In response to Mr. Bone’s February 4th letter to the editor, I would like to clarify that no offices serving Veterans are being closed in our riding of Cypress Hills – Grasslands. Services to Veterans continue to be made available at seven locations around the riding: From Monday to Friday at the Swift Current Service Canada Centre and on varying days at Assiniboia, Gravelbourg, Maple Creek, Ponteix and Shaunavon.
It is unfortunate, however, that the closure of eight Veterans Affairs Offices in other areas is being portrayed as a reduction in services. In actual fact, the changes made by our Government have dramatically increased both services and support to our veterans.
Since 2006, we have increased the points of service for Veterans by over 620 locations. This means there are now more than 650 Service Canada locations which provide in-person services to veterans – 16 times higher than what it was previously under the Liberals.
In place of the eight closed offices, there is now a full-time Veterans Affairs client service agent at each of the eight closest Service Canada locations. These service agents can assist Veterans with applying for and modifying benefits, providing information on services and connecting those with complex needs to case managers or medical professionals. Veterans will have minimal, if any, additional travel time since the eight Service Canada locations are extremely close to the previous offices: Five are located in the exact same building, two are located less than 1km away and one is less than four kilometres away.
In total, since being asked by Canadians to form government, we have increased investments in veterans’ benefits by almost $5 billion. This new funding includes expanding the eligibility for the Permanent Impairment Allowance so that 3,000 more veterans are eligible, as well as creating the $1,000 per month Permanent Impairment Allowance Supplement. In addition, we set a minimum monthly income for veterans in rehabilitation.
We also created the Joint Personnel Support Unit (JPSU). The JPSU enables our ill and injured members to work with medical personnel, social workers, occupational therapists and others to help them transition back into civilian life. We have made unprecedented investments in this area and have almost doubled the number of available health care workers. We currently have the highest ratio of mental health experts to help the men and women in uniform than any of our NATO allies.
In spite of the rhetoric to the contrary, all of these developments are significant steps forward in providing increased services to our Veterans. Our Conservative Government is deeply committed to serving the men and women who have served Canada, as well as their families, and our record demonstrates that commitment.
David Anderson, MP Cypress Hills – Grasslands