Wait times top issue in veterans ombudsman annual report
Ombudsman hoping for better outcomes for vets, highlights issues facing women vets
The top complaint in the recently released annual report by the veterans ombudsman is wait-times for a decision on benefits.
Craig Dalton is the veterans ombudsman and splits his time between Ottawa and Charlottetown.
He says he thinks both his office and Veterans Affairs can do a better job helping retired service people.
"I think we can collectively do a better job for veterans, I think we can manage complaints more quickly," he said.
"Wait-times are the number one issue all the time."
Dalton said wait-times can cause frustration and those veterans who may be at risk of homelessness or need medical care are affected more significantly by having to wait.
There are about 44,000 veterans and while that is difficult to triage Dalton said, "if you are at risk if you are in a situation where you are unable to access care because you haven't received a decision… reach out to our office."
The report also highlights the fact that a number of veterans waiting for a decision filled out the wrong forms because they didn't have the correct information.
"That's a very real issue. Sometimes it is individuals not having the information they need to complete the program. Sometimes it is individuals trying to navigate to them what might be a complex process," he said.
Sometimes people may need medical information and to get that information the process can also be complex and take time as well.
"I think the process by its very nature requires a lot of information and sometimes that is just difficult to put together," Dalton said.
In 2018-2019 the ombudsman's office opened 2,000 new files. After an investigation the ombudsman's office determined 628 of the complainants had been treated unfairly.
In the report Dalton said he wants to be able to define outcomes for veterans.
"What are we actually trying to achieve for veterans? What are their needs? Where are the gaps?" he said.
Dalton points to other parts of the world for examples.
"The United Kingdom over the past couple years has developed a national veterans strategy… with some outcomes. Those outcomes include things like financial security but also health, social inclusion, employment, sense of purpose, housing and shelter," Dalton said.
Another thing Dalton highlights is concerns around veterans who are women.
"There are women veterans and groups of women veterans who don't appear to have the same positive outcomes that male veterans do," he said.
Dalton said there is more to understand and there are more challenges and barriers for women veterans.
"We know for example they tend not to self-identify as veterans and therefore they might not be as willing to seek benefits and support," he said.
"Things evolve and happen differently for women veterans."
Dalton said he wants to do his bit to shine a light on that.
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With files from Island Morning