Canadians support vets, government does not
Sharon Desousa, The Windsor Star | Oct 25, 2013 | Last Updated: Oct 25, 2013 - 9:03 UTC
In a press release dated Sept. 26, 2013, by Julian Fantino, the Minister of Veterans Affairs, he states that "Our Government remains fully committed to providing veterans with the support they need to lead successful lives beyond their service to Canada in uniform." (http://cnw.ca/Rmgh2)
These words, however, are not reflected in the government's decision to close down nine Veterans Affairs offices across Canada in February of next year. Two of those offices are located here in Ontario, one in Windsor and the other in Thunder Bay.
The Public Service Alliance of Canada represents workers at Veterans Affairs, who provide much-needed support to veterans. Yet, with the closure of these offices, veterans in the Windsor area will have to travel two hours away to the next closest office located in London, Ont.
Veterans in the Thunder Bay area will have to go even farther, nearly 10 hours away.
Our members who offer support in case management, family support, career transition services, rehabilitation and assistance in attaining disability and health benefits are heartbroken knowing that these veterans are being abandoned.
Through the government's 2012 budget, Veterans Affairs was forced to cut 784 jobs and its budget was slashed by 20 per cent. These drastic cuts are counter to the government's claims that veterans are receiving the support they deserve.
For many veterans who suffer from mental health issues or have disabilities, they require front-line services and case managers to assist them. A phone number or web page is not adequate in addressing their needs.
Furthermore, PSAC represents Service Canada workers who have stated time and time again that they do not have the necessary training or information to help veterans. Yet, the government continues to state that Service Canada is an adequate solution.
Veterans Affairs case managers used to be able to regularly visit veterans at their homes to better assess their health and well-being. This practice is no longer common place and veterans who cannot leave their homes or are too proud to disclose their true living situation can easily be left without the care they deserve.
On behalf of veterans living in the Windsor and Thunder Bay areas, I ask that the government reverses its decision to close these offices. Canadians support their veterans and the government should not be looking for cutbacks at the expense of our heroes.
PSAC regional executive vice-president - Ontario, Toronto
The Canadian Veterans Advocacy Team.