Quicker Decisions + Transparency = Real Change for Veterans
Ottawa, ON - July 24, 2017
Delays in receiving disability decisions is the #1 complaint received by my office, and its importance is growing. Recently, we’ve received complaints from Veterans whose applications had been in process for anywhere from 22 to 51 weeks and counting. In fact, Veterans Affairs Canada’s (VAC) NCCN agents have informed my staff that they were currently working on applications from June of last year. Although VAC has a 16-week service standard for a Veteran to receive a decision on disability benefits, according to VAC’s website, it’s only hit 52% of its 80% target for this service standard in 2015-16. Although not yet published, VAC has advised us that 59% of its decisions were made within the service standard for 2016-17.
Did You Know?
When measuring service standards:
- The clock only starts when all information required from the applicant has been received and ends when the decision has been made.
- It does not take into account the time between a Veteran submitting an application and the time that VAC determines it to be complete (which may require supporting medical information such as an audiogram or medical report and can take several weeks).
- Neither does it include the time after the decision is made, but before the Veteran actually receives their benefit.
- While My VAC Account allows a Veteran to track the status of their disability claim, it only advises where it is in the various stages of the process. It does not give any details on when a decision will be made.
At no time in the disability benefit decision process does the Veteran have upfront information on exactly when their money will arrive and, then, be eligible for treatment benefits. Is that an efficient process? Is it transparent? I don’t think so on either count.
While it’s important for VAC’s credibility to achieve its published service standard targets, it’s essential for Veterans’ peace of mind to know that they will receive a decision in the specified timeframe, unless there is some extraordinary circumstance that prevents it.
I know VAC has faced many challenges in recent years, but finding ways to provide quicker decisions to Veterans, who may currently be waiting up to a year or longer, needs to be a priority, along with a more transparent approach to communicating with Veterans.
Like a shipment from Amazon, VAC could use My VAC Account to communicate detailed information on application status, timeframes at each point in the process and changes to any timeframes during the process. In addition, posting wait times by condition would provide Veterans with a better understanding of timeframe expectations for what could be considered a simple versus complex case.
Every Monday for the next few weeks, I’ll be engaging with you on Facebook and Twitter about your experience with turnaround times. Your feedback is important and appreciated, and we will share with you what we have heard. The results from this conversation will be used to inform our work and to improve the Veterans’ Service Experience.
 VAC’s 2015-16 Departmental Performance Report, http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/about-us/service-standards
 Ibid; “Processing time for all VAC applications/requests is counted from the time we receive all required supporting information by the applicant. Information required from other parties/departments/agencies, etc. is included in the turnaround time.”
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