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"Explaining the numbers behind the backlog at Veterans Affairs Canada"

The Bread Guy

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This from The Canadian Press (Coles Notes: the clock starts when we have AAAAAAAAALLLL the paperwork we ask for in hand - OK, maybe not news but the latest explanation from MSM) ....
The exact size of the backlog of disability benefits applications with Veterans Affairs Canada is a matter of dispute.

The government has long set a departmental target of processing 80 per cent of claims within 16 weeks. The clock starts after a complete application with all supporting documentation has been received and the file is assigned to an adjudicator.

By that definition, only about 15,000 of the 40,000 applications with the department at the end of June are considered the backlog. The remainder are classified as incomplete applications, have yet to be assigned to an adjudicator, or remain within the 16-week target.

Many experts and advocates say that definition is misleading and understates the extent of the problem. They argue the clock should start as soon as an application is filed, which would ensure faster service and keep veterans from falling through the cracks.

The House of Commons’ veterans affairs committee, in its December report on the backlog, agreed applications that have not been assigned to an adjudicator should count, but did not comment on the other claims.

The dispute has a direct effect on reported wait times, with critics saying the department's assertion that the average claim is processed within 35 weeks — more than twice the target — does not reflect reality ...
 

CBH99

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Does anybody have any solid incling or info on why it takes so long to process a claim, even once all the paperwork is in hand?

Even if the clock starts once they have all the paperwork, 16 weeks is 4 months roughly. What takes 4 months to process if they have all of the info they asked for??

(The fact that, at best, it takes more than twice that long is insane…)


Is it a lack of adjudicators? A lack of people pulling the file together? A lack of something else?

Like what is the actual reason for the holdup?
 

daftandbarmy

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Does anybody have any solid incling or info on why it takes so long to process a claim, even once all the paperwork is in hand?

Even if the clock starts once they have all the paperwork, 16 weeks is 4 months roughly. What takes 4 months to process if they have all of the info they asked for??

(The fact that, at best, it takes more than twice that long is insane…)


Is it a lack of adjudicators? A lack of people pulling the file together? A lack of something else?

Like what is the actual reason for the holdup?

There are alot of expensive publicaitons about service excellence available, if you Google them. This one lets us know that they are 'on it, so don't panic' :)

Note: always be suspicious of a continuous improvement action plan that has, as one of its first steps:

"Establish an Office of Service Excellence to support continuous improvement."



Delivering on Service Excellence​

Introduction​

Veterans and their families have earned the respect and gratitude of all Canadians, and the Government of Canada places the highest priority on making sure they have the support and services they need, when and where they need them.

This was clear when the Prime Minister presented the Minister of Veterans Affairs with a challenging mandate back in November 2015: from improving Veterans’ financial support and reopening offices, to streamlining the transition from military to civilian life and overhauling how the Department’s services are delivered.

The Minister is unequivocal in his desire to fulfill his mandate and ensure that Veterans and their families receive the respect, support, care and economic opportunities they deserve. He and the Department have been working hard to deliver on these priorities, and an essential step was to undertake a comprehensive review of how services are delivered.

He noted recently: “I believe this review is an important step in making it easier for Veterans and their families to understand and access programs and services. They have earned our respect and gratitude. And as the Minister of Veterans Affairs, I will ensure that we continue to honour their service to our great nation.”

While progress is being made in many areas, including increasing financial support and delivering a higher standard of service and care with the hiring of more than 370 new staff as of January 2017, a review of how the department delivers services shows that wholesale change is needed. Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) is committed to implementing the changes that will help Veterans succeed in their transition to civilian life.

The service delivery review and its findings will help shape VAC’s more holistic and comprehensive approach to Veteran well-being in our pursuit of service excellence.

 

CBH99

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I don’t have any personal experience with VAC.

I did read the article that you posted, and it reads well. It sounds like VAC is trying to streamline things and improve service - but I also realize this is a government released document, and therefore is going to say exactly that.


For anybody currently dealing with VAC - I’m curious. Have you folks noticed an improvement over the last few years?
 

daftandbarmy

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I don’t have any personal experience with VAC.

I did read the article that you posted, and it reads well. It sounds like VAC is trying to streamline things and improve service - but I also realize this is a government released document, and therefore is going to say exactly that.


For anybody currently dealing with VAC - I’m curious. Have you folks noticed an improvement over the last few years?

I have had fairly minimal contact with them, fortunately, but have been 100% satisfied - so far.

-Responses to (a few dumb) queries have been prompt, respectful and accurate.

-I can speak to someone if I need to.

-The host of forms etc they post are completely Byzantine, but seem navigable. I hate forms, what can I say.

-The online account system seems to be working well, and seems robust and fully confidential.



Now, if I had a bunch of complex issues on the go that had alot to do with my quality of life etc, my experiences may have been completely different.
 

