It will be the end of the year before the enormous backlog of military pension payment files is cleared up, National Defence officials say, and it will likely be October before a similar stockpile of outstanding severance payment claims are rectified.
Both of these long-standing logjams have left an increasing number of newly retired military members in a financial lurch.
CBC News has learned of at least one veteran who was tired of waiting and recently threatened legal action — something that jolted the system into action and resulted in delivery of his outstanding payments.
The veteran declined an on-the-record interview, but military ombudsman Gary Walbourne said he was aware of the case and voiced concern that frustration among those affected has reached a boiling point.
Others, such as retired naval lieutenant Stephen Wight, say waiting more than five months for his pension, severance and Veterans Affairs benefits caused him financial chaos.
Wight is now receiving his military pension, but is still waiting for a separate top-up of benefits for injuries received while in the navy, as promised by the Veterans department.
Wight says he has maxed out his credit, borrowed from family and even took a job to stay afloat. Yet despite all of that, he has missed mortgage payments and is about to miss a car payment.
‘From the time I started filling out the paperwork, to the time I received my first cheque, it was almost a year. That’s unacceptable.’
– Retired naval lieutenant Stephen Wight
“It’s unacceptable, it’s insulting — no matter how much time you’ve put into the military,” said Wight, who lives in Fredericton and spent 34 years in uniform. “Departing with dignity ends at the gate. We’re just a number. It’s insulting and humiliating.”
The last five years of his career were spent as a human resources manager in Halifax.
Wight says he was well aware of the problems in the system and prepared to meet them by budgeting and…