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Sylvain Chartrand CD

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Help our veterans stop Veterans Affairs office closures
« on: October 03, 2013, 11:41:13 PM »
Help our veterans stop Veterans Affairs office closures
[youtube]http://youtu.be/YKuGWYFwfsU[/youtube]

Sylvain Chartrand CD

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Council urges CBRM residents to march for veterans
« Reply #1 on: October 18, 2013, 10:34:48 AM »
Council urges CBRM residents to march for veterans

Published on October 15, 2013

http://www.capebretonpost.com/?controllerName=article&page=1&contextId=3429270&siteId=32&action=changeRating&bizClass=article&bizId=3429270&rateValue



SYDNEY — Using its new video technology to get the message out to residents, Cape Breton regional councillors urged people of all ages to attend a march of concern for veterans who fear the closure of the local Veterans Affairs office will mean they won’t receive the supports afforded to them.

Veterans have been told they will be able to access services through the Halifax Department of Veterans Affairs office, a toll-free telephone number, or via the Internet through the Veterans Affairs website, or by using an app designed for smartphones and tablets.

“Yes, I can turn my computer on and check my email and send email, but don’t ask me to go on Facebook,” said Ron Clarke, 73, a veteran from North Sydney who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

He said for most veterans don’t have the skills or interest in using modern communication tools such as social media applications or an app on a smartphone to access vital services through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

A telephone line and an office that’s a five-hour drive away isn’t comparable to the convenient face-to-face service veterans can get now at the local office on George Street in Sydney, he said.

The CBRM council agreed.

It unanimously approved a resolution strongly condemning the federal government’s decision to close the Sydney office. The resolution also called for residents to sign a petition at the civic centre opposing the February closure of the office.

The 10:30 a.m. march on Nov. 9 will take protesting veterans, politicians and the general public from Royal Canadian Legion branch 12 at the corner of George and Dorchester streets to the DVA office a short distance away.

“I would implore anyone that’s listening to take one hour — it’s a two-hour protest if you want to call it that — take one hour of your life. It’s a very small amount of time a person can give to show the veterans that you care about them and you want this to be stopped,” Dist. 5 Coun. Eldon MacDonald said.

Dist. 3 Coun. Mae Rowe said it’s about showing respect to people who defended the country in past wars and conflicts.

"Now is our time to fight for them,” she said of the veterans.

“They put their lives on the line for us for the freedom that we enjoy today, so that’s the least that we can do.

“There’s no excuse for not being there in my eyes. There’s absolutely no excuse for not being at that event on Nov. 9.”

She said it would also be heartening to see schoolchildren of all ages and various unions participate in the march as well.

At deputy mayor Kevin Saccary’s suggestion, the resolution approved by CBRM council will be brought forward at the Atlantic Mayors’ Congress meeting, which begins today in Membertou, and will also be forwarded to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the national body that lobbies Ottawa on issues affecting municipal units across the country.

Beside the Sydney office closure that will affect 13 employees, the other district offices slated to close include Charlottetown, P.E.I.; Corner Brook, N.L.; Thunder Bay and Windsor offices in Ontario; Brandon, Man.; Saskatoon, Sask.; and Prince George and Kelowna offices in British Columbia.

Sylvain Chartrand CD

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Closing Veterans Affairs offices unconscionable
« Reply #2 on: October 21, 2013, 12:13:04 AM »
Closing Veterans Affairs offices unconscionable

Published on October 20, 2013

http://www.capebretonpost.com/section/2013-10-20/article-3434707/Closing-Veterans-Affairs-offices-unconscionable/1



Of freedom, a Norwegian resistance fighter in occupied Norway in the 1940s wrote this: “In us is born the conviction/That freedom is life’s first law.”

In Canada, the legacy of freedom, built up by our military, guarantees that governments can make decisions for right or wrong reasons.

When the Harper government decided to close nine Veterans Affairs Canada offices by February 2014 at a measly saving  of $6 million, it made the wrong decision. To include the very busy Sydney office was unconscionable. At the same time, in a bid to convince Americans of the benefits of the Keystone pipeline transporting Alberta oil to the States, the Conservatives propose to spend $24 million on advertising. 

This paper has in the past year published letters and articles  on the closing of the Sydney office and the offices in Charlottetown and Corner Brook. It’s now estimated that as a result of the closure of the office here, the Halifax office, with a staff of 68, will pick up an additional 4,200 clients from Cape Breton, giving it approximately 22,000 clients in Nova Scotia and making it the third largest office in Canada. These statistics demonstrate that a disproportionate number of service personnel from the Maritimes have served our country with distinction but now need assistance of one kind or another. But will they be looked after?

Where are the protests about the closing of the Sydney office from the Tory elite in Cape Breton? Where are their letters, their articles? Did anyone hear them speak out? I heard only one prominent Tory say on radio that online services and a call centre provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs would take up the slack. The numbers, ages and competency of our most distinguished veterans suggest otherwise.

On Aug. 3, 2013, Stephen McNenly wrote an  article in this paper emphasizing  the human dimension of the government’s decision, the effect of the changes on his uncle, a veteran, and the loss here of 13 permanent and four casual jobs. One casualty is his sister, Jennifer, a 17-year case worker. Ms. McNenly advocated for and provided excellent service to my 93-year-old brother. His macular degeneration precludes his using a computer. I doubt whether he would pick up a phone to talk to  Halifax or travel there. Would case worker travel from Halifax to his home in Donkin  be cheap? When would they get around to the visit? How can one stomach the government’s disrespect of our veterans?

