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Disability Benefit Processing – Summary Report

Quarter Four of Government Fiscal Year 2020-2021 (ending 31 March 2021)

*This report will be updated with new quarterly statistics within 90 days of the end of each quarter.

What's on this page

  1. Overview
  2. Statistics
  3. Additional Information

Overview

More and more Veterans, Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) members are coming forward to get the benefits and services they need to improve their well-being. Between 2015-16 to 2019-20, first applications for disability benefits increased by more than 75 percent. Campaigns to raise awareness of My VAC Account, the growing need for mental health services, and improvements to our benefits and services appear to be driving this increase. While the number of applications decreased in 2020-2021, perhaps due to the impacts of the pandemic, intake began to rise towards the end of the fiscal year.

To process the increased number of claims, we have hired more staff, made improvements to the application process, and simplified decision-making for some medical conditions. Recently-hired employees completed their initial training and began making decisions in January 2021.

Our most important priority continues to be providing more timely decisions on disability benefit applications. In June 2020, we released our plan to address the long-standing issue of decision wait times. While we implement this plan, we will continue to inform Canadians about our performance by proactively sharing the information below.

Statistics

In the past four years, we processed more than 160,000 applications. In fiscal year 2020-21, we delivered $2.3B in disability benefits to Veterans. Below, you'll find data on the number of applications received, completed and pending, as well as average approval rates for decisions.

Veterans receiving Disability Benefits (as of 31 March 2021)*
Receipt of Disability Benefits
130,839

* including RCMP

Disability benefits are payments made to individuals for a service-related disability in one of two ways:

What is the backlog?

Total applications in the backlog
Total applications in the backlog
15,214 (12,611 individuals)

A complete application that has been waiting longer than our service standard is considered to be in the backlog.

Note on service standards: Service standards are our commitment to a measurable level of performance which clients can expect under normal circumstances. Our service standard target for disability benefits is for 80 percent of decisions to be made within: 16 weeks for First Applications and Reassessments; and 12 weeks for Departmental Reviews.

What is the total number of pending disability benefit applications?

Total number of pending disability benefit applications
Incomplete applications that need more information Applications awaiting assignment* Complete applications waiting for a decision - Within service standard Complete applications waiting for a decision - Outside service standard Total
As of 31 Mar 2019 (Q4) 13,564 N/A 9,862 16,879 40,305 (29,964 individuals)
As of 30 Sept 2019 (Q2) 18,330 N/A 3,074 23,260 44,664 (30,367 individuals)
As of 31 Dec 2019 (Q3) 20,995 N/A 4,980 20,233 46,208 (33,320 individuals)
As of 31 Mar 2020 (Q4) 22,545 N/A 4,533 22,138 49,216 (39,240 individuals)
As of 30 Jun 2020 (Q1) 12,125 9,244 2,355 21,572 45,296 (33,464 individuals)
As of 30 Sept 2020 (Q2) 12,739 9,467 3,678 19,633 45,517 (33,388 individuals)
As of 31 Dec 2020 (Q3) 14,446 9,647 4,227 16,346 44,666 (32,949 individuals)
As of 31 Mar 2021 (Q4) 13,933 10,290 3,790 15,214 43,227 (31,937 individuals)

*Note: As part of our wait time plan, we continue to improve the accuracy and transparency of our statistical reporting on disability benefits applications. Incomplete applications include those where essential information is missing, such as proof of identity, signed forms or confirmed diagnosis. Applications awaiting assignment are complete applications ready to be assigned for a decision.

Note: Data for Q1 2019 was not available due to upgrades to our application tracking software.

There are three types of pending applications:

1) Incomplete applications

Incomplete applications may be missing information such as proof of identity, signed forms or required questionnaires. Applications at this stage either require information to be submitted, are being validated for completeness or are being prepared as a package for the next step.

As of 31 March 2021, we had 13,933 incomplete applications.

2) Applications awaiting assignment

During this stage, most of these applications are waiting to be assigned. An administrative decision-maker looks at the application to determine whether or not the claim is straightforward. If it is, they will make a decision. If the condition is more complex, the application is moved to a nurse decision-maker.

Our wait time plan includes the hiring of 300 employees dedicated to processing applications. With the recent investment of $192 million, our goal is to significantly reduce the backlog, and improve how we make decisions to ensure that we maintain productivity beyond 2022.

As of 31 March 2021, we had 10,290 applications awaiting review.

3) Complete applications waiting for a decision

For these applications, we have the required information and the files are working through the process.

As of 31 March 2021, there were 19,004 complete applications ready for a decision.

