Thousands of veterans waiting as backlog for disability benefits explodes

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Thousands of veterans waiting as backlog for disability benefits explodes

Post by Bruce72 on Tue 12 Dec 2017, 8:43 am

Sunday, December 10, 2017 3:02:29 EST PM

Veteran Affairs Minister Seamus O'Regan gestures during an interview in his office on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, December 6, 2017. New figures show the number of veterans waiting to find out whether they qualify for disability benefits has skyrocketed over the past eight months, leaving thousands of former military members in limbo.Fred Chartrand / The Canadian Press

OTTAWA - The number of veterans waiting to find out whether they qualify for disability benefits has skyrocketed over the last eight months, new figures show, leaving thousands of former military members in limbo.

Veterans Affairs Canada says there were about 29,000 applications for disability benefits in the queue waiting to be processed at the end of November — a nearly 50 per cent increase since the end of March.

Nearly one-third of those applications have been in the line for more than 16 weeks, which is also an increase since the spring and a sign that wait times are continuing to grow.

Veterans’ advocates have long criticized how long some retired service members have been forced to wait to find out whether they qualify for support and services after sustaining an injury in uniform.

Federal auditor general Michael Ferguson also previously flagged concerns about delays in processing applications from those who have suffered psychological trauma.

But revelations of the actual size of the backlog have prompted fresh surprise and shock, as well as concerns about the impact on the thousands of veterans having to deal with months of uncertainty over their claims.

“It’s so important for people in transitioning to civilian life and can impact a whole bunch of factors, including the ability to pay your bills,” said Scott Maxwell, executive director of Wounded Warriors Canada.

“In some cases, it can mean the difference between being a homeless veteran and not.”

Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O’Regan admitted the government needs to do better to ensure disabled veterans get the benefits they need and deserve and said action is being taken.

That includes hiring hundreds more staff, streamlining the way Veterans Affairs officials review files to speed up processing times and giving veterans more benefit of the doubt when it comes to approving benefits.

“More veterans are coming forward to get the help they need,” O’Regan said in a statement. “And we need to meet them where and when they need that support.”

But such promises have been made before and are starting to ring hollow as the problem continues to get worse, said Peter Stoffer, a former NDP MP and longtime veterans’ advocate.

“If you go back to (former minister) Fred Mifflin in 1997, he said the exact same thing,” Stoffer said.

“All 13 ministers since ’97 have said the exact same thing: ‘We have to do a better job, we’re speeding up the process.’ And it’s getting worse, to be honest with you.”

Exactly why the backlog is growing remains unclear; while Veterans Affairs says it received 20 per cent more applications between April 2015 and March 2016, that doesn’t explain why the figures increased this year.

And while the department was hit hard by budget cuts and layoffs under the previous Conservative government, the Liberals say they have hired 460 new staff since taking office.

News of the backlog comes only days after a landmark new study found the rate of suicide among veterans was “significantly” higher than that of the general population.

A group of injured veterans also suffered a major setback last week when the B.C. Court of Appeal rejected their legal effort to win back lifelong disability pensions.

The pensions were replaced in 2006 by a lump-sum payment, career training and targeted income support, which those involved in the lawsuit complained gave them less financial compensation.

O’Regan has promised to unveil a new pension plan by the end of the year, though many veterans fear it will fall far short of the previous pensions.
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Re: Thousands of veterans waiting as backlog for disability benefits explodes

Post by Bruce72 on Tue 12 Dec 2017, 8:43 am

I have no idea where this comes into play, but yesterday I received a call from VAC. I can't remember from which department exactly. Anyway, The lady on the phone (not my case manager) was very nice and asked me if it would be okay if she asked me a series of questions regarding my benefits and my overall well being to see if there was anything VAC could do to improve my quality of life.

I was on the phone with her for about 40 minutes and the questions ranged from queries like, can I do housework, have a shower, prepare meals and do yard work etcetera. Other questions were geared towards my overall satisfaction with VAC's programs that I have accessed as well as whether or not I am satisfied with the benefits that I receive from VAC. Those benefits being, 4 pensions under PA Act, CIA Level 3, ELB, currently on Psycho-social Rehab and medical cannabis 3 grams a day.