Here’s the rub: It is political suicide for the Tory government to balance the budget on the back of our veterans just as it was a mistake to close our EI centre in Glace Bay. Yes, cut costs, but base them on sound evidence. At a provincial legion convention in this province in May, the deputy minister of the Department of Veterans Affairs offered no sympathy at all to delegates. In fact he questioned, in an arrogant way, the numbers of needy clients.

And we thought that the Conservative government and its underlings favoured our military. Apparently, that doesn’t extend to our veterans. On Saturday, Nov. 9, in Sydney at 10 a.m., you can let them know how you feel. The Maritime mayors have already done so.

LeRoy Peach lives in Port Morien and may be reached at leroy_peach@yahoo.ca. His column appears every two weeks in the Cape Breton Post.




Sylvain Chartrand CD

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Vets mobilize for rally in Sydney
« Reply #3 on: November 08, 2013, 04:16:08 AM »
Vets mobilize for rally in Sydney

November 7, 2013 - 8:30pm By PAUL McLEOD Ottawa Bureau

http://thechronicleherald.ca/novascotia/1165969-vets-mobilize-for-rally-in-sydney



Veterans and supporters are expecting a massive turnout for a Saturday rally in Sydney against the closure of regional Veterans Affairs offices.

Details on when Sydney and eight other regions will lose their office are expected to be released soon after Remembrance Day.

Veterans will be notified on Nov. 13 or 14 when their local office will close, according to the union that represents Veterans Affairs workers.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada is calling for Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino to visit each of the nine regional offices slated for closure and meet with local veterans before making any decision.

“The people at our office, they know our problems. They know how to treat them,” said Ron Clarke, an organizer of the rally who spent 36 years in the Armed Forces.

Clarke expects 1,000 to 2,000 people to show up at the Saturday rally.

Fantino has shown no signs of backing down. Veterans Affairs says decreasing traffic at some regional offices makes it no longer practical to keep them open.

The department says it is focusing instead on at-home visits. Veterans in Sydney will also have the option of reaching the department by phone or the Internet.

Opposition parties have hammered away at the office closures all week in the House of Commons.

“When the NDP forms government, we will reopen every single one of those offices,” said NDP Veterans Affairs critic Peter Stoffer.

“These veterans and their families deserve to have the one-on-one counselling they have received for many years and it is shameful to cut those offices.”

The Sydney office employs 14 people serving 4,200 people, according to the union.

But Veterans Affairs says traffic for the office has dropped to an average of fewer than seven visits per day.

“Many veterans who have suffered a serious injury are instead taking advantage of home visits, saving them the drive in the first place,” Fantino’s office said in a statement.

Still, many people in Sydney are angry.

“If (Stephen Harper) is not going to change his mind, I don’t think he should even be wearing a poppy,” said Paulette Pearson, a service officer with the local legion.

“He doesn’t deserve to have it on his jacket.”

Another service officer, Andrea Vallee, called the decision cruel. Both said the community is uniting against the closure.

Regional offices are being shut down by the end of 2014 in Sydney, Charlottetown, Corner Brook, N.L., Windsor and Thunder Bay, Ont., Brandon, Man., Saskatoon, Sask., and Kelowna and Prince George, B.C.

A total of 17,193 veterans are listed as clients of one of the first seven of those nine offices. Data is not available for the two British Columbia outlets.

Sylvain Chartrand CD

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Veterans Affairs office closures: The facts
« Reply #4 on: November 08, 2013, 05:55:41 PM »
Veterans Affairs office closures: The facts

Here is PSAC’s response to what the government is saying to justify Veterans Affairs offices.

“The network of Veteran Affairs offices were created at a time when Service Canada single-window service did not exist. Veterans will now have access to over 600 Service Canada locations, as well as services online and through the phone.” 

•   Veterans Affairs workers receive specialized, ongoing training because Veterans Affairs services and programs, like the needs of veterans, are vast and complex and always evolving. Service Canada workers have received very limited training about Veterans Affairs services and programs, so can only answer general questions in addition to supplying and receiving forms. They are not able to take the time to sit down with veterans to help them fill out their applications for benefits and services. Nor can they check to ensure that forms have been properly completed. One mistake or omission could result in the denial of benefits to a veteran.

•   This isn’t just about training and expertise. Service Canada workers cannot access veterans’ files and therefore cannot give advice or guidance specifically relating to their situations. Veterans Affairs workers can access veterans’ case files and in many cases have built long term relationships with clients so are much more able to understand and respond to their needs. This is especially important for veterans with complex needs.

•   PSAC represents the workers at Service Canada too, and they say they wish they could do more for our veterans but it is unrealistic to expect them to have the same degree of expertise.  They are often left with no choice but to point veterans to the computer or the toll-free phone line for help. Veterans tell us the phone line and internet are problematic, especially those who are older and those living with PTSD and other mental health challenges.

“Veterans have access to one or more of 17 Operational Stress Injury Clinics and 24 Integrated Personnel Support Centres that we have established.”

•   The government’s website shows that none of the 17 Operational Stress Injury Clinics or Integrated Personnel Support Centres are located in the communities where the government wants to shut down Veterans Affairs offices.


“If a veteran has trouble travelling to a VAC office, medical or other facilities; doctors, nurses or case workers go to the residence of the veteran, disabled veterans are not going to have to travel to receive the services they need.”

