The Veterans’ Service Experience

Ottawa, ON - June 8, 2017

Over the course of my mandate, my team and I have done a lot of work to ensure that the right benefits and services are in place for Veterans and their families, in other words, the What. Now, it’s time to turn our attention to How these services are delivered.

From a Veteran’s perspective, are Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) benefits and services well communicated to Veterans and their families? How easy is it to access benefits and services? Are eligibility criteria and application processes easy to understand, simple and streamlined? Are they delivered in a timely manner?

As I’ve travelled across the country meeting with Veterans and their families, I have consistently heard that it takes much too long to get a decision when applying for benefits from VAC and, when they finally do receive a decision, the decision letters are confusing and complicated. My frontline staff also hears this when they are talking to Veterans. In fact, a large percentage of the calls to our office have to do with the frustrating service experience of Veterans and their families as they try to navigate the complex system of Veterans’ benefits.

For example, one of my service representatives was telling me about the struggles a Veteran went through when attempting to get coverage for a brand name drug, prescribed after adverse reactions to the generic brand. The coverage was provided for the brand name while he was still in uniform, but VAC denied it once he was released. This resulted in the Veteran having to start over and provide, once again, a rationale for why he needed this particular drug, an exercise that was unnecessarily burdensome for the Veteran. Because of the prevalence of this type of complaint, my office will be taking a look at the Veterans’ Service Experience in 2017–2018. We will look at the following:

  • the quality of communications;
  • the level of complexity with regard to benefits and process; and
  • the timeliness of responses.

As a result of this work, I will be asking questions such as, what information is provided by VAC for Veterans? How easy is it to find, access and decipher information on programs and services? How long does it take for a Veteran to get a decision from VAC?

Through this work, I hope to better clarify some parts of the process for Veterans, encourage VAC to make adjustments in terms of what and how they communicate with Veterans, and recommend changes to simplify and improve the Veterans’ Service Experience.

Guy

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Comments

Robert said:

One of the improvements for VAC and their access to health information to make decisions on claims was the use of the Records Disclosure Team, set in Ottawa. This helps streamline the process, and is suppose to cut the many duplication and multiple requests. However, in a great many cases, front line workers have been using the CF mbr as the work-around, sending them to get copies of their own information and give it to them as "it is just faster...". In addition to the fact this is not VAC policy, and a duplication of services, it is also a potential breach of privacy, as the required third party redactions have not been done for VAC. As well, it seems the step of requesting file updates for cases that have been lengthier in decision has led to many cases years worth of medical information acquired by the DND H Svcs is not collected by VAC...so you are not on the same page. This is a very easy fix- one source for all ATI requests go to the RDT. All cases should be reviewed to determine if a potential file update should be requested to bring VAC up-to-date. This is as simple as adding the update line to the existing VAC flowcharts.

November 7, 2017 10:32 AM

Office of the Veterans Ombudsman

Hi Robert, thanks for your constructive feedback. We’ll consider your insight as we continue our work on transition.

November 9, 2017 3:35 PM

Carmen said:

I've been reading a lot of information on the wait times for disability applications, including the stats. What is stated on the website as 16 weeks...is now 32 weeks (according to an email I received from VA back in Aug). At that time I was told my information was with the DBU for the "prepare summary stage". It's been three months and it is still at the prepare summary stage. I'm not trying to be pushy about the issue but this seems unreasonable to me. I'm trying to be patient with this process but it really is frustrating. This should not be happening to vets! If it wasn't for my mother, I would have been on the street, I have claimed hardship on my locked in RRSPs and it seems I will deplete the remaining this year as I will still be waiting for an answer from VAC. Not to mention if the decision is unfavorable, the many more months it will take for an appeal.

October 31, 2017 1:43 PM

Office of the Veterans Ombudsman

Hi Carmen,  sorry to hear about your situation. For privacy reasons we cannot discuss your file here in the comments, so please contact us at: 1-877-330-4343.  

