‘JDF veterans suffering’
THE Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA), which is responsible for helping former Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) members’ transition to civilian life, has come under fire from a group of veterans who are questioning its viability, alleging financial embarrassment as a result of late pension and retroactive payments.
“I have served for over 25 years. We as the veterans are suffering because the veterans affairs office is not doing what they are supposed to do. They are not representing the veterans as it relates to pension payments and retroactive payments. In the JDF you are not supposed to have any other job, and whenever persons retire they are expected to get their pension at a particular time,” a spokesperson for the veterans told the Jamaica Observer recently.
A veteran of the JDF is any person, irrespective of age, who has served on active duty and was discharged under conditions which were other than dishonourable.
The Office of Veterans Affairs (OVA) at the Military Records Department was established in 2019. In 2020 the force establishment was revised and the OVA was renamed the Department of Veterans Affairs. It is mandated to assist individuals with planning and personal development in transitioning from the JDF, in order to enhance their professional portfolio and career prospects as well as to prepare them for their inevitable transition to civilian life.
But according to the individual who says he has been waiting almost a year since leaving, without receiving a dime of his pension, the DVA has deserted its dependents.
“I have a lot of other persons who were retired before me and still haven’t received any payments as well, and they are falling on hard times. They are financially embarrassed and no one is there to sort it out. Every time you call, people are pushing you around and transferring you to other offices and nobody is taking responsibility,” the spokesperson said in exasperation.
“The retroactive payment might take a longer time but they are not doing anything at all as it relates to the veterans. A lot of soldiers are having hard times after serving for 25, 22, 18 years with exemplary service and they are not getting their pension on time. It is pure tardiness as it relates to payment and sorting out documentation,” the disgruntled former serviceman said while claiming that he had submitted documents for processing early.
“We normally hand in documents like six months prior to leaving so that we can give them enough time to sort out, and it’s not being done. It’s happening to too much persons. I’ve contacted also the pay office in [Up Park] Camp as well. There are two other offices that sort out payments as it relates to service members or retired personnel and I have appealed to them and still nothing,” he told the Observer.
In the meantime the individual made it clear that he had no axe to grind in airing his complaint via the media.
“It is not about me alone; there are other persons who are falling on hard times. I am employed, I have been working shortly after I left but I am feeling it for my peers who have served their country with dignity and skill not being treated fairly,” he declared.
A member of the JDF to whom the Observer was directed, in noting the concerns, said checks would be made with the DVA and the matter brought to the attention of the command as “these things work on an individual basis”.
A JDF private at the DVA, in advising the Observer to place its queries higher up, said, “These are confidential matters; this matter cannot be discussed over the telephone. People give a lot of misleading information.”
The Observer is still awaiting the response to its queries submitted some two weeks ago to the JDF regarding the grouses of the veterans.