OTTAWA — The new head of the military's support unit for ill and injured military personnel is promising to address the many problems that have plagued the oft-criticized system for years.
Brig.-Gen. Dave Corbould, installed Friday as commander of the Joint Personnel Support Unit (JPSU), praised the unit for the "hundreds of success stories that most of us never hear about."
In an interview after the change of command ceremony, Corbould acknowledged the need for more resources to help service members in need.
Brigadier-General Dave Corbould speaks at a Change of Command Ceremony at the National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa on August 5, 2016. (Photo: Patrick Doyle/CP)
"There are individual members who may have gone unnoticed or untouched or not be aware of the care that they can get access to," he said.
"All the people at the JPSU want to grab those people and be able to help them and support them and get them to the right care."
The unit was established in 2008, at the height of the war in Afghanistan, and comprises 24 support centres on major bases across the country and eight satellite offices in communities with sizable military populations.
The purpose is to help physically and mentally wounded military personnel heal and return to their units, or prepare for medical release and transition into the civilian world. The system also provides assistance to the family of members who are killed.
System plagued with problems
But the system has been plagued with problems in recent years, many of them stemming from understaffing and poor training for those who work in the unit. There have also been concerns about injured military personnel sent to the unit feeling isolated and alone, and some have taken their own lives.
Defence chief Gen. Jonathan Vance ordered a review of the system last summer. The military has refused to release the final report, but does say an overhaul is underway to fix the problems identified.
Corbould said his appointment is one part of that, but conceded there is more work to do.
"So in the next year or two, what we're looking to do is just improve the resourcing: personnel, money, the vehicle support, etc. of the integrated support teams so they can better provide service for our ill and injured members."
Understaffing a consistent issue
Understaffing has been a repeated issue for the system. The JPSU is supposed to have a complement of 474 staff, but officials revealed in the spring that it was about 50 people short. Corbould said he will look at ways to fill the empty positions, and keep them filled.
Yet there have also been concerns that 474 staff isn't enough to help the approximately 1,500 injured military personnel assigned to the unit each year, or the 3,000 who seek out its services on a walk-in basis.
Corbould, who commanded a battle group in Afghanistan in 2008 and most recently served at U.S. Central Command, would only say that the numbers are being reviewed. Similarly, he wouldn't say whether the system will receive more money beyond its current $20-million budget.
"There will be whatever's needed," he said.
"It is a priority of the chief of defence staff. There is no doubt in my mind as the new commanding officer that we will not face any resource constraints as it deals with our injured."