Veterans deserve timely decisions and timely access to the benefits they need

Ottawa, ON - September 12, 2018

Veterans and their family members contact my office about many issues, but the number one issue we have heard and continue to hear is that Veterans are waiting too long for disability benefit decisions. In 2016-17, 20% of the complaints we received were about lengthy wait times for these decisions. Things do not seem to be getting any better: from April 1-August 31, 2018, we received 184 complaints related to this, representing 30% of all complaints we received in this period.

This high number of complaints is not surprising. Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) wait times are unacceptably long, expectations set by VAC are not realistic given their backlog, and favourable decisions can be life changing.  While waiting for a decision, Veterans are in limbo – unsure whether they’ll be compensated for their injury, if their treatments will be covered, or if they’ll be able to access other benefits. It’s important to recognize these delays mean that Veterans can experience months and even years of worry, stress, and uncertainty.

To learn more about the delays, my team analyzed 1,000 applications, conducted on-site visits with VAC staff, and reviewed all of the complex guidance documents VAC uses to make decisions – documents such as internal business processes, policies, legislation, and regulations. Our key findings include:

  • 70% of all applications (that were not expedited due to medical or financial risk) were not completed within the 16-week service standard: they took an average of 29 weeks to complete.
  • Certain groups, such as Francophones and women, experienced longer delays.
  • Those with more urgent health or financial needs may wait longer due to inconsistencies in the way the “start date” is determined.
  • There are opportunities to improve proactive prioritization for those who may be at risk.
  • Delays can negatively impact those waiting to access treatment.
  • If a Veteran dies with an application in progress, the application only continues if they had a spouse or dependent child; in all other cases the application is withdrawn.
  • There is a lack of transparency and insufficient communication throughout the process.

To address these findings, the report makes seven recommendations related to:

  • Providing timely decisions for all Veterans;
  • Making the date the “clock starts ticking” consistent for all applicants;
  • Triaging applications based on need;
  • Eliminating the negative consequences of delays; and,
  • Providing more transparency and better information to applicants throughout the process.

I hope you will read the report to learn more about our findings and our recommendations. Veterans deserve timely decisions and timely access to the benefits they need.  But, while they wait, they deserve to be provided with more meaningful information about the status of their application and a realistic expectation of when a decision will be made.

 

Guy

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Comments

jean jacques said:

Je me pose la question , si mon grand père Joseph Paul Émile Simard, Sergent a l’infanterie pour l'armée Canadienne. Il a servi dans les années 1907 ? A t il le droit a sa Pension ? Merci.

April 23, 2019 10:35 PM

Alavigne said:

Veterans deserve timely decisions and timely access to the benefits they need....Sep 12,2018 As of today's date Dec 17, 2018 we are still waiting, no change foreseen until the next federal election, the VAC Minister & PM should of never quit their previous day job.

December 17, 2018 12:25 PM

Paul said:

The wait times for reassessments and new claims is beyond terrible, i submitted a reassessment claim in Jan 2018 its now Oct 2018 and i keep getting told it will be months before i receive a decision, now i'm being told even longer for a new claim which i submitted in March 2018, so much for 16 weeks turnaround time, there is something very wrong with this system and it is truly unfair to veterans and currently serving members.

October 17, 2018 7:12 PM

Office of the Veterans Ombudsman replied:

Hi Paul, thank you for your comment. Turn around times continue to be our number one complaint and an issue our Office is very concerned about. I invite you to contact my Office for assistance through our online form: http://ombudsman-veterans.gc.ca/eng/complaint or at 1-877-330-4343. 

November 15, 2018 4:56 PM

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