The last week has been a busy one on Parliament Hill with far too many topics to raise in the limited space of this week’s report. For that reason I would like to focus on the topic that I believe is of greatest importance and that is veteran services and how that relates to the closure of eight Veterans Affairs offices.
Currently in Canada there is just under 600,000 veterans with roughly 130,000 of those veterans having a file with Veterans Affairs. Historically there have been 68 Veterans Affairs offices in Canada including one in Okanagan-Coquihalla that is located in Penticton. The Penticton office is not one of the eight recently closed. These Veteran Affairs offices have certainly been beneficial for veterans in the 68 communities they are located in however this also leaves many regions of Canada without an office
to service as an access point for veterans services. It should also be noted that veteran affairs offices do not actually provide services directly to veterans– these offices serve as administrative points of contact so that veterans can ultimately access the services and benefits they do need.
Aside from appearing at a Veterans Affairs office in person, veterans do have other options to obtain services from Veterans Affairs. By far the most popular option is through the telephone as each year there are slightly over 700,000 calls made by veterans to Veterans affairs. In home service is also available to those veterans who may have mobility challenges however in home visits are not currently tracked so it is unclear how many veterans utilize this service. More recently Veterans Services have also been offered online; although some have questioned the ability of veterans to access
services online currently 15,000 veterans have accessed services electronically.
In order to further increase the accessibility options for the many veterans who live in regions of Canada that are not among the 68 with a Veterans Affairs office, our Government is expanding Service Canada to also include the ability to access Veterans Affairs benefits and Services. This decision ensures that veteran services can be accessed at roughly 600 more Service Canada locations than was previously possible. In eight communities in Canada a situation arose where a Service Canada office was in extremely close proximity to a pre-existing Veterans Office. As an example in five of these
community’s Service Canada and Veterans affairs offices were located in the same building and in two other circumstances were within a kilometer of each others. In these situations of close proximity the decision was made to close the veterans affairs office and transfer some of the staff to the Service Canada office. Once these changes are in effect there will be 60 Veterans Affairs offices remaining combined with 600 Service Canada locations meaning veterans who desire to access service in person will have over 650 locations across Canada to do so.
From a funding perspective, veteran benefits have been increased overall by close to $5 billion in new and additional funding- this has been invested to expand the eligibility for the permanent impairment allowance, setting monthly minimums for veteran’s in rehabilitation, doubling the funds available to a family under the funeral and burial program are just a few examples of where the increased funding is being spent. This does not mean that challenges do not remain. We are also fortunate in Canada that the Royal Canadian Legion operates 1,461 branches Canada wide. The Legion is a valuable resource in representing the interests of veterans and works closely with all levels of Government to help ensure that the needs of our veterans are looked after.The Legion also provides support services to veterans that are made possible through donations to the poppy fund. I believe that Canadians are united
in sharing the view that it is critically important veterans receive the benefits and services that they need. If you would like further information on specific veteran programs or services please do not hesitate to contact me directly. I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or
toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.