We analyzed the feedback and experiences you shared, and developed six recommendations for improving the disability benefit application process.
1. Increase awareness and promote the benefits of My VAC Account to apply online
Given how many respondents indicated that they applied on paper (29%) and that half of them did so because they weren’t aware of the online option, this tells us that we need to: increase awareness of My VAC Account for online applications; and promote the benefits of applying online (e.g. guided applications, status tracking, secure messaging).
2. Train and collaborate with those who assist Veterans in filling out applications
Given how many respondents indicated challenges with applying and the percentage who sought help in doing so, we see an opportunity to train and collaborate with those who support applicants. Doing so should reduce the chances of submitting an incomplete application. We will be looking into ways such as information sessions for third party groups to better understand what is needed and how to help fill out an application.
3. Make the application steps clear, concise and easy to understand
Given the high percentages of respondents who were not confident that they had submitted a complete application (61%) and unclear on next steps (79%)—combined with the percentage who sought help in applying—this tells us that we need to do a much better job at making the application process clearer with better support material. One of the first steps that we will be taking is to consult on how to improve our online application in My VAC Account. We also plan to review our applications and communications material to ensure they meet applicants’ needs.
4. Build a more comprehensive tool to track application status by breaking down the progress into more detailed steps
When we asked what applicants found the most frustrating, not knowing the status of the application was a major concern. These results are consistent with stakeholder feedback that a better status tracking tool is very important to improving the process. The consensus has been that current tools do not offer enough consistent information about the status of an application. A more comprehensive version of the tool is expected to be released in 2022. It will provide more detail on the status of an application, as well as indicate any pieces that may be missing so that information can be provided more quickly to move the application toward a decision.
5. Confirm that an application is complete earlier
Given that the majority (60%) of respondents were not satisfied with how long it took us to contact them, and the significant difference between how long it took us to contact them vs. how long they thought it should take, this tells us we need to more quickly assess applications for completeness. We need to do this so that if an application isn’t complete, we can let the applicant know sooner. We have made significant progress on this front since the consultation. The improved status tracking will also better show the movement of applications and if anything is required to make it complete for adjudication.
6. Make the process more digital
This recommendation relates to the percentage of respondents (35%) who told us that accessing medical diagnosis/documentation was difficult and frustrating, combined with the open text feedback indicating that improving how medical information is obtained was a top concern.
Improving how medical information is shared among several different areas can improve processing times. We are focusing on the aspects within our control. We are currently developing a new tool for health professionals to improve how they submit documents that are key to a decision being made.
We have also implemented a Service Health Records Search Tool for Hearing Loss and Tinnitus that is reducing the time needed to find information to make a decision.