 

November 1, 2017 2:22 PM

Dennis said:

I agree, what a mess. and they are rude on the phone and seem to enjoy it. I have complained about Blue Cross bureaucracy playing the deny game for several years. The worst place I found was the Esquailmalt VIP BLUE CROSS counselors. You see they hava a new tool to assess us (cockiness intended by counsellor) We nned to rid Blue Cross and hire Veteran adin, coucellors for this. Blue Cross big guy gets a bonus at the end of the year if he still has money in his budget. Screw the Vet and get a bonus, SELF SERVING Need a leader like Trump up here and fire the sefserving and incompetent. CHEERS!!!!!! My son been waiting over two years from falling down a shaft with no diagnoses, and no word on claim. To to muster up and fight.

September 20, 2017 12:53 PM

Ann said:

I was released with PTSD after 25.8 yrs of service as a Medic. I received a letter explaining that my career had NOT been impacted as I had served over 20 yrs. This came as a complete slap in the face. I found the language to be quite insulting in this letter, and wrote to VA with regards to it. I was not in my opinion ready to retire and had a few good years left in me. I have not had a response. I was receiving PIA when they changed to CIA and therefore created a more complex way of understanding what the benifit was meant to address. I am not able to work, and most days can not leave my home. But, as the letter stated "my career had not been impacted" thus my benifit is rated at an exremely low amount, that is taxed at a much higher rate. This year I had to pay back 3400 hundred dollars to CRA as a result of these benefits being taxable. Another slap in the face. What a way to be shown just how much we are valued. There is much work to do to rectify the injustice being done to so many who gave ALL.

July 3, 2017 7:55 AM

Matthew said:

Its funny that you are announcing this now, since just a couple of weeks ago, I had my concerns about the very same thing dismissed by the person handling my complaint form your office and told me there was nothing your office could do to help me. My specialist who is a M.D. ordered bloodwork that wasn’t covered by my Provencal healthcare system and Blue Cross refused reimburse me. If a Medical Doctor orders a test for pension related condition, that’s deemed the most accurate, it should be covered without having to fight to be reimbursed by submitting reams of paperwork . I was quite surprised how little help I got this time, since you office has been really good at mediation between VAC, Blue Cross and myself in the past, even making your success stories list. She could not get the systemic issue that this matter entailed.

June 19, 2017 8:00 PM

Gayle said:

I am very pleased with the information provided in "The Veteran's Service Experience". After submitting a claim myself, and following it through the process (stages), I documented and submitted suggestions for change. I used the experiences I gained from being a former Head of the Administrative Investigation Support Centre. If there is anything I can assist with to identify, documentation and develop, I would be happy to do so whether on a volunteer or minimal bases (contracted). I say Kudos to where we are now though more is required.

June 9, 2017 6:07 PM

Donnie said:

Will the recent increase in military pay be retroactive to those veteran members who recently retired from the services in the past two years?

June 8, 2017 10:31 PM

Office of the Veterans Ombudsman

Hi Donnie, we recommend contacting DND for more details on this issue http://www.forces.gc.ca/en/contact.page#public

June 9, 2017 1:10 PM

Pokio134 said:

Il semble que lors que on quitte les Forces Armées, peut importe la raison : Honorable, Médical et autres... que l'ont est point informé. Et si informé... pars des avocats avec 5 pages de lectures avant de comprendre les questions, pas nos questions... J'étais technicien avs et je parle pas avocat....

June 8, 2017 8:43 PM

Rob said:

Good Day Ombudsman, l still haven't heard anyone addressing the THEFT of VAC injury benefits being conducted by the CRA. When will you be asking the finance ministry to put back the tax free injured Veterans benefits as they were before? This is a National disgrace and travesty of the Sacred Promises taken apart because Standing Govts could not get their financial books in order and are penalizing the weakest in society, our injured Veterans. Shame, Shame on all this red tape bureaucracy and lack of Leadership for not standing up for those who gave all and can't bear to fight for themselves.

June 8, 2017 5:00 PM

Rob said:

Good Day Ombudsman, l still haven't heard anyone addressing the THEFT of VAC injury benefits being conducted by the CRA. When will you be asking the finance ministry to put back the tax free injured Veterans benefits as they were before? This is a National disgrace and travesty of the Sacred Promises taken apart because Standing Govts could not get their financial books in order and are penalizing the weakest in society, our injured Veterans. Shame, Shame on all this red tape bureaucracy and lack of Leadership for not standing up for those who gave all and can't bear to fight for themselves.

June 8, 2017 5:00 PM