Department leaves veterans in ‘financial limbo,’ behind on half its targets

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Department leaves veterans in ‘financial limbo,’ behind on half its targets

Post by Trooper on Wed Dec 13, 2017 7:11 am

Veterans Affairs missed 54 per cent of its targets last year, which opposition MPs called both 'breathtaking' and 'horrible.' More resources are needed, critics agreed, but the culture also has to change.



By SAMANTHA WRIGHT ALLEN

PUBLISHED :Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017


Canada’s Veterans Affairs Department is behind on half of its performance targets, department results released last month reveal, which opposition MPs call unacceptable and a “horrible performance” built off systemic problems.

Veterans Affairs missed 14 of 26 targets for the 2016-17 year, filing 54 per cent under “attention required,” leading to delayed decisions on veteran services like career training, long-term care, and disability support.

“The situations [veterans] face, they need service right away,” said NDP veterans affairs critic Irene Mathyssen (London-Fanshawe, Ont.). “People cannot sit in financial limbo over and over again.”

Disability decisions and applications represented some of the department’s worst results. The vast majority of injured veterans are waiting more than four months to learn if they qualify for financial support. Only 26 per cent of veterans waiting on their disability award have applications that are less than 16 weeks old. The department goal is for 80 per cent of applicants to meet that 16-week threshold. Similarly, only 29 per cent of disability pension applications were under the four-month mark. The department was also behind on its decisions for those claiming disability.



Issues veterans face as reported by the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman in 2016-17. Graph by the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman

“We are looking at the entire disability application process, from intake to decisions, to expedite decisions and respond to Veterans’ needs more quickly,” said spokesperson Marc Lescoutre by email in response to questions from The Hill Times, noting the number of veterans claiming disability benefits has increased by more than 20 per cent over the last two years.

He said the average turnaround time on first applications is 106 days, for reassessment it’s 71 days and for a departmental review the average is 85 days. One veteran waited 1,007 days for a decision, due to “extensive time required” to assemble the documents in what Mr. Lescoutre said was a “unique” circumstance.

Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O’Regan (St. John’s South-Mount Pearl, N.L.) did not respond to a request for comment by deadline.

Veterans ombudsman Guy Parent’s 2016-17 annual report, which was released Nov. 20, noted accessing the Disability Award and pension were one of the most common issues veterans faced. Previous media reports by The Canadian Press and Globe and Mail made clear injured Canadian Forces veterans face long waits on decisions, but these latest results show slow departmental response affects a host of programs, including long-term care, career training, and more.


NDP veterans affairs critic and deputy whip Irene Mathyssen.

The departmental performance report also showed veterans who suffered critical injuries were likely to wait longer than 12 weeks for benefits. It’s the same with those who were permanently impaired in duty, affecting their chance at employment; only 31 per cent of those decisions are within three months.

“These are severely injured people and they’re meeting their targets 31 per cent of the time? Not acceptable,” said Ms. Mathyssen.

And, only 31 per cent of its eligibility decisions for career transition services were made within the specified four weeks. It took double the time, or 9.6 weeks, to meet that 80 per cent marker.

“Now that the surge in other financial benefits has lessened, we have allocated staff back to this benefit and will be achieving the 80 per cent standard by end of calendar year,” said Mr. Lescoutre.

Conservative-era staffing cuts still hurting response time: VAC

Officials blamed delays on “conflicting priorities” among staff who were expected to respond to a number of programs. They also juggled larger workloads with more applications in several programs, especially following the Liberal government’s October 2016 decision to increase the Earnings Loss Benefit from 75 per cent to 90 per cent. That program change was compounded by a 93-per-cent increase in applications for CAF Long-Term Disability compared to the previous year.

Only 67 per cent of applications for that benefit were processed within four weeks, The Canadian Press reported, dropping from 86 per cent completed in 2014-15.

The multitude of programs creates a “layering” effect, Ms. Mathyssen said, confusing veterans during applications and dividing staff responsibilities, ultimately slowing response rates.

The department told The Hill Times it faced a 32 per cent increase over the past two years in the number of claims that needed adjudication. While it’s hired 50 adjudicators since 2015 to address the backlog, “these resources weren’t enough to overcome the higher than planned uptake in applications,” Mr. Lescoutre said.

“That still leaves a shortfall,” said Ms. Mathyssen.

Between September 2009 and September 2015 the department lost 23 per cent of its staff, or more than 950 positions, according to Treasury Board of Canada data.