•   Only veterans who have Case Managers receive home visits from Veterans Affairs. Clients without case-managed files will have to travel to the closest remaining Veterans Affairs office for in-person services that require access to their file or expertise in Veterans Affairs programs and services. What’s worse is that with the exception of travel for pension-related medical appointments, veterans must cover their own travel costs.

•   For veterans in Thunder Bay, the office closure means traveling to Winnipeg. For veterans in Sydney, that means a five to six hour drive to Halifax. For veterans in Corner Brook, it means an eight hour drive to St. John’s. For veterans in Charlottetown, it would mean traveling out of province to Saint John. Given these distances, it is unclear how realistic it is to say that case-managed clients in the communities losing their offices will still receive the home visits they need.

•   The government has so far refused to commit to adding staff to the offices taking on clients from offices they want to close. This will mean increased caseloads, longer wait times for home visits and less service for all the veterans being served by those offices. If the government goes ahead with the Sydney closure, for example, more than 4,200 client files, including 120 case-managed files, will be transferred to Halifax. No new staff have been hired to take on the additional cases.


“These closures reflect the changing demographics of Canada’s veterans.”

•   In the last two years, the number of traditional veterans served by Veterans Affairs has decreased from 63,000 to 49,000. But the number of Regular Force Veterans served by Veterans Affairs has increased from 68,000 to 76,000. That number will continue to increase.  In 2013, the average age of the 594,300 Canadian Forces veterans is 56. And none of these numbers include family members, survivors and the RCMP who are served by Veterans’ Affairs.

•   As older veterans age they require more care and services.  Younger veterans, such as those returning from Afghanistan, tend to have more complex needs, such as those who have been diagnosed with serious mental health conditions as a result of their deployment.



“Through eight budgets, our Government has invested almost $5 billion in new funding to enhance Veterans benefits, programs and services - and with close to 90% of the department’s budget going towards direct services and support for Veterans, Canadians can be confident we are delivering for our Veterans.”

•   Any investments this government has made are spread over many years and don’t make up for cuts to front-line services for veterans. In fact, the government has cut the budget for Veterans Affairs by $129 million since 2011. A further $132 million in cuts are planned by 2016.  In total 784 jobs will be cut including case managers, client service agents, disability pension officers, nurses and administrative staff who process all the claims. Veterans and their families must be able to access the benefits and services available or the investment is meaningless.

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Veterans Affairs rally in Sydney brings out hundreds
« Reply #5 on: November 09, 2013, 12:01:44 PM »
Veterans Affairs rally in Sydney brings out hundreds

People concerned about district office closing

CBC News Posted: Nov 09, 2013 11:25 AM AT Last Updated: Nov 09, 2013 12:05 PM AT

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/veterans-affairs-rally-in-sydney-brings-out-hundreds-1.2421023?cmp=rss



Thousands of protesters are gathering in Cape Breton, N.S., to protest the federal government's plan to close the local Veterans Affairs office.

As part of the March 2012 budget, the federal government announced it would be closing nine district offices, including the one in Sydney. Spending was expected to decrease, said government documents, due to a dwindling number of veterans.

On the Saturday before Remembrance Day close to 3,000 people showed up in Sydney to show their support and listen to speeches.
Crowds listen to speeches


The crowd listens to speeches from union representatives, politicians and veterans. (Norma Jean MacPhee/CBC)

Protesters waved signs and sang O Canada, reported the CBC's Norma Jean MacPhee. The protesters also handed out post cards to send to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

"Telling a veteran to use a computer or a 1-800 number to get the help they need is insulting," said Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis in a news release.

"These men and women put themselves in harm’s way for us and we owe them."

Offices in these cities will shut:

    Charlottetown
    Corner Brook, N.L.
    Sydney, N.S.
    Windsor, Ont.
    Thunder Bay, Ont.
    Kelowna, B.C.
    Prince George, B.C.
    Saskatoon
    Brandon, Man.

The offices are set up across the country to help veterans. The Union of Veterans Affairs Employees said the offices would close on Feb. 28, 2014.

Sylvain Chartrand CD

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Video of Sydney Rally against the closing of the VAC Service Center
« Reply #6 on: November 12, 2013, 03:45:13 PM »
Video of Sydney Rally against the closing of the VAC Service Center

http://youtu.be/nN-M8if6K14?

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Minister Fantino's announcement betrays 17,000 veterans
« Reply #7 on: November 28, 2013, 03:34:59 PM »
Minister Fantino's announcement betrays 17,000 veterans

News release: Minister Fantino's announcement betrays 17,000 veterans
 
Ottawa - November 28, 2013) Veterans and the workers who serve them say it will be impossible for eight Client Service Agents to make up for the work of the 89 front line workers in Veterans Affairs offices slated for closure.

In a statement this afternoon, Minister Fantino confirmed for the first time that Veterans Affairs offices in Corner Brook, Charlottetown, Sydney, Thunder Bay, Windsor, Brandon, Saksatoon and Kelowna will shut their doors to veterans and their families on January 31, 2014.

The Minister said that once offices close, one Veterans Affairs Client Service Agent will be placed in a Service Canada office in each of the communities affected.

“This government is betraying the more than 17,000 veterans who rely on these offices for front line services,” said Yvan Thauvette, National President of the Union of Veterans Affairs Employees.

