Wednesday, June 3, 2015
Veterans air office closures concerns on video
Released by Public Service Alliance of Canada/Handout photos
Veterans Ron Clarke (L) and Vince Rigby say the closure of the Sydney office has made things much harder for them. Below, Robyn Young's mother had to drive her five times from Windsor to London to plead her case.
eterans say they feel abandoned by the Conservative government after it closed nine Veterans Affairs offices across Canada in 2013 and 2014.
In a series of new videos released by the Public Service Alliance of Canada today, veterans describe how the loss of in-person services has exacerbated PTSD and other service-related health challenges.
Vince Rigby, 50, served 22 years in the Canadian military, including time in Croatia, Bosnia and the Medak Pocket. Diagnosed with extreme PTSD, he credits the workers in the now-closed Sydney Veterans Affairs office with saving his life.
"I was on the verge of committing suicide," says Rigby. "But within half an hour of sitting in the office, I went from crying my eyes out to being very happy. Someone listened to me, they heard my story."
Ronald Clarke was affected by the closure of the same office.
"They have taken the pride and the simplicity of being able to do what we needed to do with the Veterans Affairs office," he says. "They have taken all that away from us."
Robyn Young is only 24 years old, but has already served in the Royal Canadian Navy for eight years. She is currently unable to serve, due to the side effects from surviving both a brain tumour and an unnecessary surgery that has left her with permanent double vision and constant vertigo and nausea. She has been trying to get help from Veterans Affairs. But the office in Windsor closed last year, along with eight others in Canada.
"I can't drive. I'm sick. I have someone to drive two hours for me. I'm sitting in the car and it's awful. I'm lucky that I have someone doing it for me, and a lot of people don't," says Young.
All of the veterans and advocates featured in the videos make an impassioned case for the federal government to re-open the offices in Corner Brook, Charlottetown, Sydney, Thunder Bay, Windsor, Brandon, Saskatoon, Kelowna and Prince George.
As Bradley points out, "If this level of service is what the government is going to be giving our heroes, then what does it mean for the rest of us?"
PSAC launched an online letter in conjunction with the videos today, urging Veterans Affairs Minister Erin O'Toole to re-open the offices.
"Our members work on the front lines. They want to help veterans, but the office closures and other cuts have left their hands tied," says Carl Gannon, National President of the Union of Veterans Affairs Employees.
Robyn Benson, National President of PSAC, agrees.
"Canadian veterans fought for us. Now it's time to fight for them."
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