Thank you very much, sir.
Good morning. I am very pleased and very happy to have the ability to give my view, our view, from Germany to Canada on the support for mission-related traumatized personnel.
First let me say that I'm very happy to give this testimony. I had the great chance to visit Canada in the months of September and October for the Invictus Games and for your seminar on Warrior Care in the 21st Century, where I was very pleased to have the ability to participate.
Second, let me give you a little foreword. I am talking in a foreign language, which means that normally I say what I want, but sometimes I only say what I can. If I use a wrong term, please ask me a question about it. I would be very happy to correct it.
I could normally give my presentation in French as well, but since English is a more technical language, I will give it in English, even though I know that French and English are Canada's two official languages.
Germany, since the year 1992, has been participating in international missions. On the mandate of the German parliament, the German Bundeswehr has been participating in multinational operations at the international level since 1992. A prominent operation in the past has been to participate in the international support and stabilization force of ISOF in Afghanistan. However, today the most significant are the two operations in Mali, in addition to the ongoing participation in the Resolute Support training mission in Afghanistan.
After multinational support operations began in 1992, an adapted system of compensation and benefits had to be developed. Let me say that in the past we had them only in the civilian system in Germany, which was used for soldiers also, and now we had to develop from the start a special military system.
I have to admit that the Federal Republic of Germany does not have a separate veteran support system. In contrast to the case in the anglosphere, where the term “veteran” is frequently used, in Germany the use of the term Einsatzgeschädigte is common, which means personnel with deployment-related trauma. By that, we understand a service member suffering from a health impairment caused by deployment, so I tell you the noun “veteran” has not yet been established in Germany. There are still discussions going on about what “veteran” means, so I will not use the word “veteran”, but I very often mean it.
From its foundation, the Federal Republic of Germany has had elaborate and well-developed civilian health care, as well as a well-developed pensions and benefits system. For many decades, the Bundeswehr members were treated and compensated after the end of their service period in accordance with applicable domestic regulations, which meant civilian regulations. Only with an increasing number of losses in Afghanistan, from 2002 onward, was there a growing understanding for the need for an adapted regulatory system for the armed forces, which is now based on four pillars.
The first pillar was created in 2004. This was the so-called Special Foreign Assignments Benefits and Pensions Act, which was amended and ameliorated in the year 2011. A very important law was created in 2007, the Law on the Continued Employment of Personnel Injured on Operations, with subsequent amendments, which is a very necessary law now for our soldiers. It was amended with the deployment-related accident regulation in 2012, which gives an easier way for our soldiers to go into this aforementioned law on continued employment of personnel.
For standardization purposes, responsibility for the pensions offices was transferred from the 16 federal states to the federal government in 2013. In 2015, the cut-off date for eligibility was shifted back, thus enabling equal treatment of all personnel with deployment-related injuries. As you can see, only from 2015 on have we had equal rights and equal compensation for soldiers who participated in missions.
The next slide, although a little complicated and a little busy, shows you how we have pensions and we have continued employment of personnel injured in operations.
Concerning the Law on the Continued Employment of Personnel Injured on Operations and the Special Foreign Assignments Benefits and Pensions Act, it is worth mentioning that any service member suffering from deployment-related trauma is eligible for what we refer to as a protection period. In this protection period, he or she may not be discharged on grounds of unfitness for service without his or her consent. Second, as required, the service status of a temporary career volunteer is extended while they receive medical treatment and vocational training. Third, a former service member may, upon request, be re-employed by the Bundeswehr as a temporary career volunteer with a special service status.
We take back injured soldiers in the armed forces for education and medical care. Temporary career volunteers with deployment-related trauma and re-employed temporary career volunteers with a degree of disability of more than 30% can become a career service member under simplified conditions, and that means lifetime. The Military Pensions Act, in combination with the Federal War Victims Relief Act, governs the financial entitlements of traumatized personnel and surviving dependents.
Initially, service members with deployment-related trauma are granted a relatively low basic pension of between 150 euros and 800 euros, according to the degree of disability, based on domestic legislation. Additionally, temporary career volunteers can receive a loss of earnings compensation upon termination of their period of service. Additionally, further entitlement for medical treatment and prosthetics can be granted.
On the next slide, we go to the Military Pensions Act, which provides more. All recognized service members with deployment-related trauma receive a non-recurring compensation of 150,000 euros if the degree of disability is higher than 50% and if the impairment is of a permanent nature.
Career service members impaired by having deployment-related trauma and whose degree of disability is higher than 50% may, upon request, be discharged and receive 80% of the pay award that is two pay grades above the current one. If we sum this up, it means that an impaired soldier and service member, after his dismissal, gets the same payment as he got before as an active duty soldier.
In contrast with that, temporary career volunteers with deployment-related trauma are entitled to receive a compensation in accordance with their period of service in the armed forces. It means that they get roughly 500 euros for every month they were in the armed forces.