“It simply isn’t possible for one worker to make up for the number of front line workers being lost when these offices close,” said Thauvette.  “For example, how is one worker going to make up for the loss of 13 who serve 4,200 clients in the Sydney office?” he asked.

“We have been asking Minister Fantino to just hear what veterans have to say,” said Ron Clarke, a Sydney veteran who has emerged as a leader of those fighting the closures. “To go ahead with this without even talking to us first is an all-out insult.”

PSAC National President Robyn Benson says this only strengthens the union’s resolve to keep working with veterans to fight the closures.

“Veterans have made it very clear that they need these offices to remain open,” said Benson. “This government needs to listen to them and reverse course.”

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Veterans Affairs office closures: Campaign update: Fantino's plan backfires
« Reply #8 on: December 04, 2013, 01:27:34 PM »
Campaign update: Minister Fantino's plan backfires

Minister Fantino’s plan backfires

An attempt by Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino to quell growing outrage over VAC office closures appears to have backfired, leaving veterans even more determined to stop the closures.

Fantino announced last Thursday that Veterans Affairs offices in eight communities will close their doors to veterans on January 31 next year. In an attempt to allay concern about the impact of the closures, he announced what he called an “enhancement” that would leave a single Veterans Affairs worker in a Service Canada outlet in each of the communities to “assist with the transition”.

It appears the so-called “enhancement” will be short lived – our component that represents Service Canada workers tells us they’ve heard the move is a temporary one.

The minister’s ill-conceived scenario said nothing about Prince George, where veterans lost their office last January.

Veterans quickly spoke out against the scenario, asking how eight workers placed in could make up for the loss of veterans-only spaces and almost a hundred front line workers.

As PEI Legion Command President Gilles Painchaud wrote in this letter in the Charlottetown Guardian, one Client Service Agent cannot possible serve all of PEI’s veterans and the same is true across the country.

Columnist Leroy Peach weighed in on the issue too, calling on Nova Scotia MLAs Alfie MacLeod and Eddie Orrell – who once supported the idea – to help stop the closures.

This Cape Breton Post editorial says Fantino’s scenario has “backfired” and calls on local politicians to stop skating around the issue. Cape Breton mayor Cecil Clarke, says the Post, has been “politically smooth on the file, vocalizing his support for veterans, but avoiding public criticism of the federal Conservatives, with whom he is aligned.”

The editorial goes on to say that “if this is supposed to be the feds' final offer, there will likely be increasing pressure on politicians such as Cecil Clarke, MacLeod and Orrell to dispense with diplomacy and sing more stridently from the same hymn sheet as most of their constituents.”

On Saturday Cape Breton veteran Ron Clarke teamed up with frontline Veterans Affairs workers to meet with Orrell and MacLeod and urge them to do just that. They asked the MLAs to go back to Minister Fantino and tell him the plan just won’t work and that veterans need the offices to stay open.
 
Our news release opposing the plan is here.

Opposition critics blast Fantino’s proposal

Opposition critics were also quick to criticize the proposal during Question Period on November 29. The NDP’s Peter Stoffer called the idea “unconscionable” and asked the government to reverse what he called “hazardous cuts” and reopen the offices.

Stoffer also asked why veterans were having trouble accessing services in Halifax, citing the story of one couple who had been waiting weeks for assistance. That situation is likely to get much worse if the closures go ahead: Halifax workers are expected to take on 4,200 files from Sydney without getting additional staff to help with the increased caseload.

The same is true across the country. When office closures go ahead, files are being transferred to other offices where in most cases, staffing levels will remain the same or have been cut. That means longer wait times for veterans in those communities too – not just in communities where offices are closing.

Liberal Veterans Affairs critic Jim Karigiannis also spoke out in Question Period, saying recent suicides by returning soldiers show we are not doing enough to care for our military. He asked how putting one worker in a Service Canada office was going to help when veterans are already being told there is no-one to talk to them.

Members of Parliament asked to help stop the closures

The same day Fantino made his announcement, Ron Clarke and a group of veterans travelled to Conservative MP Peter MacKay’s constituency office in Antigonish. They spent the afternoon hosting a “postcard signing” and talking to passers-by about the closures. That was covered with a great photo and article in the local paper here.

Peter MacKay is one of 26 Members of Parliament we have asked for meetings with – each is being asked to go on the record opposing the closures and to help us stop them. We asked for that meeting in October, but MacKay has so far been unable to find time to meet, something Ron Clarke took up with staff in his office while they were there.

You can see the full list of MPs we are approaching for meetings here. So far we have scheduled meetings with Kelowna MP Ron Cannan, Prince George MP Richard Harris and some MPs who are themselves veterans: Gordon O’Connor, Laurie Hawn and Corneliu Chisu. We are working on scheduling meetings with a few more and will be sure to pass on a full report on our lobbying efforts as they go forward.

What you can do

Please help us keep showing that momentum is growing.
•   Send a letter in to the editor of your local newspaper.
•   Help us reach out to veterans in the ridings of MPs we are lobbying.
•   If you live in any of those MPs’ ridings – especially Saskatoon and Kelowna – please let us know as soon as possible.
•   Let us know if you want to organize “postcard signings” in your community.
•   Be sure to pass along this link to our campaign page and keep sharing our YouTube video.
I’m attaching our updated Questions and Answers sheet here, along with the full transcript of questions raised by opposition critics – and the minister’s responses.

