Veterans concerned over cuts to case workers

Some former members of the Canadian military are expressed concern after finding out that the number of frontline Veterans Affairs case workers dealing with them is being cut.
Lt.-Col. Pat of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in 2002. Stogran says now he's disgusted the government would cut case workers — a service he says is essential for veterans. (Kevin Frayer/Canadian Press)

Some former members of the Canadian military say they're being told the number of case workers dealing with veterans is being cut.

Whitehorse veteran Dave Laxton was at his local legion when Veterans Affairs officials dropped the news that 100 front-line case workers, who help veterans get access to programs and services, are being cut across the country.

Laxton has concerns there may not be capacity to deal with increasing demand as veterans from the conflict in Afghanistan re-adjust to life at home.

"If anything I was hoping to see maybe a few extra client service people to help move these claims through the system that much quicker," Laxton said.

It was 10 years after Laxton left the military before he was able to deal with his post-traumatic stress. That's not uncommon, said retired colonel Pat Stogran, a former veterans ombudsman.

"Afghanistan is out of the sight and mind of the public now, we're all heaving a collective sigh of relief, we're glad that's over with but it's the tsunami that's coming after the earthquake that is going to impact," Stogran said.

He expects demands on the health system will increase and he's disgusted the government would cut case workers — a service he says is essential for veterans

"They need the personal care — someone sitting there who knows the person and can arrange to have the services at the time and place where they are required," Stogran told CBC News.

For its part, Veterans Affairs says it will not reduce case management services. An email from the department says 250 jobs will be eliminated over the next three years.

"With approximately 1,000 employees eligible for retirement, the majority of the changes will occur through attrition and effective human resource management," said Jean-Christophe de le Rue, a spokesman for Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney, in an email. "There will be no reduction to case managers who provide support to veterans. Our nation’s heroes will always receive the best possible care."

With files from Cheryl Kawaja