Injured Canadian veterans are being forced to wait on average twice as long as promised to find out whether they qualify for financial help from the government, even as the backlog of unprocessed applications for assistance continues to grow.
Veterans are told the vast majority will know within 16 weeks whether they qualify for compensation and assistance for service-related injuries after filing an application with the federal government.
Yet the average wait time at the end of April was 34.5 weeks — an increase of nearly two weeks since the start of the year and more than double what has been promised
Veterans Affairs did not say how much the COVID-19 pandemic is contributing to the problem. The department has said officials are continuing to process applications while working at home due to the crisis.
But the federal government has long been accused of causing added frustration and stress to many injured veterans because of the growing wait times, which have in turn contributed to a growing backlog of requests for help.
More than 46,200 applications were in the backlog at the end of December, according to Veterans Affairs. That represented an increase of 1,600 from September and 6,000 from March.
The number, which is expected to only increase due to the pandemic, includes more than 20,000 applications that the department says are “incomplete” and awaiting further information.
Veterans’ advocacy groups in recent months have been asking the Liberal government to automatically approve all applications for assistance from injured ex-soldiers and conduct an audit after the fact to catch any illegitimate claims.
They have specifically said many veterans are facing a hard time collecting all the necessary information due to various lockdowns, and noted such an approach has been adopted for some of the federal emergency programs set up due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The government has so far resisted such calls.
Then-veterans ombudsman Guy Parent blasted the federal government for the wait times and backlog in September 2018, at which point the average turnaround time for disability-benefits applications was between 23 and 29 weeks.
“Now is the time to ensure that the planning and resources required to deliver disability benefits, both equitably and in a timely manner, are in place,” the ombudsman’s report said.
“Lengthy turnaround times for disability benefit decisions is about more than monetary compensation for pain and suffering. Many applicants have unmet health needs that can be exacerbated by waiting for adequate treatment.”
The federal government actually considered in 2018 whether to extend the 16-week target, saying it wanted to provide veterans with a more “realistic” idea of when their application would be processed.
But it abandoned the controversial plan last year following criticism that Veterans Affairs was trying to move its own goalposts.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 1, 2020.
One woman has been seriously injured in a double stabbing in Greater Manchester, while another has sustained minor injuries.
Emergency services were called to the incident in Hindley at about 10.30am on Saturday.
A North West ambulance spokeswoman confirmed that two air ambulances were sent to the scene and the women, both believed to be in their 20s, were taken to hospital. One of the women had since been discharged with minor injuries while the other was still receiving treatment, police said.
Greater Manchester police said they were not looking for anyone else in connection to the attack, which it added was not being treated as terror related.
Photos circulating on social media showed a police cordon in place while emergency services worked at the scene.
Atherton Road, where the attack occurred, was closed for a few hours, but had since reopened.
Seven people have been injured and a man has been arrested after a bus bound for Swansea University crashed into a railway bridge.
One person has been seriously injured and another has life-threatening injuries, South Wales Police said.
Emergency services are at the scene following the crash on Neath Road, Swansea, just before 09:40 GMT.
A 63-year-old man has been arrested and the bus company, First Cymru, said a full investigation had been launched.
Four people were taken to Swansea’s Morriston Hospital, one with serious injuries, two to Neath Port Talbot’s minor injuries unit and a number of other people were assessed at the scene. One person was airlifted to University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff with life-threatening injuries.
The bus was travelling from Swansea University Singleton campus to its Swansea Bay campus when the crash happened but was off its normal route due to a temporary road closure, a First Cymru spokesman said.
Swansea University said its students were among the passengers and its welfare staff were offering help and support.
Swansea Bay health board asked people to avoid attending Morriston A&E “unless you have a serious illness or injury”, saying the department was “extremely busy”.
The road remains closed and people have been asked to avoid the area.
Lines to Swansea railway were closed for a time but have since reopened. National Rail said trains at Swansea could still be cancelled, delayed by up to 20 minutes or revised.
‘There was a crunch and smashing glass and screaming’
Alastair Hawkes, 22, was on the top deck when the crash happened: “There was a lady who was cut out, she was bleeding heavily and flown to hospital in Cardiff.
“I think there were three injured – somebody else was bleeding badly and an older gentleman was shaken, in shock. We thought he passed out.”
Mr Hawkes, who got on the bus in the Uplands area, said it had taken a different route to normal, he believes because of a fallen tree.
“There was a crunch and smashing glass and screaming.
“Everyone was thinking ‘what just happened?’ as there was a bridge halfway up the bus.”
The student, originally from Kettering, said he dialled 999 while another passenger managed to hail down police.
He described the top half of the bus slicing off on to the train track above and passengers in shock.
“Those that were bleeding were taken to hospital and the rest brought here (Landore Social Club),” he said.
“Most are alright, but they’re just making sure.”
What is the bus company saying?
The managing director of First Cymru, Andrew Sherrington, said: “We can confirm one of our vehicles operating Service 10 between Swansea University Singleton campus and Swansea Bay university campus has been involved in a collision with a bridge, which has resulted in a number of passengers sustaining injuries.
