PEI

Union of Veterans Affairs Employees urges more action on disability backlog

The national president of the Union of Veterans Affairs Employees says she doesn't think the hiring of 300 temporary workers and changing claims processes will significantly reduce the disability claims backlog.

'It’s frustrating to continually see that we have had this backlog'

Currently, about 45,000 former Canadian soldiers are waiting for a decision on disability benefits, with more than 21,000 of them waiting longer than four months. (Ryan Remiorz/The Associated Press)

The national president of the Union of Veterans Affairs Employees says she doesn't think the hiring of 300 temporary workers and changing claims processes will significantly reduce the disability claims backlog. 

"It's frustrating to continually see that we have had this backlog. We have been raising the concerns for a number of years and all the government continues to do is put in temporary solutions to a systemic issue," says Virginia Vaillancourt.

Vaillancourt said she wants to see ongoing solutions such as offering the 300 new temporary staff full-time positions.

Currently, about 45,000 veterans are waiting for a decision, with more than 21,000 of them waiting longer than four months. 

The department said it's hoping to make progress toward its March 2022 target for significantly reducing the backlog of those claims by hiring 300 new staff. 

It's also creating new processes for reviewing applications connected to common problems, such as hearing issues, musculoskeletal conditions, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Claims keep coming

Vaillancourt said she thinks some of the backlog will be cleared — but she doesn't think the plan takes into considering the ongoing and incoming claims.

"As the backlog gets cleared up there are still more claims coming in on a daily basis."

Veterans Affairs Canada says it has created several initiatives to address disability benefit backlog, including providing enhanced support to veterans with moderate needs. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

She said once the backlog is reduced those veterans will be moved to needing service and benefits.

"Which is going to increase the number of veteran caseload numbers for the frontline staff. So, intake, veteran service agents, case managers. And we already have staff shortages in those areas," she said.

Vaillancourt said some case managers are handling about 40 cases in some areas. She said they should be working on about 25.

In an e-mail to CBC, the department says it recognizes the need for case management services has continued to grow beyond projections — and that increasing staff numbers will not meet the increasing need.

Veterans Affairs Canada said it has created several initiatives to address the issue, including providing enhanced support to veterans with moderate needs who do not require full case management services and a new tool to better assess veterans' needs.

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Island Morning.

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