Backlog of applications for veterans' benefits grows by the thousands

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More veterans than ever are waiting to find out whether they qualify for disability benefits from the federal government.

New figures from Veterans Affairs Canada show more than 44,000 applications from veterans were sitting in the queue at the end of September, which was a 10-per-cent increase from only six months earlier.

Under fire for the ever-increasing backlog, which in November 2017 stood at 29,000 applications, the department for the first time detailed the number of files it says it couldn't process because they were filed incompletely.

Yet even setting those aside, the number of completed applications sitting in the queue for months on end stood at more than 23,000, an increase of 6,300 from last March.

Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay says the backlog is unacceptable and eliminating it is his top priority, but won't say whether more money will be part of the solution.

Veterans' ombudsman Craig Dalton in a report last week said the most frequent complaints to his office are about the backlog and wait times, and that the government needs to address the growing problem.