OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Jan. 29, 2014) - Since the announcement by the Government of the closure of the eight Veterans Affairs Canada district offices in the 2012 budget, The Royal Canadian Legion has been advocating strongly and directly to this Government. The most recent action was a letter the Legion sent to the Minister of Veterans of Affairs in November 2013 (attached along with this response). The Dominion President, Mr. Gordon Moore stated, "I am concerned with the closure of the district offices and the lack of effective communication to our Veterans on the closures. Veterans need to understand that they will be looked after." The Legion recognized there was a great deal of confusion as to how Veterans would receive ongoing services, and there is still no clear response from government.
It is time for this Government to be proactive and reach out to our Veterans and their families in the areas impacted by these closures. While the closing of the offices will be offset by an increase of some staff at the Integrated Personnel Support Centres on Canadian Armed Forces bases, a consolidation of VAC resources in major centres leaves the Legion concerned. The Legion has stated, "We fully support the increase in Case Managers at the Integrated Personnel Support Centres to ensure a seamless transition from military to civilian life, especially for complex cases. However, there still needs to be sufficient resources to meet the needs of all our war-time and aging Veterans, whose needs can very quickly go from independent to complex with a simple fall or infection." This remains a large group of approximately 118,000 Veterans. Also there are many Reserve Force members located in these communities who need to know they will get informed assistance when and where needed. More and more we are seeing complex cases coming forward and the government has a duty of care to all Veterans.
The Government states that services will be available through Service Canada outlets enabling Veterans to drop in, obtain information and get assistance with applications from any of the 600 outlets across the country. The Legion is carefully monitoring the implementation of this new service but we ask: "Have the staff been provided sufficient training to advise on disability benefits and services available to Veterans?" We know that only half of the approximately 118,000 war-time Veterans are in receipt of benefits from VAC. Our service officers across the country report that war-time Veterans previously not in receipt of VAC assistance are coming forward every day in need of VAC services. The process to obtain benefits and services is complex and time is critical. If turned away at a Service Centre, will they get the help they deserve?
The Government has created new on-line tools such as My VAC Account and has provided more information on the internet to assist Veterans; however, this is a comprehensive and complex process with confusing eligibility requirements. "While these tools may be useful for some, the Legion is very concerned for those Veterans with significant needs who need face-to-face assistance," said Moore.
In the Minister's response to our November 2013 letter he has committed to ensuring our Veterans and their families will be looked after. The Minister has not yet been clear on how this will be accomplished. Veterans and their families need to know that this Government cares and that their needs will be met despite the closure of the district office in their area. We will hold this Government accountable.
About the Legion
Established in 1926, the Legion is the largest Veterans service organization in Canada with more than 320,000 members. Its mission is to serve all Veterans including serving Canadian Armed Forces and Royal Canadian Mounted Police members and their families, to promote Remembrance and to serve our communities and our country.
The Legion's Service Bureau Officers can assist and represent CAF members Veterans, RCMP members and their families regarding disability claims or related issues with Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) and the Veterans Review and Appeal Board (VRAB).
In communities across Canada, it is the Legion that perpetuates Remembrance through the Poppy campaign and Remembrance Day ceremonies, With more than 1,450 branches, The Legion supports programs for seniors, Veterans housing, Long Term Care, youth leadership, education, sports, Cadets, Guides and Scouts. We will Remember Them.