MANITOULIN – The president of the Manitoulin-North Shore branch of the War Pensioners of Canada (WPC) agrees that something must be done to the current process that has injured veterans waiting twice as long as they are promised in order to learn if they qualify for aid for service-related injuries, after filing an application with the federal government.
It was reported by The Canadian Press on June 1 that injured Canadian veterans are being forced to wait on average twice as long as promised to find out whether they qualify for financial help from the government, even as the backlog of unprocessed applications for assistance continues to grow.
“They (Veterans Affairs Canada) are supposed to help within 16 weeks, but sometimes it takes months,” stated Colin Pick, president of the WPC. “I have to write a letter about this voicing our concerns. I don’t know why this is happening. With COVID-19 all people within (VAC) are probably working at home. And they say the applications are being backed up because of COVID-19, but this was an issue a long time prior to the pandemic.”
“When a veteran has applied for compensation, they need to get answers on their application and assistance as soon as possible,” said Mr. Pick.
The Canadian Press noted that Veterans Affairs has not said how much the pandemic is contributing to the problem. The department has said officials are continuing to process applications while working at home due to the crisis. But the federal government has long been accused of causing added frustration and stress to many injured veterans because of the growing wait times, which have in turn contributed to a growing backlog of requests for help.
More than 46,200 applications were in the backlog at the end of December, according to Veterans Affairs. That represented an increase of 1,600 from September and 6,000 from March.
The number is expected to increase due to the pandemic and includes more than 20,000 applications that the department says are “incomplete” and awaiting further information, according to the Canadian Press article.
Veterans Affairs advocacy groups in recent months have been asking the Liberal government to automatically approve all applications for assistance from injured ex-soldiers and conduct an audit after the fact to catch any illegitimate claims. They have indicated that many veterans are facing difficulties in collecting all the necessary information due to various lockdowns, and they note this approach has been adopted for some of the federal emergency programs set up due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The government has so far resisted such calls.