Veterans Affairs district office closures flagged as risk
Offices provided face-to-face service for veterans
A new Veterans Affairs Canada report says that the closure of district offices across the country could have an impact on service delivery for veterans.
The annual report on plans and priorities lists what it describes as the department's top three external risks, and two of them are connected with service delivery.
"The primary risk being mitigated by the Department is that the modernization of VAC's service delivery model will not be achieved as expected, and will not meet the needs of Veterans," the report reads.
At the end of January, Veterans Affairs Canada closed eight district offices across the country. The offices provide face-to-face services for veterans.
In place of the district offices, the department has placed one Veterans Affairs worker at nearby Service Canada offices and is training other Service Canada staff to meet veterans' needs, as well as directing them to online resources.
Many veterans were vocal in their opposition to the changes.
Edmonton MP Laurie Hawn, a Conservative member of the Parliamentary veterans affairs committee, said the department is merely guaranteeing the changes are successful.
"You're always planning for a contingency," said Hawn.
"It doesn't mean those risks are going to occur, but you need to anticipate whatever might happen and it's the old plan for the worst and work for the best kind of thing. So you always identify risks wherever, so if something does develop as we move along, if something pops up, you can do something proactive instead of reactive."
The report lists a number of potential responses should problems arise with service delivery, including:
- Enhance technology.
- Invest in training for staff.
- Simplify processes.
- Manage perceptions.
- Ensure advanced planning and timely decision making.
Hawn said DVA is open to feedback on how services can be improved.
Hawn said he has had complaints about services since the offices closed. Veterans Ombudsman Guy Parent said he has not yet received any complaints, but noted it has not been long since the offices closed.