Colin Parkinson

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"Incomplete file" not accepted for processing is pretty common and I believe that fits into the Service Standards Act as well. If a Department can not meet the service standards that it proposed, then they cannot charge a fee. A Department must design a reasonable service standard and show it can meet them for 6 months before they are allowed to charge a fee. Doing this from memory, so my details may be off or obsolete.
 

meni0n

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35 weeks? That's cute. They received all my paperwork (file complete move to step 3) in Sept 2020. Still waiting 56 weeks later and they're only working on June 2019 files.
You sure June 2019? I called last week and was told they're working on September 2019
 

meni0n

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I don’t have any personal experience with VAC.

I did read the article that you posted, and it reads well. It sounds like VAC is trying to streamline things and improve service - but I also realize this is a government released document, and therefore is going to say exactly that.


For anybody currently dealing with VAC - I’m curious. Have you folks noticed an improvement over the last few years?
It has been taking longer and longer for claims to be processed. Just to give an example, I had a claim for Feb 2019 go to complete in August 2020 while the claim from August 2019 is still not done.
 

PuckChaser

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You sure June 2019? I called last week and was told they're working on September 2019
If you called thats more accurate. Only means I'm still 52 weeks away from a decision on a file that's been ready for 56 weeks.
 

Firebird

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Does anybody have any solid incling or info on why it takes so long to process a claim, even once all the paperwork is in hand?

Even if the clock starts once they have all the paperwork, 16 weeks is 4 months roughly. What takes 4 months to process if they have all of the info they asked for??

(The fact that, at best, it takes more than twice that long is insane…)


Is it a lack of adjudicators? A lack of people pulling the file together? A lack of something else?

Like what is the actual reason for the holdup?
I wish I knew the answer as well. I submitted my application in 2016 and it is at Stage 3 for the 3rd time. It was at Stage 3 for 83 weeks and then suspended as VAC medical did not agree with diagnosis. I went to a specialist that confirmed the diagnosis and since then it has been at Stage 3 for 53 weeks. You would think after 83 weeks you wanted verification of diagnosis and I sent that in that it would be a very simple case to render a decision and yet 53 weeks and still waiting.
 

CBH99

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I wish I knew the answer as well. I submitted my application in 2016 and it is at Stage 3 for the 3rd time. It was at Stage 3 for 83 weeks and then suspended as VAC medical did not agree with diagnosis. I went to a specialist that confirmed the diagnosis and since then it has been at Stage 3 for 53 weeks. You would think after 83 weeks you wanted verification of diagnosis and I sent that in that it would be a very simple case to render a decision and yet 53 weeks and still waiting.
You'd think the government would be tired of being sued all the time due to VAC issues...
 

Fishbone Jones

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I don’t have any personal experience with VAC.

I did read the article that you posted, and it reads well. It sounds like VAC is trying to streamline things and improve service - but I also realize this is a government released document, and therefore is going to say exactly that.


For anybody currently dealing with VAC - I’m curious. Have you folks noticed an improvement over the last few years?
I've been dealing with VAC since 1995. It has, to me, gotten worse. I've noticed zero improvement. There has been periods of stagnation, but it never seems to trend upward afterwards. That's probably just me though.
 

CBH99

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I've been dealing with VAC since 1995. It has, to me, gotten worse. I've noticed zero improvement. There has been periods of stagnation, but it never seems to trend upward afterwards. That's probably just me though.
Doesn’t sound like it’s just you. Not by a long shot.

You’d think after some pretty expensive class-action lawsuits, the government would micromanage the changes needed at VAC, rather than just say ‘improve your services, please.’


If their stated goal is 16 weeks from the time they receive all required documents, they are already setting the bar pretty low. CRA can do better than that, and they literally have to deal with tens of millions of files annually.

If they have all of the documents they’ve requested, and the compensation I’m sure is based on a formula - nothing should take 16 weeks. The fact that 16 weeks if their goal is pretty bad - especially since that goal is to drastically improve service…


I’m genuinely curious as to what the hold up is. I may start doing some digging, including Freedom of Information requests.

If a member submits all documents requested, and VAC uses a formula to determine compensation, there is no reason a decision can’t be made the same damn day. (Or the same week since it’s VAC.)



In my ideal world - a decision is made the same week all of the documents are received. If VAC needs to verify information or is waiting on documents from DND - allow for an additional month.

A VAC physician who has never met the applicant is not in a position to be disputing a diagnosis of a specialist doctor who has actually met with, and treated, said member. (If something seriously doesn’t add up, then perhaps the VAC physician can contact the member’s physician to discuss or request additional documents with member’s approval.)

If the member feels they are being short changed, or something is missing, they can contact a ‘Disputes Branch’ which could then look at the file in real time, review the formula used, and verify accuracy.


If VAC is just now working on 2019 applications, and we are practically into 2022… 16 weeks is obviously not happening, and the backlog will just get so big it becomes unmanageable.

🤯🤬
 

TCM621

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A VAC physician who has never met the applicant is not in a position to be disputing a diagnosis of a specialist doctor who has actually met with, and treated, said member. (If something seriously doesn’t add up, then perhaps the VAC physician can contact the member’s physician to discuss or request additional documents with member’s approval.)

