Friday, 30 August 2013

Eligibility criteria for NS award: MINDEF replies

THE Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) would like to explain the eligibility criteria for the National Service Recognition Award (NSRA), in response to queries from various letter writers ("Not called for in-camp training, so no NS award" by Mr Leslie Teo Chin Hin, Aug 21; "Penalised for insufficient high-key ICT sessions" by Mr Koh Kong Ghee, Monday; "Volunteered to continue NS but denied award" by Mr Christopher Sim Kwee Teck, Monday; "Redefine end of NS cycle" by Mr James Ong Ken Sern, Forum Online, Monday; and "Made up for missed ICT but still not eligible for award" by Mr Vincent Lim How Siang, Forum Online, Monday).

The NSRA is disbursed to Singaporean operationally ready national servicemen (NSmen) to recognise their contributions when they have attained various milestones, namely:
- The completion of full-time national service;
The mid-point of the operationally ready national service (ORNS) cycle; and
- The completion of the ORNS training cycle, which typically consists of 10 ORNS years and seven high-key in-camp training (ICT) sessions.
The NSRA was implemented in 2010, and Mr Sim, Mr Ong and Mr Lim were not eligible for the award as they had completed their ORNS training cycles before the implementation date.

We seek the understanding of NSmen in this matter as the introduction of any new policy may not allow it to be effected retroactively.

However, besides the NSRA, we do appreciate all NSmen in other ways.

Over the years, the Government has provided the National Service Bonus, additional allotments of the goods and services tax offset credits and Growth Dividends.

More recently, in conjunction with celebrating 45 years of NS, the NS45 SAFRA and HomeTeamNS Benefits scheme was launched to thank all national servicemen for their contributions to defence.

Mr Teo and Mr Koh did not receive the third milestone NSRA as they were not called up for the requisite number of ICTs before they reached the statutory age.

MINDEF agrees it should provide opportunities to NSmen who would like to contribute their services through more ICTs beyond the statutory age, and we will explore ways to achieve this.

We thank the NSmen for their feedback and will continue to review our policies to recognise the contributions of our NSmen.

Teo Eng Dih
Director Manpower
ST Forum, 29 Aug 2013





Not called for in-camp training, so no NS award

WHEN the National Service Recognition Award was first announced in 2010, many operationally ready national servicemen (NSmen) looked forward to receiving it.

While I was not eligible for the awards for the first two "milestones", I thought I would receive the $3,000 Central Provident Fund (CPF) contribution upon completing my operationally ready NS training cycle (the final milestone).

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) notified me that I had completed my operationally ready NS training on April 25, and I waited eagerly for the funds to be credited into my CPF account.

When this did not happen after two months, I wrote to the NS online portal.

The SCDF replied that I was not eligible for the payment as my last in-camp training (ICT) was in 2009, before the announcement of the award.

There were four years between my last ICT and the end of my training cycle, and the decision not to call me up for ICT lay entirely with the SCDF.

Why should I be penalised for a decision that was not within my control?

I understand that there is no policy stating that NSmen must finish 10 ICTs before completing the training cycle.

Does this mean units can use this loophole and not call up NSmen during the last stage of their training cycle, to avoid paying out the award?

I am sure that my unit of 250 men was not the only one affected.

Why is there no official policy statement or clarification to address this issue?

I hope the relevant agencies can relook the eligibility of NSmen who are in a similar situation.

Leslie Teo Chin Hin
ST Forum, 21 Aug 2013




Penalised for insufficient high-key ICT sessions

I REFER to Mr Leslie Teo Chin Hin's letter ("Not called for in-camp training, so no NS award"; last Wednesday).

I completed my operationally ready national service (ORNS) training cycle in 2011, upon turning 40 years old.

When I wrote to the Ministry of Defence to inquire about my National Service Recognition Award for completing my training cycle, I was told I was not eligible. I was required to have completed seven high-key in-camp training (ICT) sessions and be active for 10 ORNS years. Their records showed that I had 12 ORNS years but six high-key ICT sessions.

During those 12 years, I was called up for a total of 105 days of training, including 27 low-key ICTs. Two of these lasted five to six days, one to two days short of a high-key ICT.