Kerry Pither
National Campaigns Officer, Public Service Alliance of Canada

-----------

Veterans Affairs office closures
Questions and Answers


Can’t veterans get the services they need from Service Canada locations, as well as online and through the phone, when these offices close,

•   Veterans Affairs workers receive specialized, ongoing training because Veterans Affairs services and programs, like the needs of veterans, are vast and complex and always evolving. Service Canada workers have received very limited training about Veterans Affairs services and programs, so can only answer general questions and supply and receive forms. They cannot sit down with veterans to help them fill out their applications for benefits and services or check to ensure that forms are properly completed. One mistake can result in the denial of benefits to a veteran.

•   Service Canada workers cannot access veterans’ files and therefore cannot give advice or guidance related to individual cases. Veterans Affairs workers do access those files and have often built long term relationships with clients so are much more able to understand and respond to their needs. This is especially important for veterans with complex physical and mental health conditions.

•   PSAC represents the workers at Service Canada too. They’d like to do more for our veterans, but it is unrealistic to expect them to have the same degree of expertise. They are often left with no choice but to point veterans to the computer or the toll-free phone line for help. Veterans tell us the phone line and internet are problematic, especially for those who are older or living with PTSD and other mental health challenges.

What about the Minister’s plan to place a Veterans Affairs worker in the Service Canada outlets where Veterans Affairs offices are closing?

•   It just isn’t possible for one worker to make up for the number of front line workers being lost when these offices close. Closing the Sydney office, for example, means losing 13 front line workers. In Thunder Bay, the closure means losing seven front line workers. Plus, it appears this plan may be a temporary one.

•   Veterans say they need their own space in which to access these services. These offices have been set up with veterans’ needs in mind. They have reception areas designed for veterans and their families and private interview rooms for meetings with Client Service Agents and Case Managers. They also have examination rooms where veterans can meet with nurses and other healthcare practitioners.

If a veteran has trouble travelling to a VAC office, medical or other facilities, can’t doctors, nurses or case workers go to the residence of the veteran?

•   Only veterans who have Case Managers receive home visits from Veterans Affairs. Clients without case-managed files will have to travel to the closest remaining Veterans Affairs office for in-person services that require access to their file or expertise in Veterans Affairs programs and services. With the exception of travel for pension-related medical appointments, veterans must cover their own travel costs.

•   For veterans in Thunder Bay, the office closure means traveling to North Bay, 13 hours away. For veterans in Sydney, the closure means a five to six hour drive to Halifax. For veterans in Corner Brook, it means an eight hour drive to St. John’s. For veterans in Charlottetown, it would mean traveling out of province to Saint John. Given these distances, and given that there will be fewer Case Managers working once the offices close, it is unlikely veterans will still receive the home visits they need when they need them.

•   The government has not committed to adding staff to the offices taking on clients from offices they want to close. This means increased caseloads, longer wait times for home visits and less service for all the veterans being served by those offices. If the government goes ahead with the Sydney closure, for example, more than 4,200 client files, including 120 case-managed files, will be transferred to Halifax.

Don’t veterans have access to Operational Stress Injury Clinics and Integrated Personnel Support Centres too?

•   There are no Operational Stress Injury Clinics or Integrated Personnel Support Centres in the communities where the government wants to shut down Veterans Affairs offices.

Don’t these closures reflect the changing demographics of Canada’s veterans?

•   Altogether the nine offices the government wants to close serve more than 17,000 veterans and their family members. Those numbers demonstrate the closures simply don’t make sense.
•   In the last two years, the number of traditional veterans served by Veterans Affairs has decreased from 63,000 to 49,000. But the number of Regular Force Veterans served by Veterans Affairs has increased from 68,000 to 76,000. That number will continue to increase.  In 2013, the average age of the 594,300 Canadian Forces veterans is 56. And none of these numbers include family members, survivors and the RCMP who are served by Veterans’ Affairs.

•   As older veterans age they require more care and services.  Younger veterans, such as those returning from Afghanistan, tend to have more complex needs, such as those who have been diagnosed with serious mental health conditions as a result of their deployment.

The government says it has invested almost $5 billion in new funding to improve Veterans benefits, programs and services,and that close to 90% of the department’s budget goes towards direct services and support for Veterans. Isn’t this enough?

•   Any investments this government has made are spread over many years and don’t make up for cuts to front-line services for veterans. In fact, the government has cut the budget for Veterans Affairs by $129 million since 2011. A further $132 million in cuts are planned by 2016. In total 784 jobs will be cut including case managers, client service agents, disability pension officers, nurses and administrative staff who process all the claims. Veterans and their families must be able to access the benefits and services available or the investment is meaningless.


---------------

November 29, 2013

Veterans Affairs

Mr. Peter Stoffer (Sackville—Eastern Shore, NDP):
    Mr. Speaker, January 31 of next year will be very sad day for veterans and their families from across this country. That is the day the government announced for the closure of all eight district affairs offices for veterans and their families across the country.
    However, the government has a plan, and I love this. It will take one person from each office and will put them in a Service Canada office. In Sydney, Cape Breton, for example, which Mr. Ron Clarke pointed out, an honoured veteran from Cape Breton, what took 13 officers to do the job will now be done by one person in a Service Canada office.
    That is simply unconscionable. We ask the government to reverse these hazardous cuts and to reopen those offices to ensure that all our veterans and their families, and RCMP members and their families, get the one-on-one service they so rightfully deserve.

