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More Than Just Paperwork: Veteran Homelessness and the Impact of Claims Delay

Administrative backlogs and excess paperwork cost more than just lost time. When it comes to claims within the legal, insurance, medical, or worker’s compensation fields, there’s a human impact behind every file.

Published on:
February 15, 2023

Administrative backlogs and excess paperwork cost more than just lost time. When it comes to claims within the legal, insurance, medical, or worker’s compensation fields, there’s a human impact behind every file. For each disability application, accident claim, or request for workers compensation, there is a patient and their family dealing with illness or injury. Going without pay, taking time off to care for a loved one, or adjusting to a change in lifestyle can all be part of their recovery.  

This is especially true for veterans. In countries like Canada, there are as many as 23,000 veteran disability claims waiting to be processed. Despite the federal government’s acknowledgement of the delay — and its promise to eliminate it — veterans discharged from the military and unable to work due to injuries, illness, or PTSD often wait months (or even years) for the results of their claim. The situation is similar in the United States, where recent data shows 68% of Veteran’s Affairs claims processors incorrectly handle the parts of the disability process related to medical exams or expert opinions. This leads to incorrect decisions, wasted resources, and a long wait time.  

With 46% of Canadians within $200 of financial insolvency at the end of 2022 and Americans showing similar trends, administrative backlogs are more than just an inconvenience. For veterans, these delays are part of an even larger risk.  

Veteran Homelessness in Canada and the United States

Addressing veteran homelessness has long been a priority for governments. As of 2021, Canadian veterans represented close to 2% of those using emergency shelters, although higher numbers of homeless veterans likely exist. One in five veterans reported not staying in an emergency shelter, which would exclude them from these figures but not necessarily mean they had an adequate place to stay.  

In the United States, veterans make up around 5.6% of the total homeless population. While most of these veterans were accessing emergency shelters or some form of transitional housing, around 40% of them were sleeping rough (on the streets, in abandoned buildings, or other places not meant for human habitation).  

Factors Contributing to Veteran Homelessness

In comparison to the homeless population as a whole, veterans in Canada are much less likely to cite substance abuse or conflict at home as the reason for their most recent episode of homelessness. Instead, they say illness or medical condition, job loss, or hospitalization was the deciding factor.  

The situation is similar in the United States, where researchers suggest lack of access to federal benefits and transitional training both contribute to homelessness among veterans. When injury or illness leaves people unable to work and waiting on access to funds, they’re at higher risk of becoming homeless. With this in mind, it’s no surprise that the most successful programs for reducing veteran homelessness are the ones that prevent it by providing temporary financial support.  

Consequences of Administrative Backlog  

Homelessness among US veterans has dropped significantly in the past decade. In 2009, veterans made up as much as 20% of the total US homeless population, with those experiencing medical conditions like traumatic brain injuries and PTSD most likely to be part of this group. Since then, many programs have been enacted to financially support veterans. Experts suggest that these supportive service programs (which cover expenses like security deposits or utility payments while recovering from an injury or waiting for the results of a claim) are associated with better outcomes overall.  

In Canada, programs do offer mental health benefits for veterans in the process of a disability claim. However, those with physical injuries will need to wait. Although the Canadian government has hired hundreds of temporary workers to reduce the backlog, applying for veteran disability benefits can still take as long as 10 months.

Preventing Delay in the Claims Process

Long processing times keep individuals and their families in paperwork limbo. Whether it’s worker’s compensation, insurance, or the results of a disability claim, there’s a real impact of lost time. Although the United States found success with supportive service programs and Canadian governments have attempted to alleviate the issue with additional staff, automated document processing is the sure solution for streamlining the process and enacting meaningful change. The only way we can ensure better outcomes for a future of automated document processing is by helping streamline this process.

We need to critically think about how the current claims process is stuck. This means, what can we do within the claims process to give back one week, one month, and hopefully, at some point in certain cases, one year to the claimant. If we can make this transpire to reality, it means that we can improve the life of every claimant and the very real socio-economic impacts that the claims systems has on veterans, but also we improve the outcomes of every stakeholder’s interaction within the complex insurance and claims ecosystem.  

Connor Atchison
Founder, CEO of Wisedocs

Connor is the Founder and CEO of Wisedocs. Connor Atchison founded Wisedocs to reimagine the claims space and bring automated and intelligent document processing of medical records to insurance, legal, and IMEs.

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