Cape Breton veterans battle office closure

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SYDNEY —Cape Breton veterans and Veterans Affairs employees were front and centre at a press conference in Ottawa and in a YouTube video that was also launched Thursday to fight the closure of Veterans Affairs offices across the country.

Ron Clarke talks in a Youtube video released Thursday about why the Sydney office of veterans Affairs should remain open for veterans.

Ron Clarke, 73, of North Sydney, who retired as a sergeant, and Terry Collins, 47, of Sydney, who was a warrant officer, spoke about how much they value the service they have received at the Veterans Affairs office in Sydney as they deal with post-traumatic stress disorder.

"Dealing with PTSD on a daily basis is quite rough," said Collins in the YouTube video (which can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKuGWYFwfsU).

"What helps it though is the support we have over at Veterans Affairs."

The federal government is closing down Veterans Affairs offices in Sydney, Charlottetown, Corner Brook, Thunder Bay, Windsor, Brandon, Saskatoon, Prince George and Kelowna by February, saying veterans in the affected communities will be able to access services through Service Canada offices.

"I served for 22 years proudly as a Canadian soldier," Collins said. "Now I feel my government has betrayed me and let me down."

Collins also accused the federal government of falsely saying veterans are disappearing in Canada.

Clarke said in the YouTube video he learned about the closure on Remembrance Day.

"What a day to find out," he said.

Clarke also said in a release from the press conference he has been told he will have to drive more than five hours to get the one-on-one services he has been receiveing from Veterans Affairs in Sydney. He called that a profound disservice to veterans.

Sydney office employee Jennifer McNenly, a case manager, said they are serving about 4,200 clients.

McNenly spoke about a 30-year-old veteran who also has post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

"He comes in every week just to see me, so I can help them."

Brenda LeBlanc, another employee of the Sydney office, says the reason given for the closing is lack of work.

'Which is completely untrue," she said. "We are busier now than we have ever been."

The YouTube video says there are more than 750,000 veterans in Canada and 110,000 men and women serving in the military and RCMP today.

Robyn Benson, the national president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, said it will work with veterans to urge MPs to speak out against the office closures.

Cape Breton veterans have staged several protests against the closure of the Sydney office.

MP Mark Eyking, whose riding includes the Sydney veterans Affairs office, said on Thursday he was proud of the Cape Bretoners who spoke up at the press conference and on the YouTube video.

The Conservative government says it is taking care of people in uniform, he said.

"What happens when they take that uniform off?"

Veterans Affairs staff can't be replaced by a 1-800 phone number or by an online service, he said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Organizations: Veterans Affairs, Service Canada, Toutube Video

Geographic location: Sydney, Cape Breton, North Sydney Charlottetown Corner Brook Thunder Bay Brandon Saskatoon Prince George Kelowna

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Recent comments

  • very few
    October 04, 2013 - 13:03

    very few of the vets are from WW2. Most are in their 40's to 60's, a few younger. The majority are computer literate. Health care comes from health care professionals, not office staff. This is all about jobs. Harper has spoken. Consider it a done deal. Transfer to another job in another location. PTSD can be treated successfully. Since this seems to be the prevailing injury. I would be more worried about my treatment than who fills out my forms. Men served from 1939-1945 and never had leaves home or 10% of the problems being treated today. 6 terrible years of fighting atrocities never to be witnessed again.----------- hopefully.

  • Dave from Barrie
    October 04, 2013 - 11:40

    The goverment is changing the service delivery method of many programs across Canada not just in Cape Breton.It has been shown that the new service delivery method is just as effective in 95 percent of the cases...What we are seeing here is the saving of Cape Breton Goverment Goverment jobs and nothing more...The veterans will still get their benefits and good services will still be offered to them.

  • PTSD
    October 03, 2013 - 22:45

    PTSD is not a lifetime illness. They should concentrate more on getting them back to work. I suffered from PTSD and it was hell. I even thought of suicide. I had a major operation and should have been off 3 months, I went back in 2 months. Thought routine might help. I had to be at work 7AM, I got up between 3 and 4 A.M. to wind myself down to make it out the door. I lost over 30 lbs. because I was too nerved up to eat. With the help of my GP and co-workers I made it back to being well again. I could have went on a good paying disability pension for the rest of my life. I wouldn't have enjoyed one cent of it. PTSD can be cured, it takes help and determination. Sitting home at 30 years old was the last thing I wanted, yes you can get back to a normal life. It is another illness like soft tissue injury that can't be diagnosed. The WCB had 90 in100 with soft tissue injury. Anything open to abuse will be taken advantage of by some. Anybody truly suffering, things will get better.

  • Veteran's Child
    October 03, 2013 - 22:43

    I am the adult child of 2 WW2 veterans. Although my father passed away more than 30 years ago, my mother lived to be 91 and had some support from the DVA office in Sydney. She had served in Britian from September of 1939 to March of 1945. Fortunately, she had the help of my older sisters to be with her whenever she had to go to the DVA office in Sydney. For the last 10 years, one sister who was had been in the military was her advocate when dealing with DVA. Our aging veterans should not be subjected to dealing with a person on the end of the phone line who does not care, or the necessity of learning to use a computerand navigate a website that would likely be difficult for the IT savvy person. What will happen to those who do not have family or others to be advocates for them. Perhaps that is the plan. In my opinion, the more difficult you make accessing services, the sooner those entitled to services will give up. Lets all make the effort to call, write or e mail the minister responsible as well as the office of the PM to make sure that they hear loud and clear that THIS IS NOT OK. On November 11th many federal politicians will play the role for the cameras, place a wreath and shake hands with veterans who have tears in their eyes as they remember their service to this country. The motto of November 11th is "Lest We Forget" I am very afraid that the Government of Canada has done just that. They wish to make services harder to access in hopes that the aging veterans will just die off. Although both of my parents have passed away, I will always remember them. To take a quote from every Legion ceremony that will be held in this country on November 11th "We Shall Remember Them:.

  • Soldier From Gagetown
    October 03, 2013 - 20:12

    My heart goes out to those who truly do have PTSD or an illness, but when I see or hear about people who claim they have PTSD or illness who have never left the camp or even seen real combat it makes me scratch my head. I have served on 6 missions, 2 in Afghan and I consider myself lucky for not having any illnesses. I guess my point is that closing the office makes absolutely no bearing on the care that you will or would receive regardless of where you live. I've seen way too many Ford -150 (PTSD) cases a majority of them are nothing but lies to grab money from VA, its no wonder they are closing offices when u you have several people claiming fake injuries. I have even heard from retired vets in their 70's claiming illness or hearing loss from military service, funny thing is that they haven't served in some cases in over 20 years. I submit VA caters to money grubbers. You know who you are, I hope you sleep well at night.