I assumed the worker at VAC was calling about my application for the VIP program, but it wasn't until halfway through our conversation that we both realized my application had not been entered into the system yet. I wasn't upset about this because, I had only made the application four weeks ago. However, by the end of the day yesterday it had been entered into the system and had moved to the decision making stage on MY VAC Account.

Also, by the end of our conversation she had suggested I apply for a reassessment for both my feet and both knees for which I have been in receipt of monthly pensions under the PA Act since 2005. I did request a reassessment in 2010 but was denied an increase and I just let it go without an appeal. Apparently, she's initiated the reassessment for me at her end.

In all the 12 years I have been receiving benefits from VAC I have never had a phone call like that before. The lady was nice and respectful and asked if there was anything VAC could be doing that they are not already doing, I was blown away.
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Re: Thousands of veterans waiting as backlog for disability benefits explodes

Post by Bruce72 on Tue 12 Dec 2017, 10:16 am

Has anyone else received a phone call recently like the one I had yesterday?

Someone (not my case manager and different from yesterday) called me again this morning from VAC but I was shaving my head and didn't answer the call. I called back left a message and am awaiting a return call.

What is going on?
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Re: Thousands of veterans waiting as backlog for disability benefits explodes

Post by JAFO on Tue 12 Dec 2017, 12:05 pm

It's called gathering distracting points.

The Liberals have been more verbal lately about all the veteran problems are because of the Cons. Experience tells me this is the groundwork for what is going to be a huge disappointment for veterans.

Like the announcement of the new life long pension option.

Let's be honest here we just watched the provinces and feds in less then a week agree to tax revenue sharing for legalized marijuana.

Yet the vets have waited 2 years for the pension announcement? It's the last week before the house rises for the Christmas break. The announcement is probably coming late Thursday or Friday, commonly known as the news dump and run tactic.

I'm glad you got the phone call Bruce and got the ball rolling on your VIP but anytime VAC calls you out of the blue????? It only leads to getting info to soften the blow.

The Cons used to compare our death benefits, benefits to lesser countries. But once the Cons were reminded how much better Australia and England treat their vets it shut down their guilt trip.

So if the Libs create their own guilt trip presser just think "How many of these benefit improvements happened because of phone calls from VAC to the client?"

Again glad to see your VIP application on the fast track Bruce.

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Re: Thousands of veterans waiting as backlog for disability benefits explodes

Post by Bailler on Tue 12 Dec 2017, 4:32 pm


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Re: Thousands of veterans waiting as backlog for disability benefits explodes

Post by Trooper on Tue 12 Dec 2017, 8:07 pm

The Liberals in late 2017 — sinking in the House, soaring everywhere else

By L. Ian MacDonald. --- Published on Dec 12, 2017

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had bragging rights Tuesday.

As the fall sitting of the House winds up this week, it’s fair to say the Liberals have been getting murdered in question period.

But you wouldn’t know it from their standing in the polls — where they remain in majority territory — or from their performance in the byelections Monday — when they took a suburban Vancouver seat from the Conservatives.

In Tuesday’s weekly Nanos poll, the Liberals stretched their lead over the Conservatives to 11 points, 41-30, with the NDP at 18 per cent. (In 2015, the Grits won 184 seats in the 338-seat House with 39.5 per cent of the vote, to the Tories’ 31.9 per cent and the New Dems’ 19.7 per cent.)

On the question of who’s the best person to be prime minister, Trudeau trounces Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer 45 to 24 per cent. Part of the leadership spread is due to recognition of the Trudeau brand — but even so, Scheer shouldn’t be trailing his own party by six points.

Of the four byelection ridings, two were Liberal strongholds in Newfoundland and Toronto, with one safe Conservative seat in Saskatchewan. The only riding truly in play was South Surrey-White Rock, which runs from south Vancouver to the U.S. border. The Conservatives have held it since 1974.

Or they did — until last night, when Liberal candidate Gordie Hogg defeated former Conservative cabinet minister Kerry Lynne Findlay by more than five points, 47.5 to 42.1 per cent. The New Democrats were nowhere in sight, their vote plummeting from 10 to 5 per cent. Hogg is a local brand name as a former mayor of White Rock and was a provincial Liberal cabinet minister in the Christy Clark years.

He also had a lot of help from Justin Trudeau, who campaigned with him in the riding not once but twice, stopping in on his way back from Asian summits and then again on his way to China last week. (As he was travelling it was presumably government business, not a campaign expense.)

