Veterans Affairs disability backlog won't be cleared until 2024

·1 min read
First-time applicants are waiting an average of 38 weeks. (Don Somers/CBC - image credit)
First-time applicants are waiting an average of 38 weeks. (Don Somers/CBC - image credit)

Veterans Affairs Canada says it is making progress in clearing a backlog of disability claims, but it still has a long way to go.

Last month Auditor General Karen Hogan delivered a report that found the department for years had not been able to meet its target of answering disability claims within three to four months. First time claimants in 2020/21 were waiting an average of around 38 weeks.

Cuyla Thompson, the acting senior director of benefit operations for Veterans Affairs, said hundreds of temporary employees have been working to clear the backlog.

"We do know that the current processing times for disability benefits are unacceptable, and reducing the time a veteran waits is our top priority," Thompson told Island Morning host Laura Chapin.

"We are making real, tangible progress, much of which has occurred in the last, I would say, eight months."

In that time, she said, the backlog has been reduced from about 23,000 applications to 10,600.

More than 500 temporary staff are working to clear that backlog, said Thompson. In February, the government announced $140 million to keep that extra staff working until March of 2024.

Thompson hopes those extra workers will help clear the backlog before then.

Hogan also found women, francophones and RCMP officers had to wait longer than others for responses to benefit claims.

A new team has been created to deal specifically with claims from women, said Thompson, and that has narrowed the wait difference to just one week, versus claims for men.

She said more resources have been added for dealing with claims from RCMP and francophones.

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