Veterans speak out on eve of Veterans Affairs office closures

Jan 28, 2014, 10:00 ET from PSAC

OTTAWA, Jan. 28, 2014 /CNW/ - Veterans from across the country have travelled to Ottawa this week to make one last call on the government to stop the shut down of Veterans Affairs offices in their communities this Friday.

"We shouldn't have to beg just to keep the face-to-face services we are entitled to," said Roy Lamore, a World War Two veteran from Thunder Bay. "This is a reckless decision that will hurt the men and women who have served this country," he added.

Lamore was one of seven veterans who spoke at a news conference on Parliament Hill today and who will meet with Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino Tuesday evening. They'll be asking him to stop this Friday's shut down of VAC distict offices in Kelowna, Saskatoon, Brandon, Thunder Bay, Windsor, Sydney, Charlottetown and Corner Brook, and to re-open the office in Prince George that closed a year ago.

Bruce Moncur says it isn't just traditional veterans who rely on the offices for the services they need. The Windsor-born veteran was just 22-years old when he was accidentally strafed by an American A-10 Warthog during Operation Medusa in Afghanistan in 2006. He suffered a near-deadly brain injury and now endures fatigue, short-term memory loss and PTSD.

"Veterans in Windsor need our office to stay open," said Moncur. "I'll be telling Minister Fantino that my recovery and the mental and physical health of so many other veterans depends on it."

Veterans were joined by PSAC member Michelle Bradley who has worked for Veterans Affairs since 2001.

"These closures are betraying our veterans everywhere," said Bradley. "And it isn't just veterans served by the offices being closed who will see longer wait times and less face-to-face services, but veterans in the communities where offices are taking on those files, like Saint John, where I work," she said.

Sydney veteran Ron Clarke says he hopes Minister Fantino will finally listen to what veterans and their supporters have been saying for months.

"If not, I'll be working with veterans to do two things in our communities: first, tracking the consequences of the closures and keeping Canadians informed, and second, ensuring this government is held to account in the next election," said Clarke.

PSAC's National Vice-President Chris Aylward said he has been encouraged to see so many Canadians speaking out on the issue.

"I am proud of our members for standing with the veterans they serve, and I am encouraged to see Canadians standing up for veterans too," said Aylward. "Let's hope the government shows them the same respect."