This is the second former Conservative stronghold to fall to the Liberals in mid-term byelections — a highly unusual occurrence. In October, the Liberals won in Lac-Saint-Jean in the old nationalist heartland of Quebec, a riding held by the Conservatives in the last four elections. Two bad outcomes for Scheer — opposition leaders aren’t supposed to lose seats held by their own party in byelections.

If the Liberals are winning in suburban Vancouver, and the Saguenay region of Quebec, that would make up for expected losses in Ontario in a general election. The current Nanos numbers would result in something like 200 Liberal seats, verging on landslide territory.

What accounts for the divergence between the Liberals’ weak performance in the House and their strong standing in the polls?

Trudeau has been travelling almost constantly of late and possesses unquestioned gifts as a retail politician. The permanent campaign suits him down to the ground.

Well, maybe no one outside Ottawa watches QP. It’s more likely, though, that a strong economic narrative is working in the Liberals’ favour. National unemployment — at 5.9 per cent — is the lowest it’s been since February 2008. In B.C., it’s only 4.8 per cent — the lowest in the country. Since the Liberals took office in 2015, the Canadian economy has created over 600,000 new jobs.

These are strong talking points for Finance Minister Bill Morneau — who actually had a good day outside the House on Monday, when he got a deal with the provinces and territories to give them 75 per cent of the proposed excise tax on legalized marijuana sales, up from his starting point of 50 per cent. That makes sense, since most of the administrative and policing costs will be in provincial jurisdictions. (Besides, you can always count on the provinces to show up with demands for more money. It’s a hallmark of federal-provincial relations.)

Trudeau has been travelling almost constantly of late and possesses unquestioned gifts as a retail politician. The permanent campaign suits him down to the ground and he looks natural on the international stage — especially when compared to Donald Trump. (Trudeau, by the way, has done a very good job of managing Canada’s relationship with the mercurial U.S. president.)

Never mind the string of broken election promises — 38 out of 226, according to the online Trudeaumetre — on everything from electoral reform to deficit spending. (In fairness, I must observe the Trudeau tracker also reports the Liberals have fulfilled 58 promises, with another 72 ‘in progress’.)

But in the House, the Liberals look ragged in QP. Trudeau himself is one of the weaker performers on the front bench. On Monday, when the opposition pressed him on a 50 per cent increase in applications for veterans’ disability pensions, Trudeau blamed the problem on cuts made at Veterans’ Affairs under the Conservatives. Sorry, but it’s pretty hard, after 25 months in office, to blame the previous government for an eight-month backlog. No one’s buying that.

The Canadian Diabetes Association recently ignited the opposition’s fury over the Canada Revenue Agency’s administrative move to restrict the disability tax credit for three million adult Canadians with diabetes. Other health stakeholders — such as Autism Canada, representing the one in 68 Canadian children on the spectrum — are also on the case. Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier has proven to be hapless performer, who can answer questions only in French.

And then there’s Sport and Disabilities Minister Kent Hehr, who on meeting with thalidomide survivors apparently assured them that “everyone in Canada has a sob story. Lots of people have it bad in Canada … not just you.” The survivors’ news conference in Ottawa last week was a jaw-dropper. In all likelihood, Hehr owes his continued cabinet status to the fact that he’s disabled himself.

Not least of the Liberals’ problems in the House is the question of Morneau’s obvious conflict of interest in sponsoring Bill C-27, which would enable federally regulated employers such as CBC and Canada Post to switch from defined to target benefit pension plans — a position advocated by his family’s firm, Morneau Shepell, a leading HR management company.

Morneau also renewed an $8 million a year Bank of Canada contract with the firm, which is doubly awkward in that, as finance minister, he’s the central bank’s shareholder.

It’s not clear whether outgoing Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson will complete her examination of Morneau’s status before she leaves office on January 8, or whether the file will be left to her successor, Mario Dion, who was appointed on Monday. Nor is it clear whether the opposition parties were consulted ahead of the announcement by Government House Leader Bardish Chagger on the appointment of an officer of Parliament.

Three days and counting to the Christmas break. The Conservatives have the momentum in the House. The Liberals have it everywhere else.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by all iPolitics columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of iPolitics.


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