Veterans
 
Mr. Sylvain Chicoine (Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, NDP):
    Mr. Speaker, too many of our valiant veterans have to fight for the benefits and the services they are entitled to.
    The Conservatives have closed nine regional offices and slashed hundreds of thousands of dollars from Veterans Affairs' budget, thus forcing veterans to use online services instead of being given the personal help they deserve.
    How can the Conservatives be so indifferent towards our veterans?

Mr. Parm Gill (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs, CPC): 
    Mr. Speaker, our government has made substantial investments to support Canada's veterans, including almost $5 billion in new additional dollars since taking office.
    This funding has been put towards improved financial benefits, world-class rehabilitation and tuition costs to help veterans transition to civilian life. While our government is making improvements to veterans' benefits, the Liberals and the NDP voted against this new funding for mental health treatment, financial support and home care services.
 
Mr. Peter Stoffer (Sackville—Eastern Shore, NDP):
    Mr. Speaker, I was wondering if the parliamentary secretary would like to tell Kim and Blair Davis of Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia that, because they have sent us all a very disturbing email about what is going on in the Veterans Affairs office in Halifax.
    For weeks and weeks, they have tried to get assistance but to no avail. Mr. Davis is in a very precarious situation. His wife Kim is very worried about her husband. In fact, she even fears going back to work when she does not know the state of mind he may be in.
    The parliamentary secretary is fully aware of this file. Can he please advise the House exactly what the government is going to do to assist this family and this hero of our country to immediately get the help he needs?

Mr. Parm Gill (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs, CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, first of all, let me thank my colleague from the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs for bringing this issue to my attention. Veterans Affairs officials were immediately directed to undertake a review of the circumstances. I can assure the House that, today, directions have been given to the Veterans Affairs officials to reach out to the veteran and his family.
    We will continue to ensure that veterans have the programs and services that they need, even if the member opposite and his party continue to vote against every measure.


December 2, 2013
Veterans Affairs
Hon. Jim Karygiannis (Scarborough—Agincourt, Lib.):   
    Mr. Speaker, last week we had three members of the military who committed suicide. Clearly, we are not looking after our military. Nine veterans affairs centres will be closed by the end of January and 17,000 veterans will be deprived of their case managers.
    The minister is letting one case manager per centre move into the local Service Canada office. With veterans already being told that there is no one to talk to them, how does the minister expect veterans to get the services they need, the services we owe them and they deserve?
 
Hon. Julian Fantino (Minister of Veterans Affairs, CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, among the variety of options available to veterans, Veterans Affairs Canada case workers and nurses do personalized home visits for those who need them. While the member opposite engages in scare tactics, we will continue to deliver services and support our veterans no matter where they live and will do that ongoing. If they need assistance among many services, we will cut their grass, shovel their snow and clean their homes. That is our commitment to veterans and that good work continues.

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Veteran's affairs office in the Okanagan to remain open
« Reply #9 on: December 04, 2013, 02:07:15 PM »
Veteran's affairs office in the Okanagan to remain open

    by  Editorial - Lake Country Calendar
    posted Dec 4, 2013 at 9:00 AM— updated Dec 2, 2013 at 12:04 PM

http://www.lakecountrycalendar.com/news/234117011.html

Veterans in Lake Country and across the Okanagan will be able to speak directly with a veteran's affairs  staff member after an announcement that a staff member will remain in place at Kelowna's Service Canada location.

Kelowna-Lake Country MP Ron Cannan released a statement late last week confirming the move.

“Since last year’s announcement that the Veterans Affairs office in Kelowna would be closing next February, my staff and I have worked closely with the Minister’s office to keep a Veterans Affairs Client Service Agent in our community," said Cannan. "I am pleased to report that the Minister of Veterans Affairs has listened to our concerns and has announced that a Veterans Affairs Client Service Agent will remain and be available at the Kelowna Service Canada location to assist Veterans with their benefit applications, answer their questions, and help them get access to services."

Cannan said by having an experienced Veterans Affairs staff member in the Service Canada building will allow veterans the one on one service they have been asking for adding that proper signage will be reinstated to ensure that local veterans know that face to face assistance is available at this location.

"Our government is dedicated to ensuring Veterans and their families have the support they need, when and where they need it, from coast to coast to coast," said Cannan. "This welcome announcement today supports Canadian Veterans in communities like our own and enhances a number of personalized benefits such as home visits by a registered nurse or case-manager, and help with home maintenance including grass cutting, snow clearing and home cleaning services."

In addition, all other ongoing services and support continue to be provided at the office, said Cannan, including ongoing home visits for those Veterans who are seriously injured, the toll-free service offered through our National Veterans Contact Network and the range of payments provided to Veterans going through rehabilitation and transitioning into civilian life.

Cannan also said Veterans Affairs Canada has also increased the number of case workers in the regions where veterans need them most, and is opening and maintaining 17 Operational Stress Injury Clinics and 24 Integrated Personnel Support Centres near Canadian Forces Bases and in major city centres right across Canada.

"I am pleased that our government is demonstrating its commitment to supporting the men and women who have served Canada, especially our local Veterans and their families, and that it will continue to make improvements to ensure they receive the very best assistance possible,” he said.

