On December 12, 2020, Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) Consultation Team President Doreen Weatherbie and PIPSC Atlantic Regional Office Manager Paul Hartigan testified before the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs about staffing and workload issues at the department.

Close to 19,000 disability benefits applications are currently backlogged at VAC. In 2019 the government announced a plan to address the problem by hiring several hundred temporary employees, but this is not a viable long-term solution.

In her testimony, PIPSC representative Weatherbie described it as “akin to putting a Band-Aid on an amputation.” Even with the excellent training provided by our members, it is estimated that it will take these new employees several years before they can process cases at peak efficiency and eliminate the backlog.

In the meantime, our members will continue to struggle with excessive workloads, mental health issues and stress leave, a situation that has only been exacerbated by the pandemic. The government intends to release these temporary hires once the backlog has been cleared, which will only result in the same issues recurring in the future.

This situation is completely unacceptable not only to our members but to the tens of thousands of current and former Canadian military personnel who depend on their support.

We will continue to press the government to implement a permanent solution to these critical issues at VAC, including the hiring of additional full-time staff, workload reduction, and the provision of adequate mental health support for our already overtaxed members.