December 14, 2020 – I am pleased to advise that we have achieved substantial progress and indeed, a major potential breakthrough, with respect to our crusade to compel Veterans Affairs Canada to take innovative and creative steps to alleviate the current unacceptable backlog/turnaround times for veterans' disability claims.
The House of Commons Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs issued its report Clearing the Jam: Addressing the Backlog of Disability Benefit Claims at Veterans Affairs Canada last Friday, December 11, 2020, following many months of study and stakeholder input.
As you will know, we presented our submission to the Committee last month as part and parcel of its deliberations:.
The Standing Committee findings identify quite clearly the present crisis in VAC adjudication and call for urgent and dramatic change in departmental protocols. Most importantly from our perspective, the report endorses our position that a form of automatic entitlement/pre-approval, together with fast-track protocols, need to be adopted by the department to address this significant challenge. As we have strongly argued, systematic change is absolutely necessary. It is self-evident that the departmental measures to increase staffing and resources will not be sufficient on their own to resolve this deplorable state of affairs, as underlined by the Parliamentary Budget Office report of September 2020.
I would suggest that the Standing Committee's report reflects a comprehensive canvassing of a number of the salient issues surrounding the backlog/wait time problem. With respect to the adjudicative initiatives we have focused on, the following represents the major recommendations made by the Standing Committee in its report to Parliament:
I am also encouraged in this regard by recent meetings with Deputy Minister Walt Natynczyk and senior officials of the department through a series of COVID-19 Task Force and Coffee Club sessions.
It is readily apparent that the Deputy Minister is ostensibly in the process of seeking legislative/regulatory authority to implement appropriate adjudicative changes required in accord with the Standing Committee conclusions and our longstanding proposals. It is my reading of the current situation that the department has finally recognized that there is sound rationale for incorporating the necessary adjudicative protocol amendments as the fundamental means of alleviating this unacceptable backlog/turnaround time conundrum.
As we have said all along, desperate times require bold and creative measures. Veterans deserve nothing less during these challenging times where financial and health concerns have been intensified by COVID-19!
We will continue to press the department to expedite the implementation of the necessary changes outlined by the Standing Committee report.
The Standing Committee has potentially provided a much-needed gift to the veterans' community at this special time of year!
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