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[1], 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[2] 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.

Guy

 

[1] VAC’s 2015-16 Departmental Performance Report, http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/about-us/service-standards

[2] 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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Comments

Recce73 said:

Claim for Hidradentis Suppurtivia aggravated by military service submitted in Aug 16, 16 weeks is a joke, its almost one full year now waiting. The condition isn't even in the VAC Table of disabilities, so i fully expect a denial. Also have a PTSD reassessment in, was given 25% in 2010, never was made aware of a reassessment, or contact initiated by VAC since. It's a horribly broken system, VAC is an insurance company and doesn't care about soldiers.

August 16, 2017 2:00 PM

Donald said:

I started my new experience with VAC after a 17 year absence. VAC decisions do take far to long and in one case for me an over 7 month wait. Even though I was receiving treatments, these did not qualify until a confirmed disability decision was made. Communication from VAC email are often contradictory, never the same response to the same question! However my main area of concern is Blue Cross and how they deny every prescription submitted. VAC says I am entitled, but Blue Cross deny deny deny. Eventually Blue Cross approves but months later, and only after several attempts, faxes, calls from my CW and wife, emails to VAC and calls to Blue Cross. Once I called Blue Cross to ask why all the denials, the rep said oh we just approved, no more discussion here! Drugs another issue, there are 5 pages of back pain drugs, yet the one Tylenol my doctor prescribes is not on it, so just denied. Another wasted appointment with my doctor.

August 8, 2017 7:04 PM

Tony said:

Currently I am sitting at 11 months and 6 months for my claims. The 6 months claim is at stage one. I have never had a claim that took less than 6 months for a decision. That doesn't include the time it takes to assess a payout and actually get the money. The fact that the time doesn't start until VAC decides it starts means the 16 week metric is a useless metric. A unless metric that VAC still manages to fail to achieve.

July 25, 2017 12:59 AM

Office of the Veterans Ombudsman

Agreed. Thank you for your comment.

July 26, 2017 3:42 PM