For legislation governing the consequences of deployment to be applied, evidence of service-related health impairments has to be provided in every single case. This has turned out to be difficult, and was, I have to admit, a political matter or concern, in particular with cases of mental disorder such as PTSD.
Now, with the Deployment-Related Accident Regulation, an instrument was developed that under certain circumstances provides a possibility of applying some of the legislation governing the consequences of deployment based on a sufficiently high probability. That means that there's no need for evidence, but there must be a sufficient probability of the person having been traumatized in mission, and then they can benefit from the regulation.
Sirs and ladies, you have asked about an ombudsman. There you see the team of the ombudsman and the commissioner, with the two ombudsmen on the right and left. You see my two civil servants, two lady jurists, who have a very big impact on my work. In the level below, you see the three military assistants, who also do also great work, and one of them was with me in Canada for the Invictus Games.
Ladies and sirs, this concludes my presentation. I'm very open to questions you might put.
Yes. Thank you very much. I am very pleased to give you the answer.
I had a big chance to participate even beforehand, in the Warrior Care in the 21st Century symposium, where I had contact with your surgeon general, with whom I had long talks about our medical systems in our armed forces. After that, I participated in the Invictus Games and was able to see our German team, consisting of 17 soldiers from Germany.
From my point of view, it is the biggest appreciation you can give to soldiers who went to a foreign country and fought, who maybe were not understood in civilian life by their families and relatives, and who came back traumatized or even critically injured. They got a big chance to go into the community of the soldiers of the world through sport, and to be very highly appreciated by Prince Harry, for example, and by your , whom I saw at that meeting.
They had the ability to go to a foreign country to make a 1,500-metre run, let's say, and to be applauded by a lot of people. It is the biggest possibility for taking care of our soldiers who sacrificed some of their health on their missions.
Thanks for the question.
Let me just go back to what you said about the veterans in Canada, of their need to be, let me say, “recivilized” in the Canadian society.
I was very interested in hearing this presentation at the symposium down in Toronto. What I'm doing for the time being is to make a comparison between different countries, so I was very happy to see Canada. I was in France, the Netherlands, Israel, and Austria just to see how different societies have their different military societies work, and there are very big differences.
I very much like what you are doing for the soldiers in Canada, and maybe someday we will take an example from Canada, but this has to be rethought. For the time being, this is how we regard soldiers as also being members of civilian society.
On the second question, the 150,000 euros, there is a real discussion on that. This is indeed paid as a lump sum. We have the picture of a soldier as being a very responsible woman or man and knowing what she or he is doing, but in effect, you're correct: some of them are buying a rather big car, and after that there might not be so much left and there is no follow-up from that. Normally the idea was to hand it over and they would have the basis for a new life, maybe fixing a home, building a new home, or starting a new career with it.
It is a lump sum, yes.
Yes. There are a lot of different possibilities. Most of all, it depends on whether you're a career soldier or whether you are a temporary career volunteer.
In the case of a career soldier, it is easier. If the career soldier leaves the armed forces in the regular fashion, or if the career soldier is regarded as no longer being fit for the armed forces, he simply gets retirement pay every month, which means a pension. He gets some percentage as a pension, and the normal rate is 72% for his lifetime. It might be less if he leaves the armed forces very soon after being employed in the armed forces.
If they were over the 50% of grade of disability—and I appreciate very much the question from before, because this is a really hard question to be decided by medical officers and by psychiatrists—then they get 80% of the payment of the next higher payment group. That means that they more or less get the same payment they had at the end of their career for their lifetime.
If they're not a career soldier, it becomes more difficult. The temporary career volunteers get both a lump sum and a monthly payment, but only for some time, depending on the duration of their time in the armed forces. They get also an education, and they're entitled to have an education for three to five years, which depends also on the time they were a temporary career volunteer. If they're a temporary career volunteer, there is a big possibility of different payments, be it a lump sum or be it a monthly payment for a special time, but they get no lifetime payments.
Thank you, Brigadier-General, for meeting with us today.
I want to go back to something you talked about. You said that a soldier who is injured may not be able to perform all of their duties, but can have specific duties. You particularly mentioned—and I've used the same example when talking to people—that a soldier who had lost his legs could serve in his capacity in information technology and that sort of thing.
In Canada we have something called universality of service, which means you cannot be in the armed forces unless you can perform all the duties. As a result, a paratrooper who loses one leg but who could still, as you say, be in IT or something, could not be in the military and is medically discharged.
We have had an issue with soldiers with chronic injuries who are not readily diagnosed or not readily seen, such as a paratrooper who's starting to get chronic back pain or a person who's starting to get PTSD from their deployments. A lot of them are afraid they're going to be discharged because they've come forward and no longer meet universality of service. Sometimes these problems get worse.
Have you ever had this problem in your services, with people hesitating to come forward with chronic injuries, or do they tend to present right away when they have symptoms?