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Military spouse advocates for Employment Insurance for OUTCAN posting

A motion has currently been put forth in the House of Commons that calls on the government to allow military spouses to qualify for Employment Insurance during an OUTCAN posting.

The motion looks to amend section 55 under the Employment Insurance Act to allow spouses of military personnel and foreign service personnel to qualify for Employment Insurance during abroad postings.

“This is absolutely doable. The Employment Insurance Act does not cover Canadian citizens living outside the country, but there are opportunities under the Act, section 55 specifically, where we can amend the act to include the spouses of military personnel or foreign service personnel,” said Irene Mathyssen, MP for the riding of London—Fanshawe who introduced the motion to the House.

The issue is not a new one for the Canadian parliament. In 1981, the Royal Commission on Conditions of Foreign Service urged the government to recognize the financial disruption spouses face when relocated abroad. More than 30 years later, the government has yet to take the necessary steps to address this concern.

“Essentially we’ve known this for a very long time, in light of the kind of stresses and disruptions that being stationed abroad present for spouses. I think it’s long past time there should be this consideration given,” commented Mathyssen, the current NDP Veterans Critic.

The idea of bringing forth such a motion came after Mathyssen was contacted by Ann Thompson, a military spouse of more than twenty years.

Thompson, whose husband serves in the Royal Canadian Navy, has been posted OUTCAN twice over the years. Each time she had to quit jobs she had held for a number of years.

When Thompson and her family were posted to England in 2013 for the second time, she decided to contact the Minister of National Defence’s Office to voice her concerns. She was then directed to Employment and Social Development Canada, who was offered, much to her disappointment, benefits that did not fall under Employment Insurance.

“It was more about getting a benefit that I would have been entitled to everywhere else in Canada,” said Thompson.

The real problem, for Thompson, arose when she returned back to Canada in August 2016. She had been looking for work in Ottawa since May 2016 but had not, and still has not, found suitable employment.

She decided to apply for Employment Insurance, thinking it could count as a deferred claim for the five years she had worked in Canada before her OUTCAN posting.

However, when applying for Employment Insurance, the government only looks at the last 52 weeks of employment. And so, when Thompson’s claim was denied, she decided to appeal. She recently had a tribunal hearing with the Social Security Tribunal of Canada.

As she appealed her case, Thompson also contacted every member of parliament with her story. The only real response she got was from MP Mathyssen.

“I am very pleased someone is interested,” noted Thompson.

As Thompson awaits the tribunal’s decision, she is still fighting the fight to get her story heard, and policies changed, in hopes that the next military spouse who gets posted OUTCAN can receive the benefits she didn’t.

“As much as foreign postings can be amazing, there is a lot of hassle and a lot of red tape to get there and get home. So, it would be great to have this piece of support.

“No matter, where you’ve been posted, if you’ve paid in and qualified for Employment Insurance, you should be able to make a claim for it,” said Thompson.

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MIshall Rehman

Originally from Atlanta, GA, Mishall is a freelance journalist pursuing her passion for writing in her new homeland Canada. She currently lives in Trenton, ON with her husband.

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