“We’ve immediately dispatched a support team and launched a full investigation to establish the circumstances that has led to this collision, and are assisting South Wales Police with their enquiries.
“Everyone at First Cymru is shocked by this incident and our heartfelt sympathies go out to those injured.”
‘We heard an almighty bang’
Tom Evans, who works near to the scene of the crash, said it looked like “a tin opener had taken the top of the bus off”.
He arrived on the scene shortly after the crash and said he believed the bus driver had misjudged the height of a railway bridge and tried to drive under it.
He added: “I heard it and went out soon after. Police were there quickly, cordoning it off. It’s now a no-go area.”
A man who works nearby who did not wish to be identified, said the crash looked “really serious”.
He added: “We heard an almighty bang and all thought it was thunder because it’s raining, but then we saw an ambulance, we thought somebody’s crashed on the M4 but then, no, they’re outside.
“We ran outside and saw the bus and we could see anyone who would have been on the top deck at the front, well it would be really serious… it was destroyed.”
Secretary Terry Edkins opened up the nearby Landore Social Club at the request of police to offer tea and coffee to passengers.
“There are about 20 people at the social club having teas and coffees. The ones at the club are a bit shaken but OK,” he added.
What about transport disruption?
Transport for Wales (TfW) were reporting delays. “Due to a road vehicle colliding with a bridge at #Swansea fewer trains are able to run on some lines. Services are running but will not call at Swansea Station,” it tweeted.
It said replacement buses were in operation and motorists have been asked to avoid the Neath Road and Hafod area.
TfW said coaches are being sourced to run between Swansea and Cardiff, and services between Carmarthen and Manchester are also disrupted and will not call at Swansea.
National Rail said disruption was expected until 17:00 and the routes affected are Great Western Railway between Swansea and London Paddington and TfW’s service between Shrewsbury and Cardiff Central.
Traffic analyst site Inrix said there was queuing traffic on the A483 Fabian Way, more than one mile away from the crash.
What do the emergency services say?
Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service said crews were in attendance and the Welsh Ambulance Service said it sent five ambulances, two rapid response cars and three ambulance officers to the scene.
South Wales Police said: “We and our fellow emergency services are currently in attendance at a road traffic collision involving a bus and a bridge in Neath Road, Swansea.
“We are asking motorists to avoid the area while this incident is ongoing.”
Eleven people have been shot in New Orleans leaving 2 in critical condition early Sunday morning.
Interested in New Orleans?
Add New Orleans as an interest to stay up to date on the latest New Orleans news, video, and analysis from ABC News.
The shooting happened between 3:20 a.m. to 3:25 a.m. in the 700 block of Canal Street in New Orleans, according to New Orleans Police.
Officers who were already in place for the Bayou Classic game responded immediately to the shooting after initially thinking they were being fired upon.
The victims were taken to local area hospitals with 5 going to University Hospital and the other 5 going to Tulane Hospital. The last person was a walk-in patient. The 2 people who are in critical condition suffered a gunshot wound to the chest and a gunshot wound to the torso, respectively.
New Orleans Police confirm that they were within feet of the shooting but there were so many people around that it was hard to determine who was firing shots.
A person of interest has been detained but it is unclear if that person had any involvement with the shooting. At this time there is no evidence to suggest the shooting was terror-related.
Authorities are actively investigating the shooting and are gathering witness statements and surveillance footage.
The victim’s identities, ages and genders have not yet been disclosed and New Orleans Police say that it is not known how or why the shooting began. No officers were injured in the shooting.
ABC News’ Josh Margolin contributed to this report.
HOUSTON (Reuters) – Two workers were injured in an early Wednesday explosion at TPC Group’s chemical plant in Port Neches, Texas, that felt more than 30 miles (48 kms) away from the plant, said a law enforcement official.
KFDM-TV in Beaumont, Texas, quoted Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick saying all workers had been accounted for following the blast that shattered windows and blew doors of their hinges.
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office said two injured people were taken to an area hospital.
Captain Crystal Holmes of the sheriff’s office said rescuers were “able to pull two injured employees out.”
The plant employs 175 and routinely has 50 contract workers on site.
A company spokesman was not immediately available to discuss the blaze.
The extent of the injuries were unknown, said five sources familiar with the fire-fighting and rescue operations in Port Neches.
Residents within a half-mile (0.8 KM) of the plant were ordered to evacuate.
Holmes said in addition to search and rescue operations in the plant, police officers were going door-to-door in nearby neighborhoods to check for injured people.
Some homes sustained heavy damage from the initial explosion and several secondary blasts, the sources said.
Firefighters continued to battle the blaze two hours after the first explosion, which occurred at about 1 a.m. local time (0700 GMT), the sources said.
The Port Neches plant can produce more than 900 million pounds (408,233 metric tons) of chemicals, according to the company’s website.
Reporting by Erwin Seba in Houston and K. Sathya Narayanan in Bengaluru; additional reporting by Arpan Varghese, editing by Louise Heavens