Report denounces 40-week wait for veterans’ disability benefits

Disabled veterans and injured RCMP officers are waiting far too long for federal assistance, a new report from the Auditor General reveals.

According to Karen Hogan, there is a “wide range” of problems in the way the government delivers disability benefits and other supports.

“These audits highlight long-standing problems and obstacles across a wide range of government activities,” Hogan said Tuesday. “These barriers are unacceptable, whether they are faced by Indigenous and Black offenders, or by low-income people and veterans who access benefits.

Veterans Affairs Canada was particularly singled out by Hogan in its report for inefficient management and an inability to reduce wait times.

“Implementation of the initiatives has been slow,” reads the report. “Data to measure improvements was lacking. Funding and nearly half of the staff on the application team were temporary.

The report found that veterans face long delays and long waiting times to receive support for themselves or their families.

“As a result, veterans have waited too long to receive benefits to support their physical and mental health and the general well-being of their families.

The findings include veterans who have to wait more than 40 weeks to receive a decision on their first disability claims. Other requests experienced an average processing time of 16 weeks.

In addition, women, injured RCMP officers and Francophones waited on average longer than others to obtain benefits.

“I left with the conclusion that the government broke a promise it made to our veterans: that it would take care of them if they were injured in service,” Hogan said. “This has a real impact on the well-being of our veterans and their families.

The Auditor General has recommended that Veterans Affairs review its system to fix the problem. In addition, better resource planning was also advised in order to reduce the backlog.

According to Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay, there are currently 10,600 applications in the system that have not yet been processed.

“The report is a point-in-time snapshot and we have made real tangible progress since the end of the audit period,” he said.

“No, everything is not fine. It is so important that we continue on this path. Is it sufficient? No, but we have to make sure that we continue on this path and put this backlog where it should be.

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About Antoine L. Cassell

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