Government data shows the changes in staff each year classified as permanent and term, with totals including casual and student workers. All numbers are at year-end with the exception of 2016, which references March numbers, and 2017 which includes the approximately 400 staff the department says has been added since Budget 2016. The Hill Times graph created with Infogram

The bulk of those reductions came after 2011, when the Harper government launched its Deficit Reduction Action Plan, cutting the public service overall. Because of Budget 2016, the department hired more than 420 new staff, it confirmed in July.

Even so, the Liberals have failed to reverse the impact of Conservative cuts, said Ms. Mathyssen, who argued more staff and training are needed to address the performance gaps.

“Hiring the human beings to deal with the human beings is absolutely key.”

Conservative veterans critic Phil McColeman (Brantford-Brant, Ont.) noted the common thread in the responses to questions from The Hill Times, and in public explanations on the performance, is the department doesn’t have the resources.

That may be true, he said, noting “these cases are not easy to deal with, but you’ve got to set up systems… The reality is if you historically look back at service levels, they’ve never been at the highest standards.”

Department culture shows delays are a systemic problem: Conservative critic


Conservative veterans affairs critic Phil McColeman, pictured in 2015.

Department culture continuously fails to be veterans-centric and offer good customer support, Mr. McColeman said.

“This has been a constant theme over a long period of time,” he said, adding it was true when Conservatives were in power and it’s not about “pointing the finger” at any particular government.

The data verifies that even as the government says it’s serving veterans, “we’re falling down in doing that” said Mr. McColeman, echoing Ms. Mathyssen’s frustration that officials and politicians who testify before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs come with an attitude that things are under control and they’re doing everything they can.

“It’s difficult to articulate where the breakdown is… but there’s breakdown in the system that continuously pops up,” he said, adding the performance is “horrible.”

“It’s terrible that we’re in that situation.”

The “breathtaking” numbers for unmet targets present a far different image than the “incredibly rosy picture” Ms. Mathyssen said government and the department paint.

Long-term care ‘downloaded’ onto provinces: NDP critic

More than half of veterans looking for long-term care placements face delays in what the government said is indicative of waits common with many provincial health authorities.

It said the 45 per cent performance marker on meeting a 10-week decision isn’t appropriate since provincial decisions are “beyond the control” of the department. Rather, they’d like reporting to take into account the date that the department determined that a veteran was eligible for financial support and later, the date a veteran
is admitted.

That rationale “downloads” the responsibility onto provinces, Ms. Mathyssen said.

“A veteran serves the nation. A veteran is a responsibility of the nation.”

Department targets not met

All department targets (except cemetery maintenance) have a goal of 80 per cent of cases falling within the stated time frame.

26% of Disability Award applications awaiting a decision that are less than 16 weeks old

29% of Disability Pension applications awaiting a decision that are less than 16 weeks old

31% of Career Transition Services eligibility decisions rendered within 4 weeks

31% of Permanent Impairment Allowance decisions rendered within 12 weeks

45% of Long Term Care decisions completed within 10 weeks

48% of Disability Award decisions rendered within 16 weeks

48% % of Critical Injury Benefit decisions rendered within 12 weeks

59% of Disability Pension decisions rendered within 16 weeks

71% of Family Caregiver Relief Benefit eligibility decisions rendered within 6 weeks

74 % of rehabilitation program eligibility decisions rendered within 2 weeks

73% of Canadian Forces Income Support decisions rendered within 4 weeks

70% of Veterans completing the Rehabilitation Services and Vocational Assistance Program who reported that their (goal 80%)

75% of War Veterans Allowance decisions rendered within 4 weeks

2,710 maintenance items completed in Canadian cemeteries (goal: 3,000)


https://www.hilltimes.com/2017/12/13/department-leaves-vets-financial-limbo-behind-half-targets/128223
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Re: Department leaves veterans in ‘financial limbo,’ behind on half its targets

Post by Trooper on Wed Dec 13, 2017 7:21 am

Vets squeezed again in pension holdup

Published December 13, 2017



Peter Stoffer is right.

Despite changes in government in Ottawa, and more than a dozen different veterans’ affairs ministers over the last two decades promising better, faster service, there continue to be unacceptable shortfalls in benefits programs for the men and women who put their lives on the line for this country, says the former NDP MP and longtime veterans’ advocate.

The latest example, from a Canadian Press story published Sunday, is that the waiting list for former military members who’ve applied for disability pensions has increasd by 50 per cent since March.

As of the end of November, there were 29,000 applications for disability benefits waiting to be processed at Veterans Affairs Canada. Nearly a third have been waiting to find out if they’re eligible for more than 16 weeks, another statistic that has deteriorated since spring.

Unsurprisingly, the new figures have sparked sharp condemnation of the delays — and heightened concern for those waiting — from veterans’ advocates.

They rightly point out that veterans trying to return to civilian life cannot afford to wait for months and months for the money to pay bills or even, in some cases, avoid homelessness.

