'We deserve better': Veteran shares frustration over claim application backlog
WINNIPEG -- A growing number of veterans across the country are being affected by a major backlog within Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC).
In an annual report, the veterans ombudsman highlights the issue which is keeping thousands of former service members waiting to find out if they qualify for benefits and aid.
Veterans ombudsman Craig Dalton is calling on the federal government to come up with a clear plan to eliminate the backlog within Veterans Affairs.
Most recently, Veterans Affairs Canada revealed that there were 44,000 applications waiting to be processed at the end of September, which was a 10 per cent increase from six months earlier.
WINNIPEG VETERAN SPEAKS OUT
Winnipeg’s Cameron Jones wrote a letter to the Prime Minister on Feb. 8, expressing his frustration with VAC.
Jones spent 37 years serving with the Canadian Armed Forces. Last June, he submitted a claim for ongoing treatments for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
“It took them six weeks to send me the information package," said Jones. “I then booked an appointment with my specialist, he did his part of the report, I did mine, and the specialist sent it off and it took them basically 32 weeks to say ‘no you filled out the wrong paperwork’”
Jones was told he needed to reopen a claim he started in 2016, which had taken two years to complete.
Now – he said he’s forced to start over and wait once again.
“Thirty nine weeks on average, so they've already wasted 32 weeks, now I've got the new paperwork, which they don't have yet because the specialist has to fill it out, once they receive that, the 39 week clock starts,” said Jones.
He said the delay has impacted him financially and emotionally.
'WE KNOW THERE'S MORE TO BE DONE': VAC
In a statement to CTV News Friday, the department said: "The work to improve our operations is ongoing and the Veterans Ombudsman’s Office (OVO) has provided valuable insights and recommendations in this report."
"We know there is more to be done – that is why we are changing how decisions are made and looking to find better ways to communicate with Veterans and their families."
According to the Royal Canadian Legion, it’s an area which needs work.
“The turnaround times have to improve, but more importantly for us the transparency is a must, and that will alleviate a lot of the calls we get here,” said Ray McInnis, Director of Veterans Services, The Royal Canadian Legion.
“They need to hire more people or do what they have to do to get the system better,” added Jones.
He said he’s been able to receive some treatment on his own - but is adamant changes need to be made, in order for veterans to get the help they need in a timely manner.
“We served the country with distinction, we deserve better,” he said.
-With files from The Canadian Press