More staff needed for veterans benefit claims, says WPC president

SUDBURY – The president of the North Shore-Manitoulin War Pensioners of Canada (WPC) has a simple idea on how the federal government can deal with the backlog in the system that prevents thousands of service members from being able to find out whether they qualify for disability benefits and the help they need.

“That’s a problem/concern I hear from veterans all the time, that they fill out the paperwork but can’t find out whether they qualify for benefits. I don’t know what the government plan will be, but what they need to do is hire more people to help process the veterans claims; and then get to approving their benefits,” Colin Pick told the Recorder last week. “When a veteran is ill, it is frustrating for them when they have to have to wait so long to find out if they qualify for benefits. They have to wait for the paperwork and invariably they end up having to answer more questions—it seems to take forever.”

“As president (WPC) I have written many letters to the government on behalf of veterans who have been trying to get benefits, have filled out all the paper work and six months later they still have nothing. Not even a response on their claims for benefits,” said Mr. Pick. “When myself or the veteran’s doctor try to intervene on behalf of the veterans because they are not getting the answer they are looking for it ticks them off, understandably so.”

“If the government wants to put a plan in place, make it a hiring plan to provide for more people to work with the veteran on the claims they have made. The people who originally hear the claims from the veterans are trying their best. But there just aren’t enough of them around. Unfortunately, this type of thing has been going on for years.”

As was reported by the Canadian Press on February 22, Veterans Ombudsman Craig Dalton indicated he is urging the federal government to explain clearly how it plans to eliminate a backlog that is keeping thousands of former service members waiting to find out whether they qualify for disability benefits and help.

The ombudsman’s comments come as the frustration of Canada’s veterans community is increasing, while the number of applications for disability benefits and other assistance Canada’s veterans community is growing in frustration as the number of applications for disability benefits and other assistance continues to grow; meanwhile the government promises to address the problem but has not carried this out, thus far.

Veterans Affairs Canada announced in February there were 44,000 applications waiting to be processed at the end of September (2019), which showed a 10 percent increase from six months previous. Some were incomplete applications that needed more information from applicants but most were just waiting on the department’s review, reported Canadian Press. Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay described the backlog as unacceptable and said eliminating it is his top priority while departmental officials say they are implementing a number of measures behind the scenes to process applications faster.

Mr. Dalton said unmet health needs would be number one concern with the wait times and secondly is veterans who are, for a variety of reasons at a point of crisis. It was pointed out the Liberal government put $20 million into the system in 2018 to hire more staff to eliminate the backlog. But not only does the money run out at the end of March, the growing number of cases waiting for decisions suggests even more money will be needed.

“I  know there is a lot of pressure on the VAC staff who handle the veterans’ claims for benefits and they are trying their best,” said Mr. Pick. “The best plan for the government would be to hire more people to carry out this work.”