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CANADA: Backlog grows as nearly 40,000 veterans wait for disability benefits

Advocates are critical, saying the government needs to ensure that injured veterans get the benefits they need and deserve

OTTAWA — The number of veterans waiting to find out whether they qualify for disability benefits has continued to balloon despite repeated promises to fix the mess.

New figures from Veterans Affairs Canada show almost 40,000 veterans were waiting at the end of November to hear whether their applications for financial assistance would be approved.

Not only did that represent an increase of 11,000 from the previous year, but wait times similarly increased as the percentage of applications sitting in the queue longer than 16 weeks grew.

The Trudeau government has moved to hire more staff after years of cuts under the previous Conservative government and last year promised $42 million over two years to clear up the backlog.

A senior official says the department is only now starting to realize the benefits of those additional resources and is confident the roll-out of a new pension system for disabled veterans next month won't cause further problems.

While Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay's office admits more needs to be done, some advocates say the time for talk is over and more action is needed to ensure injured veterans get the benefits they need and deserve.

- The Canadian Press