Veterans Affairs offices could re-open 'within the next year'

A Veterans Affairs office could re-open within a year in Windsor, according to the Liberal government.

Windsor veterans debate timeline, red tape, bureaucracy

Jeff Gravel questions Veterans Affairs offices re-opening

6 years ago
Jeff Gravel says government needs to cut red tape and bureaucracy for veterans 1:23

A Veterans Affairs office could re-open within a year in Windsor, according to the Liberal government.     

The timeline was included in a letter to Windsor West MP Brian Masse, after he wrote Veterans Affairs minister Kent Hehr asking when the office would re-open: 

...our goal is to re-open all nine offices, including the one in Windsor, within the next year.

When CBC News requested confirmation, the ministry did not give the same timeline. 

The language of the letter is not good enough for Masse. He said he expected a more detailed confirmation in response to his inquiry. 

"This is a turn-key operation," he said. "This is something they can open in a matter of weeks, yet it's been six months now. 

'A more expensive waiting room' 

For at least one other veteran, though, re-opening an office would not make navigating the system any easier. 

"As far as I'm concerned, it's a more expensive waiting room," said Jeff Gravel, who fought in Afghanistan and also uses Veterans Affairs services to help him deal with post-traumatic stress disorder. "The building won't bring about new employment for the veterans. They won't be manning desks. If it's about the services, the services haven't changed in the year it's been closed.

"We're asking wounded and ailing vets to jump through hoops like circus animals," the 40-year-old said. "They're wounded. That's why they need Veterans Affairs. We don't need the extra aggravation. We don't need the extra hoops or three levels of people to contact when we need someone done ... There's nothing a brick wall, a new building or waiting room there that's going to help us move it forward any faster." 

Gravel said his concerns are more with the Veterans Affairs system itself. 

"Tweak the system. The system is broken," he said

"We need to make amendments to it to accommodate the changing reality of vets that have served this country," Gravel said. "The needs have changed. The demographics of vets have changed. If that means altering the services somewhat, then that's what makes sense for everybody." 

'Awful frustrating' 

But Ralph Mayville, who fought with the Devil's Brigade in the Second World War, echoes Masse. 

"That is a long time, a year. It should open tomorrow," he said. "You shouldn't be waiting that long to ask questions. It's better than nothing, but it could be a whole lot better." 

Since the Veterans Affairs office closed in Windsor in January 2014, the 94 year-old has been travelling to London at least once a month to deal with his pension and disability paperwork. 

Mayville is hard of hearing, so dealing with automated menus through the phone is difficult. 

"It's awful frustrating. If it wasn't for my caretaker...she's the one who drives me," he told CBC News. "Thank God for that. It's an awful waste of time to go all the way down there, have a meeting, then have to drive all the way back. [Having the office in Windsor] made helluva difference." 

Gravel suggests putting the money toward treatment for veterans suffering from war injuries would make a bigger difference for veterans. 

"Moving away from the pharmacological aspect of things and exploring alternative treatments for veterans to get them on the road to recovery. To make them employable. To get them back in the community," he said. 

Calling on the community

Brian Masse said he'll be calling a rally if he does not hear of a definitive opening date for an office in Windsor before the end of this parliamentary session.

"We'll be calling on the community for support to get this done, if necessary," he said. "They shouldn't be using weasel words to fulfil this minor electoral promise. It's only a million dollars the Conservatives saved [by closing the Windsor office]." 

The federal government did not tell CBC News where the office will be located. 

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