Military careers are demanding and hazardous. Those who see combat can be terribly wounded, and many suffer post-traumatic stress disorder.
Thousands of our military women and men need help, and a new report from federal Veterans Ombudsman Guy Parent shows they’re being made to wait too long to get it.
Indeed, the document exposes troubling failures at Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC). Varying criteria and shifting deadlines are applied to different problems, little in the way of explanation is offered for delays and cases are not always prioritized according to need.
Worse, some claimants are treated better than others. Women and francophones wait between one and five months longer on average than anglophone men to have their claims adjudicated and settled.
The backlog is growing. Based on a sample of cases studied by Mr. Parent’s office, seven in 10 non-emergency requests (a large majority of claims) took longer to process than the 16-week standard. The average turnaround was 24 weeks. Half the French-language claims examined took a year or more.
This shouldn’t need to be said but, if anyone is entitled to easy, speedy and strictly equitable access to government assistance, it is those willing to place themselves in harm’s way for the benefit of all Canadians.
Mr. Parent proposes a series of sensible remedies, which Ottawa should adopt. They include a needs-based triage system and comprehensive checklists to reduce the number of incomplete applications.
The latter is illustrative. Mr. Parent says, “VAC does not track the amount of time spent following up on incomplete applications.” Nor does it systematically track Canadian Forces personnel with “unmet health needs” who are transitioning to civilian life.
These issues can’t be laid entirely at the feet of the Trudeau government. Many of the problems are not new and have gone ignored by successive governments.
It is up to the Trudeau government to fix it, though. The shortcomings Mr. Parent identifies can be solved with the proper resources. Ottawa must quickly provide them.