My appeal to MINDEF to reconsider my case was rejected. It was through no fault of mine that I was called up for my first high-key ICT only when I was 29, nor that my unit had a high proportion of low-key training. The award is to recognise the efforts and contributions of NSmen to the nation.

I hope MINDEF will reconsider the eligibility of NSmen who are in a position similar to mine.

Koh Kong Ghee
ST Forum, 26 Aug 2013




Volunteered to continue NS but denied award

I FIND myself in a similar situation as Mr Leslie Teo Chin Hin ("Not called for in-camp training, so no NS award"; last Wednesday).

I completed my operationally ready national service (NS) training cycle in 2004 but volunteered to continue, as recommended by my superior officer and because there was a need in my unit.

After that, I was not called up for in-camp training but, up till 2010, continued to go for the Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT).

I also volunteered to continue receiving notices to stand by for mobilisations.

After the National Service Recognition Award was announced in 2010, I received a call from my unit offering an immediate discharge from NS if I were to forego the award, which I refused.

In any case, I was discharged in 2011 without the award.

I appealed to the relevant authorities, only to be told that there was a lapse in administration, and that I had not been called up since 2009.

If I should have been discharged in 2009, why was I asked to go for IPPT sessions and mobilisation standbys up till 2010?

Why did my unit call me to offer an immediate discharge only after the award was announced?

Does it mean that if there were no NS award, my situation of being "inactive" would have remained undiscovered and I would have continued with IPPTs and mobilisation standbys?

I have never asked what benefit I would get from serving my country.

The NS award was a surprise I did not expect.

To be denied it based on the reason given has left a bad taste in my mouth, especially since I volunteered to serve in a time of need, only to be asked to go when benefits were forthcoming.

Sim Kwee Teck Christopher
ST Forum, 26 Aug 2013




Redefine end of NS cycle

I FIND myself in a situation similar to Mr Leslie Teo Chin Hin's ("Not called for in-camp training, so no NS award"; last Wednesday).

I finished my last in-camp training (ICT) stint in April 2010, but completed my operationally ready national service training and was posted to the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) reserves only on March 31, 2011.

The Defence Ministry stated that I did not qualify for the $3,500 National Service Recognition Award given at the end of my operationally ready national service (ORNS) training cycle as the cut-off date was after the completion of my last ICT.

But between April 2010 and March 2011, I was still an operationally ready national serviceman (NSman) with all its attendant obligations.

The completion of the ORNS cycle should be defined as the point at which an NSman completes his NS obligations, rather than the last ICT.

I recognise that any cut-off date, however generous, will marginalise a segment of NSmen, but MINDEF appears to be applying a different yardstick when it comes to obligations versus rewards.

This detracts from the spirit of the recognition award.

James Ong Ken Sern
ST Forum, 26 Aug 2013




Made up for missed ICT but still not eligible for award

MR LESLIE Teo Chin Hin's letter reminds me of the situation I found myself in when I completed my operationally ready national service training cycle back in 2008 ("Not called for in-camp training, so no NS award"; last Wednesday).

After the ceremony to mark the stand-down of my reservist unit as well as the end of our in-camp training (ICT) stint, most of us received a certificate, medal and watch as recognition for our contribution.

But I was not eligible for the award.

I later found out that I did not meet the requirement of being 90 per cent active during the 10-year period. This was because I disrupted my service to work overseas for about 16 months.

I wrote to the Defence Ministry's feedback portal requesting that my case be reviewed.

After all, when I returned from overseas, I voluntarily rejoined my battalion and made up for the missed training stint.

I turned up for all other recalls, such as the 24km road march, recall briefing and mobilisation, and participated in my battalion's important milestone - the evaluation by the Army Training Evaluation Centre.

I also made it a point to train for and pass all my Individual Physical Proficiency Tests.

However, the response to my request was that it was simply a policy that I had to meet the requirement to be eligible.

How is it that my effective and extra time and effort could be considered less significant than the shortfall?

Vincent Lim How Siang
ST Forum, 26 Aug 2013


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