In lieu of office, Veterans Affairs to visit northern veterans face-to-face

Nine Veterans Affairs offices that closed under the Harper government will re-open by May 2017. There are no offices opening in the North, but the Department of Veterans Affairs says its workers will meet with northern veterans face-to-face.

9 Veterans Affairs offices closed under Harper government re-opening by May 2017

Kent Hehr, minister of Veterans Affairs (left) announced expanded outreach to veterans in northern Canada on Wednesday in Yellowknife. (CBC)

Nine Veterans Affairs offices that closed under the Harper government will officially re-open by May 2017, but there won't be any offices in the three territories.

Kent Hehr, the federal minister of Veterans Affairs, was in Yellowknife on Wednesday morning to talk about the Liberal government's plans for veterans in Canada's North.

"We understand that this area has been not well served under the former government," Hehr said.

"Here today, we are announcing expanded access to the territories and the North and we are so proud of that.

"This is a dedicated team that will be up here on a regular and ongoing basis."

Hehr said staff with Veterans Affairs Canada will now travel to the three territories and other northern communities every month to meet with veterans and their families. The aim is to increase awareness of services available to veterans and reduce barriers in accessing services.

RCMP, Canadian Rangers included

The department serves about 300 veterans and other clients in northern Canada.

"We believe with our expanded outreach that number will grow, because many people are not aware that they qualify for benefits," Hehr said.

One of those veterans is Canadian Ranger Norman Beebe. He injured his shoulder 16 years ago while serving in the North, and never received support from Veterans Affairs Canada.

Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr (left) with Canadian Ranger Norman Beebe (right). Beebe is seeking assistance from Veterans Affairs Canada. (CBC)

"At the time the injury actually happened, I went in and reported it to the sergeant... and I was told that we don't have the paperwork for that sort of thing, so suck it up."

"There was a lot of us...who had accidents back in the day."

Beebe said he has now started the process to receive disability compensation.

Hehr said the budget for expanding services in the North and re-opening the nine closed offices across the country is $78.1 million over five years.

$5.6 billion commitment

Hehr alo reaffirmed the federal government's $5.6 billion commitment to improve benefits and services for veterans, including increased payments under the Disability Award and the Earnings Loss Benefit and expanded access to the Permanent Impairment Allowance.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is in the process of hiring 400 new employees to provide essential services to veterans. 


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