Honourable members of the Canadian Parliament, I am Lieutenant Colonel Matthias Reibold. I'm the defence attaché of the Federal Republic of Germany to Canada.
It is today a great pleasure and an honour for me to speak in front of you about German so-called veterans affairs.
Good morning ladies and gentlemen, honourable members of the Canadian Parliament.
My name is lieutenant-colonel Matthias Reibold and I hold the position of Defence Attaché of Germany. It is a great honour for me to appear before you today. I know that you are bilingual, but my French is very poor. That is the reason why I will speak to you in English only.
Let me start with the conscripts. A conscript in Germany earns €7.50 per day, an equivalent of $12 Canadian. He gets free food, drinks, accommodation, and equipment and he can travel free on public transport between his home address and his barracks. If he is married, he earns additional money, his flat will be paid by the forces, and he has access to free military health service. If he suffers from an injury that he got during his time of duty, he has free military medical service for up to an additional three months after his term of nine months ends. If he becomes handicapped, he receives a basic pension adjusted to the grade of his disability. In some cases, he may get a one-time compensation—for example, if he's doing a dangerous job like parachuting. If he dies from an accident, his wife gets a widow pension, and his children receive an orphan pension. Also, his parents can receive a parents pension if he has had to take care of them. Additionally, his job is safe. That means he will not lose it while he serves. All other contributions during that time, like health insurance, pension plan, and unemployment insurance, are paid during this time by our government.
Let me make clear that these conscripts will never take part in a mission abroad, like Afghanistan or Kosovo.
I'm coming to the second group. Those conscripts who are willing to serve on a voluntary basis for between 11 and 23 months have the same benefits as every conscript has. Let me explain that it is hard to find an adequate term for these conscripts. I will call them temporary career volunteers. In addition, this soldier earns money in the same way as a regular soldier does, in accordance with his current rank. Those soldiers go on missions abroad. If they suffer an injury during this time of duty, they have free military medical services for at least three years after the time they serve.
While they are serving abroad, three things could happen to such a soldier. First, he could be hijacked or put in captivity. If this happens, he will earn all his money for as long this situation lasts as well as an extra benefit afterwards for what he has suffered. Those who have suffered from severe injuries caused by incidents while they are fulfilling their duties abroad receive a compensation of up to €80,000. If his life, body, or health insurance will not pay because of the war risk clause, the German forces cover up to €250,000.
The third group includes those conscripts who serve for several periods of time, from two years to 20 years. I will call them regular or non-career soldiers. They have the same benefits as the before-mentioned conscripts do. In addition, they receive a full salary, and their equipment is provided them for free. They also have access to free military medical services. For their families, the health costs are paid up to 80% by the forces. If they have to move, it is paid. They get a card that allows them to travel for 50% of the normal cost. If they are separated from their families, every other two weeks the costs for driving or flying home are covered.
The main benefit for these regulars is the care they get when their time ends in the military. After their time has ended, they get extra money, further training, and paid education. Depending on the length of time they served, this can be from seven months to five years after their time of duty has finished. This could be for study at a university or taking an apprenticeship. They receive 75% of their last salary, and the full cost of any educational training is covered. A soldier who has served for more than 12 years can also apply to serve in the government services. This is also regulated by law.
When these soldiers leave the forces, the costs for pension insurance, health insurance, unemployment insurance, and nursing insurance are paid retroactively, so that he or she has no disadvantage with respect to those who worked as civil employees. In case of death, the surviving dependants get all the money he would have received had he finished his contract.
I have to admit it is very difficult to translate specific German synonyms or vocabulary used in our typical bureaucratic language. As far as it is needed, I use expressions that describe the facts and are very usable for common understanding.
The German forces have transformed—and I think quite successfully—from forces to defend my country during the Cold War to forces that are able to fulfill missions worldwide within the context of the United Nations, European nations, and NATO. During this transformation, it was also necessary for us to adapt our laws dealing with the social and health coverage of all our soldiers.
All female and male German soldiers are an integral part of our political system. It is therefore our self-conception that they take part, like all other German citizens, in the common social benefits of our system. But different from other professional groups or categories, the job of a soldier is combined with additional strains and dangers. This makes it important that they have access to special benefits provided by the government. Also, this belongs to our self-conception of our society. This is the reason the German legislator cares, in particular, about the special situation of our soldiers. Therefore, we have adapted or renewed several laws, like the law for soldiers, the law of social benefits for soldiers, and also a relatively new law to help soldiers after they have suffered from an accident, injury, or death in mission.
I'd like to now give you a more detailed overview on this. First, I'd like to mention that we do not use the term “veterans” in Germany. This is because of our conscript system. At this time, every male citizen of my country has to serve for nine months in the German forces when he has reached the age of 18 years. As an alternative, those young men can do an alternative service as conscientious objectors. The total strength of our forces today is 240,000 soldiers.
We categorize our conscripts in five groups. The first group, the conscripts, as mentioned before, have to serve for nine months, and this service is only for male soldiers. Those conscripts later on—and this is the second group—can additionally serve between 11 and 23 months on a voluntary basis. The third group is conscripts who can serve from two years up to 20 years. This group is open to female and male soldiers. The fourth group is the conscripts serving as reservists, and the fifth group--the group I belong to--is made up of conscripts who have decided to become professional soldiers. Every soldier of this group has access to different benefits while they are serving or after they have served.
As for the reservists, all those who have served in those categories receive reservist status after the fact. This relationship as a reservist depends on the rank or status he achieved before he retired. He can be called up for several weeks per year or serve on a voluntary basis in missions abroad, for example. By doing this, he has the same rights as I have mentioned above and also the same duties as any other conscript. His job is also secure while he is serving or doing his reservist duties and he receives the difference between €7.50 per day and the income he normally receives, but only up to a certain income. You can imagine managers' salaries; we do not pay those high differences.
Regarding conscripts as professional soldiers, most conscripts deciding to serve as professional soldiers have to serve until the age of 61. Some of them have the right to retire at 56. They have the same benefits as mentioned above. After they retire, they receive a pension of 72% of their last income. If a professional is no longer able to fulfill his duties and must retire, it becomes a pension of between 66% and 72%, depending on his length of duty. A widow's pension is 60% monthly, and an orphan's pension is up to 30%. For example, as a lieutenant-colonel I have to work for 42 years because my retirement age is now 61.
Due to the dangers of missions, Germany passed a new law in 2007. This law manages how to deal with soldiers, functionaries, judges, and civil employees of our forces who suffered from severe injury. A severe injury is meant to have a grade of disability of more than 50%. This law defines several measures. The first is to become additionally qualified to compete as a disabled person with non-disabled persons to have a fair chance on the employee market. Also, all those conscripts previously mentioned in the different troops have the right to become professionals after they have suffered severe injuries in our forces. They will be employed by the forces.
In Germany we have a secretary of state or deputy minister who is responsible for veterans', reservists', or conscripts' affairs in Germany. Our ombudsman is also ordered by Parliament to ensure that all those legal affairs are being watched and controlled. We also have a general who is responsible for those affairs within the military.
To sum up, after 1999 we went to Kosovo on our first mission abroad. We realized we had to change a lot. Our bureaucracy was too complicated, no longer manageable, and we were faced with public pressure. As I mentioned before, those measures, especially the last one, give our soldiers and civilian employees the necessary coverage while they are on duty for their country.
This ends my short presentation. I am more than happy to take your questions now.