Fewer veterans have applied for disability during COVID-19, sparking accessibility concerns – National

The federal government is being criticized for not doing enough to help disabled veterans as new figures appear to confirm fears COVID-19 is making it more difficult for them to apply for assistance.

The figures from Veterans Affairs Canada show about 8,000 veterans applied for disability benefits during the first three full months of the pandemic, which was about half the normal number.

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The sharp drop in the number of applications helped the department make a dent in the backlog of more than 40,000 requests for federal assistance waiting to be processed.

Yet the department also acknowledges at least part of the decline is likely because the pandemic made it harder for veterans to get the necessary information to apply, such as doctor’s assessments.

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That is exactly what Brian Forbes, chairman of the National Council of Veterans Associations, has been warning about since the spring.

Forbes, whose organization represents more than 60 veterans groups in Canada, says he is frustrated because the government has not moved to address the problem despite knowing about it for months, and that now is the time to act.

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