The bureaucracy at Veterans Affairs, despite a drumbeat of criticism stretching back more than a decade, inexplicably continues to make life difficult for too many veterans.

Meanwhile, the federal Liberals have has yet to make good on an election promise by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to bring back lifelong disability pensions that were removed under the previous Harper government.

Many veterans were outraged by that Conservative government decision, which replaced lifelong pensions with lump sum payments and other benefits that critics said were often grossly inadequate.

Last week, a B.C. appeals court struck down a legal attempt by six veterans to have the former lifelong disability pensions restored, saying that the case had no chance of success on its legal merits.

But the ruling by Justice Harvey Groberman, who said he had sympathy for the veterans, made it clear the decision was not necessarily endorsing the status quo. “All right-thinking Canadians would agree that they should be provided with adequate disability benefits. If that is not occurring, it is a national embarrassment,” wrote Justice Groberman.

Liberal Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O’Regan has promised a new lifelong disability pension plan by the end of the year.

Let’s hope veterans won’t be disappointed again.

http://thechronicleherald.ca/editorials/1528969-editorial-vets-squeezed-again-in-pension-holdup
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Re: Department leaves veterans in ‘financial limbo,’ behind on half its targets

Post by Dannypaj on Wed Dec 13, 2017 10:58 am

Step 3

Your claim is at the decision making level. All your supporting documentation was received on June 15, 2017. Although we strive to provide a decision within 6 weeks, provided a previous CIA decision has been completed, we are currently experiencing a higher than normal volume of applications.

If it is not going to be six weeks, just tell us.
There should be an alert or email stating approximately a time frame (tired of the mental abuse.)
Imagine your out at sea waiting for the tanker and they stated 6 weeks, now almost six months later and no sign of it?
Long time for a response.
I may of missed this, but was the CIA(s) listed.

Is it true that once you are CIA(s), you lose your Case Manager?
If so, Id rather keep the case manager..,
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Re: Department leaves veterans in ‘financial limbo,’ behind on half its targets

Post by bosn181 on Wed Dec 13, 2017 1:08 pm

No its not true that if you get cia you lose your case manager i have cia/supp, elb,care giver, vip, rehab and still have a case manager although i am getting close to no longer needing a case manager as my rehab is almost complete i still do message and physio and psychologist i did talk to my cm and said maybe i no longer need her but she recommended that she stay on for a few more months to monitor my progress and when we are all done if i need something i can just call the 1800 number and ask for an on duty cm not that they expect me to go back to the work force but my case manager is helping me get back into the public like attending osis support groups and functions outside my home as well as attending family get togethers was keeping myself inside my home for many years getting on these forums helped me move forward to accepting help from the outside world now some say they wish they left me home cause they can't shut me up now lol

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Re: Department leaves veterans in ‘financial limbo,’ behind on half its targets

Post by Dameon on Wed Dec 13, 2017 3:27 pm

I've been at step 3 for CIA since June 14, that's 26 weeks today. Can't imagine it will be under the tree Xmas morning. I am putting together another 3 Disability applications. I don't expect them to be done until next fall, if I'm lucky. But they will probably fall under whatever new system the GOC has cooked up anyway, so who the frack knows. I try not to let it bother me, but I am not that effective at it. I see my massage therapist today for stress relief, and man do I need it.

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Re: Department leaves veterans in ‘financial limbo,’ behind on half its targets

Post by Trooper on Wed Dec 13, 2017 7:10 pm

bosn181 wrote:No its not true that if you get cia you lose your case manager i have cia/supp, elb,care giver, vip, rehab and still have a case manager although i am getting close to no longer needing a case manager as my rehab is almost complete i still do message and physio and psychologist i did talk to my cm and said maybe i no longer need her but she recommended that she stay on for a few more months to monitor my progress and when we are all done if i need something i can just call the 1800 number and ask for an on duty cm not that they expect me to go back to the work force but my case manager is helping me get back into the public like attending osis support groups and functions outside my home as well as attending family get togethers was keeping myself inside my home for many years getting on these forums helped me move forward to accepting help from the outside world now some say they wish they left me home cause they can't shut me up now lol

That pretty well sums it up bosn, case managers work with their client to reach a certain point or level in the required assistance. Your correct, you have options available for help once your CM is finished with you. The toll free line, My Vac Account, and request an on duty CM.

