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Vets' 'Budman: "Delays to Veterans' road to wellness"

The Bread Guy

Staff member
Directing Staff
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From the Vets Ombudsman:
Ottawa, ON - December 7, 2016

Today I’m writing about an issue that I’ve been raising for some time with Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) without success. It is an issue for which I receive many calls from frustrated Veterans and an issue that highlights an important inconsistency between the Pension Act and the New Veterans Charter (NVC).

There is an unfairness in the Veteran Health Care Regulations in how VAC reimburses Veterans for their treatment expenses related to their illness or injury. Veterans eligible for a pension under the Pension Act are reimbursed for all expenses they incur, from up to 90 days before they even apply for a Disability Pension. Veterans covered under the NVC who are eligible for a Disability Award are only reimbursed for expenses as of the date that VAC decides to approve a Disability Award. This is a significant difference, and one that is compounded further by the fact that VAC is currently working through a backlog of Disability Award applications meaning that decisions can take up to nine months.

This means that a Veteran who applies for a Disability Award for hearing loss, for example, may wait months for a decision from VAC, and during this time, he or she may have to purchase a hearing aid or pay for other treatment out of their own pocket, without reimbursement from VAC. The Veteran can only begin to submit their expenses to VAC for reimbursement after their application for a Disability Award has been approved, and only for those expenses that were incurred after the approval.

This inequity was acknowledged after the implementation of the NVC as an unintentional consequence of changes in how the Disability Award was administered compared to the Disability Pension. VAC’s Evaluation of Disability Pensions and Awards in 2010 noted the inequity and recommended that treatment benefits be reimbursed retroactively, to the date of application. I have also recommended in two of my reports: Veterans’ Right to Fair Adjudication (2012) and Veterans Right to Fair Adjudication:  The Follow-Up Report (2014), that the Minister of Veterans Affairs remedy this inequity. Specifically, I asked that the Minister “put forward the necessary legislative and regulatory amendments to allow Veterans to be compensated retroactively to the date of application” under the NVC.

Since the beginning of my mandate, I have raised this issue and it has yet to be addessed. It has become further exacerbated now by the steady lengthening of turnaround times for Disability Award decisions. VAC is fully aware of this problem and has repeatedly promised to address it at the right time, but the right time never seems to arrive. VAC must move forward to correct this issue and to prevent further delays for Veterans on their road to wellness. Our Veterans and their families deserve no less.