Job cuts could see veterans ‘fall through cracks:’ union

Some vets are falling by the wayside say Veteran Affairs staffers

Virginia Vaillancourt is in the business of helping military veterans, but because there aren’t enough Veterans Affairs Canada staff and too many files, she says some vets are falling by the wayside.

“I’ve had clients pass away before I can get equipment to them,” said Vaillancourt, one of 47 people working at the Island’s main Veterans Affairs office, located in downtown Victoria. Five staff members work at CFB Esquimalt, helping Canadian Forces members transition to civilian life.

“(Veterans are) falling through the cracks,” she said.

Her office manages 22,500 active files, and Vaillancourt has 1,200 files, helping veterans or their widows acquire mobility devices, disability benefits and pensions, as well as helping them transition to civilian life.

Because her workload is so heavy, the Esquimalt resident said she still can’t get to paperwork from April. Some colleagues are assisting veterans as far away as Regina.

The Union of Veterans’ Affairs Employees is sounding the alarm that more job cuts are coming, in addition to 500 cuts planned nationally through 2015.

“More job cuts but not less work,” said Yvan Thauvette, the union’s national president, who was in Victoria Wednesday for the launch of a cross-country awareness campaign.

All federal departments were asked to identify areas in which five to 10 per cent of program spending could be trimmed to reduce the federal deficit. Thauvette said Veterans Affairs should be exempt.

“Because people are stressed, tired and burned out, it’s not the time to cut additional positions within that department.”

In response, the Ministry of Veterans Affairs did not entirely rule out a new wave of job cuts, but said current benefits will stay the same.

“It is anticipated that these changes will be achieved mostly through attrition,” said Jean-Christophe de la Rue, press secretary to the Veterans Affairs minister.

 emccracken@vicnews.com

 

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