The backlog in benefits have been brought up before, this again will be filled with excuses from VAC. The Minister will speak to his staff about it and some bureaucrat will come up with a bandage solution to calm the waters somewhat but will not fix the problem. These people are a joke, they are the problem, the system is the problem. VAC needs an outside force to come in and completely revamp the whole Veterans file. They wonder why the mental issue is so high with Canadian Veterans, they should look at themselves in the mirror before requesting more reviews. With the old pension act there was also a waiting period for benefits, but the difference there was you had that first tax free approved Monthly benefit for Life. This made things a lot less stressful, and the waiting was not as big of a deal because of it. Now we see a system that is geared for bureaucrats, not Veterans.

Dameon,

Hang in there buds, you got a good situation not trying to get to stressed out. Stay with that attitude even if you think it's not that effective. Stay on the different Veteran sites to read other Veterans similar situations. The Canadian government not being friends with it's disabled Veterans is no fault of yours, so don't give them the satisfaction of getting stressed out, they are not worth it, and waiting is something that is out of your control. It's not right, but it is, what it is, for now anyway.
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Re: Department leaves veterans in ‘financial limbo,’ behind on half its targets

Post by bosn181 on Wed Dec 13, 2017 8:53 pm

i try not to allow vac to have free rent in my head some days its hard took a long while to get all the different benefits but hang in there keep fighting them and i call them on my outstanding claims at least once a week to see if there is any update seeing i am a few months over what they told me it would take last time i only had to wait 14

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Re: Department leaves veterans in ‘financial limbo,’ behind on half its targets

Post by Trooper on Thu Dec 14, 2017 7:03 am

Delays leave 29,000 veterans waiting to see if they get disability benefits

‘They just give up, not realizing that if they persist they could be entitled to a benefit down the road'

By David Burke, CBC News --- Posted: Dec 13, 2017


Veterans arrive for the Sunrise Service at Prospect Cemetery in Toronto for Remembrance Day. Many veterans are waiting months to find out if they qualify for disability benefits.

There's a growing number of veterans across the country waiting to find out if they will get disability benefits from the federal government.

In the last eight months, the number of people waiting has gone up about 50 per cent to 29,000, according to Veterans Affairs.

Veterans are waiting on money to help them cope with everything from hearing loss to post-traumatic stress disorder. The average wait for a veteran to find out if they qualify for disability benefits is 26 weeks. It's not clear how many of the people waiting are from Nova Scotia, as Veterans Affairs said it doesn't sort applications by region.

The entire process has frustrated and angered veterans, according to Peter Stoffer, who volunteers with 13 veterans organizations across the country and is a former MP and NDP veterans affairs critic.

"It is very frustrating for a lot of folks, especially if money is an issue," said Stoffer, who also works part time with Trauma Healing Centers, a company that assists those with trauma using a variety of pain-relief methods, including cannabis.

'They just give up'

Stoffer said he hears complaints about the long wait for benefits on a regular basis. Application forms are complicated and a simple mistake can cause a form to be sent back after spending weeks being processed, he said.

In some cases, it can take half a year to get a benefits application completed by Veterans Affairs, Stoffer said. Others who have been denied benefits don't appeal the decision and end up with nothing despite having a legitimate claim.


Peter Stoffer volunteers with 13 veterans organizations across the country. He is also a former MP and NDP veterans affairs critic.

"They just give up, not realizing that if they persist they could be entitled to a benefit down the road.… They just give up because they're so upset with the system."

'Streamlining the process'

But the system is changing, according to Rick Christopher, the director general of centralized operations division for Veterans Affairs.

In 2016, the department added 90 people to adjudicate claims and is looking at hiring more.


Veterans salute during a Remembrance Day ceremony in Montreal on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017.

"One of the things that we're doing is streamlining the process for making decisions on certain types of applications: hearing loss, post-traumatic stress disorder and musculoskeletal conditions. We're also adding additional resources and doing what we can to get more people working on these claims," said Christopher.

Despite that, 29,000 veterans are still waiting to find out what benefits they will get, if any.

Christopher said the department's ability to process claims has been "outstripped by a high number of applications recently." He said he doesn't know what's led to the high number of recent claims.

Stoffer wants bigger changes

Stoffer said the changes to Veterans Affairs don't go far enough.

He would like to see all veterans' benefits and medical needs set up before they leave the military so they can easily continue to receive care. Until that happens, Stoffer would like to see Veterans Affairs hire workers to sit down with veterans and go through their application forms to make sure they're properly filled out.


Veterans gather at the Remembrance Day ceremony at Harbour Station in Saint John, N.B.

Stoffer recommends veterans have their entire medical file in hand when they leave the Forces. They should also try to walk through the disability application with a friend who has done it before or look for help from the Royal Canadian Legion or local MP's office, said Stoffer.

"That's the most important thing — making sure these forms are all done properly with the appropriate medical information so it speeds up the process."

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/veterans-disability-benefits-injuries-government-1.4446485
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