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No comment from Watson about Veterans Affairs office closure
« Reply #10 on: December 07, 2013, 12:20:30 AM »
No comment from Watson about Veterans Affairs office closure

SoapBox
Dec 06, 2013 - 11:29 AM EST
Last Updated: Dec 06, 2013 - 11:54 AM EST

http://blogs.windsorstar.com/2013/12/06/no-comment-from-watson-about-veterans-affairs-office-closure/

The Christmas season is upon us and the Windsor Parade Company is making the rounds of all the communities with their Santa parade.

Like all other parades before this one, local politicians bask in the holiday glow of good cheer and a cheap and easy photo opp.

Yet, this season is very different.

This is the season where our federal government decided it didn’t care so much about Veterans in Windsor and Essex County. They made a purely financial decision to close the Veteran’s Affairs office in Windsor and have those clients travel Highway 401 to London for service.

No doubt responding to the vitriol from this area, the VOA promised to keep one single former Veterans Affairs worker employed at a local Service Canada location. How quaint.

I’ve seen many parades in the area represented by MP Jeff Watson and he’s been in every one of those parades, wishing us all a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. His face has even appeared in pictures printed by some of the local media.

I find it such delicious irony that the very men and women who served this great nation and gave people like Mr. Watson the golden opportunity to be in a parade in the first place, be so forgotten and discarded by the party he represents.

If not for the very men and women his party tossed to the curb on a whim, there would be no parades. There would be no Progressive Conservative party.

There’d be no golden opportunity for a cheap photo opp that he’s taking advantage of. He just quietly tows the party line while enjoying the benefits the vets earned for us.

I am totally disgusted by his silence on this while he smiles in the parades.

CARLO SALVITTI, Amherstburg

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Federal job cuts harm veterans
« Reply #11 on: December 07, 2013, 01:35:10 PM »
Federal job cuts harm veterans

    posted Dec 7, 2013 at 8:00 AM— updated Dec 6, 2013 at 10:43 AM

In a recent letter, MP Mark Strahl notes that the government has made investments in new funding for benefits for veterans and their families, but what he doesn’t point out is that any new funding the government has committed is spread over many years.

It also doesn’t make up for cuts to front-line services for veterans.

In fact, the government has cut the budget for Veterans Affairs Canada by $129 million since 2011. A further $132 million in cuts are planned by 2016. In total 784 jobs will be cut nationally including case managers, client service agents, disability pension officers, nurses and administrative staff who process claims. Here in BC, the government has closed the Veterans Affairs office in Prince George and plans to close the office in Kelowna in January 2014. This will force veterans in those communities to rely on 1-800 numbers or the Internet to get help accessing the services they need and deserve. Many vets are unable to do this or have complex issues that cannot be simply solved over the phone. By making it difficult or impossible for some veterans and their families to get help, the government’s investment is meaningless.

Instead of engaging in a partisan attack on the Liberal Party in the media, I would urge Mr. Strahl to talk with veterans so he can better understand the challenges they face.

Veterans from Chilliwack and I have asked for a meeting with Mr. Strahl to discuss the issue. We hope that as a Member of Parliament with a large number of constituents who have proudly served in the Canadian Forces, he will work with us to ensure that veterans have full access to the services provided by VAC offices.

 

Bob Jackson

Executive VP for British Columbia

Public Service Alliance of Canada

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Legion president agrees with union leader on rescinding office closures
« Reply #12 on: December 10, 2013, 10:35:29 PM »
Legion president agrees with union leader on rescinding office closures

http://www.thewesternstar.com/News/Local/2013-12-10/article-3536912/Legion-president-agrees-with-union-leader-on-rescinding-office-closures/1

Cory Hurley
    Published on December 10, 2013



CORNER BROOK — The veterans of this country are thankful for the support they are getting in their protest of the closure of Veteran’s Affairs offices, according to Matthew Connolly.

The president of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 13 in Corner Brook was reacting to the support of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE). Its president, Carol Furlong, was asking the federal government to rescind the planned closures Monday.

Connolly said he was happy to hear about the support of the union and its members. As a group of veterans, many of whom are retired and up in age, he said there is only so much impact they can have. Also, questioning how strong of a political impact they can have, he said it has been great to earn the support of such organizations and many people throughout the country.

“It has been phenomenal,” Connolly said of that support. “We ask people to write emails and letters, contact their members of parliament and lobby hard for government to change their minds.

“The people realize how important our veterans, and their welfare, is because they wouldn’t have anything without the people who fought for them.”

The president, who has helped organize and lead protests in Corner Brook, said he is staying positive, and believes there is a chance the decision will be rescinded.

“The people throughout the country recognize what our veterans have done for our freedom,” he said. “Unfortunately, our government does not.”

Connolly said there are plans for another protest in Corner Brook, where one of the Veteran’s Affairs offices is located, in January.

He also agrees with Furlong in her opinion that the closure of the offices will only worsen the looming crisis for Canadian Armed Forces veterans and personnel. She was reacting to the four recent suicides of young veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

According to Furlong, these tragedies took place only days before federal Veteran’s Affairs Minister Julian Fantino announced Veteran’s Affairs offices in eight communities will officially close their doors Jan. 31. The office in Prince George, B.C. has already closed.

“Based on recent tragic events, the federal government needs to increase support services to our military personnel, not reduce them. This is an alarming situation that demands immediate attention by the federal government,” Furlong stated in a press release. “In light of the tragic events this past week and the continued call by veterans, both young and old, for the need to maintain the support services offered in these offices, the Harper government must immediately rescind the decision to close these offices.

“The suicide deaths of these military personnel have touched the hearts of Canadians.”