You sign a document authorizing VAC to discuss your medical information with your Dr already so they wouldn't need to seek extra approval. They really shouldn't have to come back to you for more medical information. The VAC Dr can easily pick up the phone and get clarification on a diagnosis that doesn't seem to add up.

Now, to be fair, that may add some time that is out of VACs hands. Drs everywhere are swamped and actually getting in touch with them may take some time.
 

PuckChaser

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I've been dealing with VAC since 1995. It has, to me, gotten worse. I've noticed zero improvement. There has been periods of stagnation, but it never seems to trend upward afterwards. That's probably just me though.
It got better with Erin O'Toole as MVA. He would use Ministerial Inquiries on ridiculously overdue files and get members a decision a week later. I had 2 claims go through in 20 weeks for Stage 3 when himself and the Tories were in charge.
 

daftandbarmy

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Doesn’t sound like it’s just you. Not by a long shot.

You’d think after some pretty expensive class-action lawsuits, the government would micromanage the changes needed at VAC, rather than just say ‘improve your services, please.’


If their stated goal is 16 weeks from the time they receive all required documents, they are already setting the bar pretty low. CRA can do better than that, and they literally have to deal with tens of millions of files annually.

If they have all of the documents they’ve requested, and the compensation I’m sure is based on a formula - nothing should take 16 weeks. The fact that 16 weeks if their goal is pretty bad - especially since that goal is to drastically improve service…


I’m genuinely curious as to what the hold up is. I may start doing some digging, including Freedom of Information requests.

If a member submits all documents requested, and VAC uses a formula to determine compensation, there is no reason a decision can’t be made the same damn day. (Or the same week since it’s VAC.)



In my ideal world - a decision is made the same week all of the documents are received. If VAC needs to verify information or is waiting on documents from DND - allow for an additional month.

A VAC physician who has never met the applicant is not in a position to be disputing a diagnosis of a specialist doctor who has actually met with, and treated, said member. (If something seriously doesn’t add up, then perhaps the VAC physician can contact the member’s physician to discuss or request additional documents with member’s approval.)

If the member feels they are being short changed, or something is missing, they can contact a ‘Disputes Branch’ which could then look at the file in real time, review the formula used, and verify accuracy.


If VAC is just now working on 2019 applications, and we are practically into 2022… 16 weeks is obviously not happening, and the backlog will just get so big it becomes unmanageable.

🤯🤬

You might try the Veterans' Ombudsperson, although they only usually deal with individuals who feel they've been treated unfairly as opposed to advocates, I think:

 

CBH99

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You sign a document authorizing VAC to discuss your medical information with your Dr already so they wouldn't need to seek extra approval. They really shouldn't have to come back to you for more medical information. The VAC Dr can easily pick up the phone and get clarification on a diagnosis that doesn't seem to add up.

Now, to be fair, that may add some time that is out of VACs hands. Drs everywhere are swamped and actually getting in touch with them may take some time.
Signing a medical release form of sorts so that doctors can just chat with each other is reasonable, and I’m glad the document is there for when/if VAC does need to verify.


I was moreso thinking of the following post when I wrote that:

I wish I knew the answer as well. I submitted my application in 2016 and it is at Stage 3 for the 3rd time. It was at Stage 3 for 83 weeks and then suspended as VAC medical did not agree with diagnosis. I went to a specialist that confirmed the diagnosis and since then it has been at Stage 3 for 53 weeks. You would think after 83 weeks you wanted verification of diagnosis and I sent that in that it would be a very simple case to render a decision and yet 53 weeks and still waiting.
This isn’t a unique case by any stretch.

And doctors are busy, yes - but not so busy they can’t pick up a phone & discuss a diagnosis with a colleague for over a year.


I know there were a few individuals who lost a limb, or ended up paralyzed, etc who had to resubmit their medical forms each year to confirm that “Yes my leg is still missing” or “Yes I’m still a paraplegic…”

They did eventually fix that. Thanks heavens 🤦🏼‍♂️ But I know one guy personally who broke his back while deployed to Afghanistan, and he has to submit a few specialist documents each year that say ‘the chronic pain in his back is due to him breaking his back while deployed’ in order to continue receiving benefits. (The incident was well documented, as it involved several people.)


As a taxpayer, I’m glad the money seems to be tightly controlled. But as a citizen, if a member is entitled to that compensation, we should be getting rid of some red tape and closing files.

The government was pretty lightning quick with CERB. Basically within a few weeks, CERB went from an idea to almost every citizen 15yo or older receiving $2000 a month via direct deposit.

Can the government not take just a little bit of real focus and time, and move with the same authority & audacity as it did with CERB?

The least we can do - as a government & as a country - is to minimize the stress a member goes through to receive the benefits they’ve rightly earned, after they spent years/decades of their life serving us.


It IS doable. It’s just not being done.

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