary Reserve is given the role of directly supporting the Regular Force, operational effectiveness requires these Reservists to meet the Universality of Service standards.
Personnel in other Reserve subcomponents – the Cadet Organizations and Training Services (COATS), the Canadian Rangers and the Supplementary Reserve – are only required to meet the minimum operational standards associated with Universality of Service if they are serving with the Regular Force or Primary Reserve.2
The CF remain committed to supporting ill and injured personnel as they progress through recovery, rehabilitation and return to work. At the same time, the CF are required to take those measures necessary to field a ready, operationally effective force in the defence of the nation. Illness or injury can make it challenging for a CF member to meet the Universality of Service standards, as can poor physical fitness. Fitness programs and routine evaluations ensure that military personnel maintain the required level of physical fitness.
Ill and injured personnel are given the time they need to recover before any administrative action is taken with regards to their career. When the member's medical condition is stable, a permanent medical category is assigned, which may include medical employment limitations (MELs). Members who are assigned MELs of a temporary nature, or permanent MELs that do not put the individual in breach of Universality of Service, are permitted continued service with the CF. Essentially, a member will be identified as belonging to one of the following categories:
Regular Force and Primary Reserve members who have a medical condition that precludes their return to normal duty in a timely manner may be posted to the Joint Personnel Support Unit (JPSU) and assigned to one of its component parts - an Integrated Personnel Support Centre (IPSC). The JPSU provides a CF/VAC integrated “one-stop service” for ill and injured CF personnel and their families by facilitating access to care and support while personnel reintegrate into military life or explore new civilian employment options. It supports both Regular Force and Reserve Force ill and injured personnel who are currently serving or in the process of a medical release, and caters to both referrals and walk-in clients in addition to those with longer-term medical issues. 3
As Table A demonstrates, about 1,000 Regular Force personnel have been medically released in each of the past five years.
Medical Releases From
the Regular Force,
On average, 5,500 Regular Force members leave the CF on an annual basis. Most people who leave the CF do so on a voluntary basis, not as a result of medical release. This annual attrition is a factor contributing to the constant renewal of CF personnel.
Severely ill and injured personnel
In March 2011, the Minister of National Defence announced a new career transition support policy for severely ill and injured CF members who can no longer serve in the CF due to MELs that breach Universality of Service requirements. For each of these individuals, the CF will develop a tailored and flexible plan that features comprehensive health care, social and career transition support over a period of up to three years. The policy applies to full-time personnel, regardless of whether or not the illness or injury is attributable to service, and to part-time personnel, whose need for medical care is attributable to the performance of duty. Criteria to determine the length of time due to complexity of the transition needs will include severity of the injury or illness, psycho-social factors and functional limitations. An assessment of the transition complexity will be conducted, on an individual basis by an interdisciplinary team prior to the initiation of the administrative review process. Based on the results of the individualized assessment, the interdisciplinary team, together with the member, will develop an integrated and tailored transition plan, including individualized goals and projected timelines. Progress in achieving the transition plan goals will be monitored jointly by the CF members’ nurse case manager and IPSC staff.
Severely ill and injured personnel with complex career transition needs will benefit from more time to heal, adjust, and prepare for the future, while remaining members of the CF. This policy is designed to provide individualized assistance to those who need it the most and extend their access to flexible and comprehensive CF healthcare and social support while they prepare for a new chapter in their life.
VAC and the CF partner at many levels to care for ill and injured military personnel and their families. VAC has the legislated mandate to provide care and support for military personnel following their release from the CF. When a member faces medical release, the CF work closely with VAC to establish a comprehensive, individualized management program including rehabilitation, vocational services such as job placement, financial assistance and emotional support to the injured CF member after release. The financial compensation available to Reserve Force personnel may differ in some instances.4
A. Financial support
B. Vocational support
C. Additional support
One of the DND’s Director of Casualty Support Management (DCSM) duties is to serve the families of fallen CF members. On 12 May, 2010, the Public Service Commission of Canada (PSC) amended the Public Service Employment Regulations (PSER) to establish a new priority entitlement for the surviving spouses or common-law partners of CF members whose death is attributable to the performance of duties which occ
1. For more information on the CF EXPRES test, visit the Canadian Forces website Newsroom at http://www.forces.gc.ca/site/news-nouvelles/view-news-afficher-nouvelles-eng.asp?id=2848
2. Regular Force personnel work full-time and have usually signed long-term contracts committing them to regular service. Primary Reserve personnel train regularly and may work alongside their Regular Force counterparts on a full-time basis. Other subcomponents of the Reserve Force are the Supplementary Reserve(former commissioned and non-commissioned members who could be called out in an emergency), Canadian Rangers (who constitute a military presence in isolated and sparsely settled areas of Canada) and the Cadet Organizations and Training Services or COATS (officers with administrative, instructive and supervisory responsibilities to the cadet program).
3. For more information on the JPSU, visit the Canadian Forces website Newsroom at http://www.forces.gc.ca/site/news-nouvelles/news-nouvelles-eng.asp?cat=03&id=2880
4. The Reserve Force Retirement Gratuity is a severance benefit for members of the Primary Reserve only. Reservists’ eligibility for compensation under the Accidental Dismemberment Insurance Plan is governed by the terms of the contract under which they serve. Reservists incapable of completing the terms of their contract due to injury or illness attributable to service are entitled to pay and allowances until the termination of their contract. Compensation for disability due to injury or illness is payable when disability continues beyond the termination of the class of Reserve service during which it occurred. VAC services and benefits are available to ill or injured Reservists on the same basis as they are to Regular Force personnel, subject to eligibility provisions applicable to both groups.