Last summer, in Kelowna B.C., a 92 year old veteran walked into a Service Canada office to apply for war veteran allowance. Leaning on his walker, he waited for 40 minutes before he could talk to an agent. The Service Canada agent told him that he could not help him and that it was impossible to speak directly to a Veterans Affairs employee. The only way to file his request was online using a computer terminal. The old soldier did not know how to use a computer. He drove all the way back home and got on the phone to have his application processed by the department.
We don’t know what happened after that. What we do know is why it happened: the federal government decided to close down VAC’s district offices and replace them by Service Canada offices which distribute general information about the government, but cannot provide the specialized information veterans need.
I am the National President of the Union of Veterans’ Affairs Employees. Our union is supportive of Veterans Affairs Canada’s efforts to improve services to veterans. Unfortunately these efforts are rendered useless by the recent federal budget cuts.
This department has been forced to reduce its workforce by 25%, almost one thousand jobs by the end of 2015. The average case load for a Client Service Agent (CSA) is currently at 800 files. After the cuts, it will be more than 1,400 files. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Veterans Affairs minister Steven Blaney pretend that quality of services will improve. This is simply absurd.
Veterans are the heroes of the nation. They deserve our utmost respect, lest we forget.
Yvan Thauvette, National President
Union of Veterans’ Affairs Employees