Incomplete applications + Complete applications = 43,227 applications pending (as of 31 March 2021)

Historical summary - Applications received and processed Description of chart below

Chart 1: Disability Benefit Applications by Fiscal Quarter (2017-2020)
2017 Q1 2017 Q2 2017 Q3 2017 Q4 2018 Q1 2018 Q2 2018 Q3 2018 Q4 2019 Q2 2019 Q3 2019 Q4 2020 Q1 2020 Q2 2020 Q3 2020 Q4
Incomplete Applications (need more information) 11,032 12,158 12,899 13,713 16,188 15,634 14,732 13,564 18,330 20,995 22,545 12,125 12,739 14,446 13,933
Awaiting Assignment n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a 9,244 9,467 9,647 10,290
Complete applications waiting for a decision - within service standard 6,865 6,731 6,640 6,511 8,463 9,101 8,972 9,862 3,074 4,980 4,533 2,355 3,678 4,227 3,790
Complete applications waiting for a decision - outside service standard 6,645 8,714 10,136 10,591 11,288 14,022 15,863 16,879 23,260 20,233 22,138 21,572 19,633 16,346 15,214
Total 24,542 27,603 29,675 30,815 35,939 38,757 39,567 40,305 44,664 46,208 49,216 45,296 45,517 44,666 43,227
2017 Q1 2017 Q2 2017 Q3 2017 Q4 2018 Q1 2018 Q2 2018 Q3 2018 Q4 2019 Q2 2019 Q3 2019 Q4 2020 Q1 2020 Q2 2020 Q3 2020 Q4
Applications Received 13,661 12,302 12,130 14,170 16,619 13,614 15,373 15,318 17,045 14,781 14,531 8,154 9,827 12,462 13,704
Applications Completed 8,625 8,083 8,733 10,997 9,905 8,820 12,180 10,877 12,133 8,905 9,510 9,550 7,380 10,904 11,795

Note: Data for Q1 2019 was not available due to upgrades to our application tracking software.

Applications Received
First Application Reassessment Departmental Review Total
1 Jan 2019 - 31 Mar 2019 9,173 4,834 1,274 15,281
1 Apr 2019 - 30 Jun 2019 10,855 4,577 1,264 16,699
1 Jul 2019 - 30 Sept 2019 12,289 3,785 1,045 17,119
1 Oct 2019 - 31 Dec 2019 10,187 3,543 1,053 14,783
1 Jan 2020 - 31 Mar 2020 10,062 3,584 886 14,532
1 Apr 2020 - 30 Jun 2020 5,702 2,217 235 8,154
1 Jul 2020 - 30 Sept 2020 6,693 2,875 259 9,827
1 Oct 2020 - 31 Dec 2020 8,285 3,590 587 12,462
1 Jan 2021 - 31 Mar 2021 10,124 3,091 489 13,704

Individuals applying for a Reassessment have previously received a favourable decision for the same disability. This allows them to access treatment benefits, which provide coverage for things such as prescriptions, medical equipment, nursing services and appointments with specialists.

If the Veteran disagrees with the decision on their First Application or Reassessment and has new evidence to present, or there is an error in fact or law, they may request a review (Departmental Review) or appeal.

Decisions made
First Application Reassessment Departmental Review Total
1 Jan 2019 - 31 Mar 2019 5,429 4,6424 806 10,877
1 Apr 2019 - 30 Jun 2019 6,777 4,328 559 11,664
1 Jul 2019 - 30 Sept 2019 7,210 4,537 429 12,176
1 Oct 2019 - 31 Dec 2019 5,826 2,563 516 8,905
1 Jan 2020 - 31 Mar 2020 5,519 3,325 666 9,510
1 Apr 2020 - 30 Jun 2020 5,987 3,293 270 9,550
1 Jul 2020 - 30 Sept 2020 5,130 1,351 899 7,380
1 Oct 2020 - 31 Dec 2020 6,840 2,774 1,290 10,904
1 Jan 2021 - 31 Mar 2021 6,845 4,426 524 11,795

When we have made a decision on an application and the Veteran has been informed, the application is considered finalized.

Percentage of approved applications
First Application Reassessment Departmental Review
1 Jan 2019 - 31 Mar 2019 81% 75% 83%
1 Apr 2019 - 30 Jun 2019 85% 73% 79%
1 Jul 2019 - 30 Sept 2019 85% 78% 81%
1 Oct 2019 - 31 Dec 2019 78% 57% 78%
1 Jan 2020 - 31 Mar 2020 76% 63% 76%
1 Apr 2020 - 30 Jun 2020 76% 77% 82%
1 Jul 2020 - 30 Sept 2020 85% 69% 89%
1 Oct 2020 - 31 Dec 2020 85.7% 74.3% 76.2%
1 Jan 2021 - 31 Mar 2021 81.4% 72.7% 78.1%
Levels of disability among Veterans
Assessment level 0-20% (low) 20-40% 40-60% 60-80% 80-100% (high)
06 April 2021 45.4% 23.2% 13.6% 8.1% 9.6%

Once we determine a confirmed disability is service-related, we look at the severity and impact on quality of life. Using this information and the Table of Disabilities we assign an assessment level ranging from 0-100%.

For example, a Veteran assessed at 100% may have a disability that is severe and impacts their quality of life significantly. A Veteran may also have a combination of disabilities that amount to a 100% assessment level.

Above is a summary of how many Veterans are currently receiving disability benefits based on different assessment levels. As the table shows, about three quarters of Veterans are assessed at levels of disability less than 40%. Less than 10% of Veterans are assessed at 80% or above.

Average wait times

Please see our Wait time tool for wait times across various programs, updated weekly.

Note: To start counting the wait time, we must first have all the required information from the applicant.

Additional Information

Veterans Affairs Canada Statistics - Facts and Figures

Veterans Affairs Canada Service Standards Results

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