There has been a loud outcry – from veterans, their families, friends and the general public – about the way Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government is handling the Veterans Affairs portfolio.
Veterans, The Royal Canadian Legion and advocacy groups have been engaged in an ongoing battle with the Tory government about how our military men and women, who have been sent to war to protect our democracy and our Canadian way of life, are treated – or in many cases not treated – when they return home.
Auditor general Michael Ferguson’s recent Fall Report notes the Harper government has “utterly failed” to provide the mental-health services and support for our veterans’ needs.
Over the years, we have watched this government make our veterans jump through hoops to get services – often their pleas are ignored.
In particular, veterans’ advocacy groups have been working hard to get the Tory government to recognize Post Traumatic Stress disorder (PTSD) as a legitimate disease that some of our men and women develop abroad and bring back home.
Over the years, we have watched this same government shamelessly trot our veterans out to centre stage during the various military anniversaries or on Remembrance Day – only to push them back into the shadows when camera lights are turned off.
Hours prior to Mr. Ferguson’s report, the Conservatives announced an extra $200 million over five years to be put into Veterans Affairs in an attempt to fend off the stinging rebuke. However, a closer look at the document revealed the funding is being spread over 50 years.
Furthermore, there have been media stories about the Harper gang clawing back $1.1 billion of unspent funding from the Veterans Affairs ministry, and at the same time, they’re closing the very offices that provided veterans services with a human touch, and not by a 1-800 phone call, which doesn’t have the face-to-face accountability.
This kind of behaviour shows how disengaged the federal Conservatives are with our veterans.
Local veterans used to have a Veterans Affairs representative from Kelowna travel to 100 Mile to meet one-on-one with as many vets as possible.
Now, our vets, who are having issues, need to travel to Penticton to have face-to-face service with a Veterans Affairs person.
It’s highly unlikely vets, suffering with PTSD, would make that trip when it’s often difficult to make a trip downtown.
The same goes for filling out forms and making impersonal 1-800 phones – they are confusing and frustrating.
It is a shameful way to treat our soldier who came home from battle in war-torn countries.
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