Veterans speak out against closure of Veterans Affairs offices

OTTAWA, Oct. 3, 2013 /CNW/ - Veterans were in Ottawa today for the launch of a YouTube video about why the federal government should not close the Veterans Affairs offices they rely on for frontline services.

They say the government is betraying Canada's veterans by shutting down Veterans Affairs offices in Charlottetown, Corner Brook, Sydney, Thunder Bay, Windsor, Brandon, Saskatoon, Prince George and Kelowna.

Terry Collins, a 47 year-old veteran who served in Bosnia and accesses services from the Sydney office, is featured in the YouTube video produced by the Public Service Alliance of Canada. The video was launched on PSAC's website today.

"I am a young veteran living with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder," said Collins. "Veterans are not dying out - there are hundreds more just like me who are struggling and need face-to-face services from Veterans Affairs."

Many veterans - especially those living with serious injuries, disabilities and mental health challenges like PTSD - rely on these Veterans Affairs offices for support.

"They tell me that I will need to drive for more than five hours to get one-on-one services," said Ron Clarke, 73, another veteran featured in the video who served nearly 36 years in the military and lives in North Sydney. "What a profound disservice to veterans like me."

The government says veterans in the affected communities will be able to access services through Service Canada offices, but the staff members there are not able to provide the services veterans need and are also facing cuts.

"Telling us to drive for hours or rely on the phone or a website for help is a profound betrayal to veterans young and old. Veterans need and deserve one-on-one help," said Michael Barnewell, 32, a veteran who served in Afghanistan and lost his right leg to a land mine.

Yvan Thauvette, president of PSAC's Union of Veterans Affairs Employees says his members are worried about the clients they serve.

"Veterans deserve better and should not have to drive for hours to access the services they need and deserve," said Thauvette.

"We will be working with veterans to urge Members of Parliament to speak out against the closures," said Robyn Benson, National President of PSAC. "We hope our video will encourage Canadians everywhere to get involved."


For further information:

Shelina Merani, PSAC Communications: (613) 293-9324


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