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Re: Help our veterans stop Veterans Affairs office closures
« Reply #13 on: December 12, 2013, 09:38:43 PM »
Government committed to serving veterans

Times Colonist
December 12, 2013 11:11 AM

http://www.timescolonist.com/government-committed-to-serving-veterans-1.757002

Re: “Kelowna office among eight where veterans losing expert help.” Dec. 11

Veterans Affairs Canada remains committed to making sure all of Canada’s veterans and their families have the support they need, when they need it and where they need it.

That is why we are adjusting our national presence to improve service delivery by deploying resources in a manner that reflects the needs of veterans. This means locating staff and offices where they are most beneficial, leading to better service overall.

As an example of our changing national footprint, we have worked with the Department of National Defence over the past four years to open new Integrated Personnel Support Centres on 24 Canadian Armed Forces bases and wings. The result is that more than 100 VAC employees are now working alongside their counterparts at National Defence to provide “one-stop” care and support to Veterans and still-serving members.

I also want to stress that regardless of where veterans live, they can continue to rely on home visits from registered nurses and their VAC case managers for those that require them.

In addition, veterans can now visit any of the approximately 600 Service Canada locations across the country for information about the services and benefits available to them. To provide further support, a VAC client service agent will be posted in the Service Canada locations nearest to the closing VAC offices. These full-time client service agents will be providing ongoing support to local communities, and will remain in the Service Canada locations for as long as there is a requirement.

It is this ongoing innovation that allows me to say with confidence that veterans and their families will continue to receive the care and support they need.

Keith Hillier

Assistant deputy minister, Service Delivery

Veterans Affairs Canada

© Copyright 2013

- See more at: http://www.timescolonist.com/government-committed-to-serving-veterans-1.757002#sthash.X3PheUDL.dpuf

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Vets lobby Harris to reopen office
« Reply #14 on: December 21, 2013, 05:46:54 AM »
Vets lobby Harris to reopen office

December 20, 2013

Christine HINZMANN
Citizen staff
chinzmann@pgcitizen.ca

http://www.princegeorgecitizen.com/article/20131220/PRINCEGEORGE0101/312209968/-1/princegeorge01/vets-lobby-harris-to-reopen-office



A group of veterans met with MP Dick Harris on Friday morning to lobby for the reopening of the Veterans Affairs office in Prince George.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada has partnered with veterans across the country to try to keep Veterans Affairs offices open as it represents about 70 of the 90 workers directly affected by the closures.

The Prince George office closed in January and served about 1,400 clients at that time. Most of those files were transferred to the Vancouver office, which saw a staff reduction of 10 since last year.

Harris is one of 26 MPs being asked to help reopen Veterans Affairs offices across the country and stop eight more closures in communities across Canada. Harris was asked to advocate because there are so many veterans in his constituency. Other MPs were approached because they are veterans themselves.

"We are asking Dick Harris to speak to the Minister Responsible for Veterans Affairs (Julian Fantino) to discuss our meeting today and to hear the concerns of the veterans of Prince George. We would also like to see the Veterans Affairs office reopen and staffing levels back to where they were in 2006," said Bob Jackson, Public Service Alliance of Canada's regional executive vice president. There were two case managers and two client service agents in place in Prince George in 2006.

Harris said he will bring the concerns addressed during the meeting to Fantino but pointed out he hasn't gotten one complaint since the office closed in Prince George in January.

"I can tell you honestly that I have not had a single call from a veteran in my riding telling me that they are needing service and can't get it - not one," said Harris, who double checked this fact with both his Prince George office and his Ottawa office prior to the meeting. "And over the last 20 years every time a veteran has called we've dealt with them very quickly and got the problem fixed. That's the nature of the work that we do in my office."

The declining number of World War II veterans is not a reflection of a decline in need of Veterans Affairs offices, said Bonnie Heidt, union of veteran affairs employees vice president for the west. There are people currently in active military service now or who served in the recent past that need this ongoing service, she added.

In the last two years, the number of traditional veterans served by Veterans Affairs has decreased from 63,000 to 49,000, according to a recent press release from the Public Service Alliance of Canada. The number of regular force veterans served by Veterans Affairs has increased from 68,000 to 76,000. In 2013 the average age of 594,300 Canadian Forces veterans is 56. The government has made budget cuts for Veterans Affairs by $129 million since 2011, with more cuts planned, the release said.

As nine community offices closed across the country, there has been one person put in some Service Canada offices to help veterans but not in Prince George.

"Veterans like to live out here (Prince George area) to get away from a lot of people and a lot of our clientele is still elderly," said Heidt. "You can't bring them into Service Canada, sit them down in front of a computer and say 'now you look it up', because basically that's their role at Service Canada - to hand out pamphlets and make sure forms are filled out correctly."

One person can't do the work required to meet the needs of all the veterans in need, Heidt added.

As a concerned 21-year veteran, Bruce Gabriel, who is also Legion Branch 43 president, said he is only speaking as a veteran himself and said he talks with many veterans about their struggles.

"It's not just here in Prince George but all across the country and our veterans are not getting the service they need," Gabriel said. "If you have a hearing problem or a sight problem the people that worked in these offices had a passion for it and would help them."

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is becoming more and more common in veterans, Gabriel added.

"In the military years ago when you had any kind of mental difficulties you were deemed weak but that was not the case," said Gabriel. "We need to know that our people are looked after and we need to have those offices open with people in them who have passion for the veterans."