North Island-Powell River MP calls for changes to disability claims system

Veterans’ claims should be automatic, says Rachel Blaney

North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney has asked the federal minister of veterans affairs to change the approval system for disability claims.

In a letter to minister Lawrence MacAuley, Blaney stated that as has been seen over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, government departments and agencies are willing and able to implement systems that get support out to people in need as quickly as possible and determine eligibility later through an audit. 

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“Given the extreme backlog of disability benefit applications at Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC), which has persisted and in some cases worsened in recent years, I hope you will agree with me when I say that this presents a unique opportunity for VAC to change the way things are done, eliminate the existing backlog and ensure all of Canada’s veterans get the support they need in a timely fashion,” stated Blaney. “We were told in the standing committee on veterans affairs (ACVA) by department officials on March 10 that a plan to eliminate the backlog would be available within 30 days, and we have yet to receive that plan. 

“We have also been told multiple times in ACVA that automatic or artificial intelligence-supported approvals for specific disabilities, such as tinnitus, are going to be implemented soon. ACVA also heard that VAC is looking at the way our allies treat the disabilities of veterans, in some cases automatically approving common injuries linked with certain roles in the military, and seeing if such a system can be implemented in Canada.”

Blaney stated in light of the government’s response to COVID-19, it is now obvious that automatic approvals followed by audits are an incredibly efficient way of getting support to people in need.

“A number of veterans advocacy organizations are calling for this to apply to Canada’s veterans,” stated Blaney. “I see no insurmountable obstacle impeding VAC from applying this model to VAC’s disability benefit application process and getting Canadian veterans the support they need in a fair and expedient fashion. This measure could certainly form part of a plan to eliminate the overall backlog at VAC.”

Not only would automatic approvals significantly impact veterans in this country, but it would support VAC’s employees as well, according to Blaney.

“As we both well know, VAC employees were working significant overtime hours long before COVID-19 became an issue, and burnout was common in offices and departments across the country,” stated Blaney. “When burnout results in stress leave from work, the backlog of files gets worse, and thus we fall into a cycle with no relief in sight for veterans or VAC employees. 

“I hope you will agree with me and direct VAC to take this opportunity to pilot automatic approvals and later review the results in terms of financing, service delivery, veteran satisfaction, and employee well-being once the pandemic has subsided.”

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