Veterans and politicians continue to rally in an attempt to save Windsor’s Veterans Affairs office.
The office on University Avenue is one of nine slated to close across Canada in February 2014.
A rally was held at Charles Clark Square Friday.
Jeff Gravel, a veteran who served in Afghanistan, retired from the armed forces in 2009 and now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. He uses Windsor’s Veterans Affairs Office at least once a month.
He relies on staff there for help find health care, mental health care, enrolling in school and filling out forms.
'I need the face-to-face [service]' - Veteran Jeff Gravel
“I need the face-to-face [service]. I have the inability to concentrate at times and I feel the paperwork overwhelming to fill out at times,” he said.
Staff at the office also coordinates doctors to treat Gravel’s PTSD. He suffers from nightmares and anxiety and has the inability to control his emotions at times.
“It’s a difficult feeling to describe. It’s not that life here isn’t comfortable. It’s just a different life all together,” he said. “We’re not soldiers here. I’m not a soldier anymore. The threats we face here aren’t the threats we’d face on a daily basis. And they’re fairly insignificant here for the most part.”
Gravel called the office “very important” to him.
“And I consider myself healthier than I have been in years but I still have issues,” he said. “I have several colleagues and peers in the area that I know are struggling and are worse off than me, in some ways.”
Ottawa announced the closures in February 2013.
Services moving to London
In an email to CBC News, Ministry of Veterans Affairs spokesperson Janice Summerby said “services standards will not change.”
'Service standards will not change.' - Ministry of Veterans Affairs
“Veterans across Canada can continue to rely on home visits from nurses and case managers for those who require them,” she wrote. “Veterans who are currently being served by case managers out of the Windsor Office will continue to be served, once that office is closed, from the Veterans Affairs Canada office in London.”
Gravel has a case manager in Windsor. He’ll have to go to London once the office closes.
‘When they close that office these men and women have nowhere to go. Giving us a bus ticket to London isn’t an easy fix. For me, it’s a day out of school. For anyone employed, it’s a day out of work. No one compensates us for that. VA isn’t compensating me that time,” he said. “I don’t want red-carpet service. I want services that were initially provided to us after the promise for Vimy Ridge.
“I think they need to listen to the veterans. These are men and women who stop dictatorships, intervene in very troubling times in very troubling places. Not only do the veterans have to live with the consequences of the places they served and what they may have had to do, but the families, the friends and people close to them have had to pay a price that goes unnoticed. It’s the little things that count, the one-on-one customer care.”
'Windsor responded' to call of duty
Windsor West NDP MP Brian Masse called the decision to close the office “totally unacceptable.”
“The community is unified to fight for this. We have an extensive social media campaign and letter writing petitions. If they’re going to turn their backs on our veterans they’re going to be pushed back at,” Masse said at a rally Friday.
He also raised the issue in the House of Commons earlier in the week.
"Windsor is a community that responded to the call. It provided our nation's capital the Korean war memorial. Our men and women stepped during the Great Wars, Korea, Afghanistan and countless peacekeeping missions," he said. "Instead of honouring these contributions, Conservatives are closing our veterans' office and others, forcing veterans to travel for hours to get help.".
Read the Ministry of Veterans Affairs email below:
Veterans Affairs Canada is dedicated to ensuring Veterans and their families have the support they need, when they need it. To accomplish this, we are adjusting the footprint of the department to keep up with the changing demographics of Veterans across Canada. In some cases, we are increasing the number of case workers in the regions where Veterans need them most.
Veterans across Canada can continue to rely on home visits from nurses and case managers for those who require them. Services standards will not change and we remain dedicated to providing Veterans with the same high quality service to which they are accustomed regardless of their geographic location.
Case Management officers, who are responsible for meeting Veterans in need at a location of their convenience, will continue to offer services in the region. Veterans who are currently being served by case managers out of the Windsor Office will continue to be served, once that office is closed, from the Veterans Affairs Canada office in London.
In addition, thanks to our innovative partnership with Service Canada, Veterans can now access services conveniently at nearly 600 SC locations right across Canada, including Service Canada Centres in Windsor. In many cases, Veterans will only have to travel a short distance to their local Service Canada office for basic assistance, where in the past they would have had to travel several hours to a district office.
Case management services are delivered on a consistent, ongoing basis for those Veterans who need them and we will continue to meet or exceed our service standard of one case manager for every 40 case-managed Veterans however the reality is that most Veterans do not require case management services.