Ottawa struggles to deliver benefits to disabled veterans and vulnerable populations: AG report

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A new report from the Auditor General of Canada released Tuesday finds the federal government is struggling to ensure that disabled veterans, injured police officers and vulnerable Canadians receive the benefits they need.

Karen Hogan on Tuesday presented four reports auditing the federal government’s efforts to: provide disability benefits to veterans; provide income and other benefits to vulnerable populations; using gender-based analysis to improve people’s lives and help diverse prison populations.

“These audits highlight long-standing problems and obstacles across a wide range of government activities,” Hogan told reporters on Tuesday. “These barriers are unacceptable, whether they are faced by Indigenous and Black offenders, or by low-income individuals and veterans who access benefits.”

The report concluded that although Veterans Affairs Canada had taken steps to try to improve the disability benefit application process, its case management was inefficient and the department was unable to reduce wait times. for veterans.

“Implementation of the initiatives has been slow,” the report says. “Data to measure improvements was lacking. Funding and nearly half of the staff on the claims team were temporary.

“As a result, veterans have waited too long to receive benefits to support their physical and mental health and the general well-being of their families.”

Watch: Auditor General says government is struggling to deliver benefits to vulnerable populations:

The Auditor General of Canada reports that the government is struggling to provide benefits to vulnerable populations

Auditor General Karen Hogan says the government has been aware of the barriers to benefits for some time, but has done little to address the situation.

Almost 40 weeks of waiting

The report found that veterans waited nearly 40 weeks for a decision on their first application for disability benefits, while the department’s average processing time for most other applications was just 16 weeks.

The report says the department hasn’t met its benefit delivery standard for seven years.

The report also revealed that Francophones, women and injured RCMP officers had to wait longer than other Canadians for their benefits.

From April 2020 to September 2021, injured RCMP officers had to wait 38% longer than members of the Canadian Armed Forces for benefits, women had to wait 24% longer than men and Francophones had to wait wait 21% longer than English speakers.

“I am left with the conclusion that the government broke a promise it made to our veterans: that it would take care of them if they were injured in service,” Hogan said Tuesday.

“This has a real impact on the well-being of our veterans and their families.”

According to a new report from the Auditor General of Canada, the way Veterans Affairs administers disability benefits is inefficient and the department is unable to reduce wait times for veterans. (Combat Camera/DND)

To address the problems within the department, the Auditor General recommended that Veterans Affairs Canada revamp the way it organizes its data so that the department can make better decisions. The report also advised the department to better plan resources so that it can process applications in a timely manner.

The department said it accepted the criticisms and recommendations, but also blamed the delays on a 40% increase in the number of applications across all areas and a 75% increase in first applications.

“By the end of March 2022, the department expects to have halved the number of pending requests by more than our service standard,” the department said in its response.

Vulnerable populations and federal benefits

The Auditor General also examined how the federal government provides benefits to hard-to-reach and vulnerable populations, such as Aboriginal peoples, homeless people, newcomers to Canada, including refugees, people with disabilities, old people and young people.

The report found that departments were not doing enough to track the delivery of certain benefits to these groups, including the Canada Child Benefit, the Canada Workers Benefit, the Guaranteed Income Supplement and the Canada Learning Bond.

“The Canada Revenue Agency and Employment and Social Development Canada were unsure if most of their targeted outreach activities had helped increase benefit take-up rates for hard-to-reach populations,” Hogan said in a statement. .

“As a result, they fail to improve the lives of some individuals and families who may need these benefits the most.”

To fix the problem, the Auditor General said the Canada Revenue Agency and Employment and Social Development Canada need to: better measure the use of benefits to understand the problem; reach vulnerable populations more effectively and work more effectively with other government departments.

Correctional Service Canada

Hogan’s look at the Correctional Service of Canada, CSC, revealed that the department had not adjusted its programs to meet the growing diversity of the prison population.

This approach, the report says, has contributed to the continued failure to address systemic barriers that “have consistently disadvantaged certain groups of offenders in custody.”

“We raised similar issues during our audits in 2015, 2016 and 2017, but the Correctional Service of Canada has done little to change the policies, practices, tools and approaches that produce these different results. “said Hogan.

The report found that because systemic barriers have not been removed, visible minorities, women and Aboriginal offenders have not had access to programs that would help them successfully reintegrate into society once released from jail.

Gender-Based Analysis

The report found, for example, that black offenders were placed in high security levels upon admission to the system at twice the rate of other prisoners. This is important, according to the report, because “an offender’s initial security placements affect their opportunities for parole and the length of sentences they serve in custody.”

The audit also found that CSC has failed to build a workforce that “reflects the diversity of its offender populations”.

The fourth report revealed that the federal government has not done enough to improve gender equality outcomes for various groups of people.

“We concluded that since our 2015 audit, limited progress had been made in identifying and addressing barriers to implementing gender-based analysis plus,” the report said. “Implementation challenges persisted, including some that were identified during our 2009 audit.”

The report indicates that the Privy Council Office, the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat and Women and Gender Equality Canada need to do a better job of working together to ensure that gender-based analysis of service delivery and government programs work.

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