On Hold: Veterans Affairs struggling to answer former service members' calls

Phone numbers

New figures show many veterans have had a hard time getting anyone to pick up when they call Veterans Affairs Canada's toll-free line for information or assistance _ with nearly one in five hanging up before their call is answered.

The figures uncovered by The Canadian Press through the access-to-information law show a continued trend of current and former service members being put on hold longer than promised when calling the department's toll-free number.

While Veterans Affairs aims to answer 80 per cent of calls within two minutes, only 40 per cent of the more than 440,000 calls received last year were answered within that target.

A further 84,000 calls were designated as abandoned, meaning the caller hung up.

Veterans usually call the number to apply for or get information about benefits and services, or to get updates on their applications.

The department says it recently hired more employees to ensure call centres are fully staffed and now routinely meets the two-minute target, though it could not provide up-to-date figures because of a technical issue.