Watch above: One year after the Saskatoon branch of Veterans Affairs closed its doors, local veterans reflect on its effects. Wendy Winiewski has the story.
SASKATOON – The effect of eight Veterans Affairs offices closing one year ago is as damning as local veterans thought it would be. Jim McKinny represented local veterans for the Department of Veterans Affairs during the office closure unravelling.
McKinny always believed Regina’s office should have closed rather than Saskatoon’s as Saskatoon is more central and the larger city. He believes the decision was made in Ottawa with little thought.
“Once a decision is made it’s made and they’re not going to say ‘oh, yeah, we made a mistake’,” said McKinny in reference to the closures in general.
Fellow Korean War veteran Jim Dockstader applied to qualify for the veterans independence program. Qualification would result in better medical coverage. The application was denied.
“I’m not an online type of person,” said Dockstader. “Face to face is by far the better way,” he reiterated saying he would have gone to the office to discuss the decision if it was still open.
Dockstader and McKinny admit most of their affairs were already taken care of when the offices closed but believe the full effect is yet to be felt as Afghanistan veterans age and eventually need to access the system.
This year in Saskatoon there are no fancy rallies planned as there were in 2014, just a couple of veterans swallowing their pride and shaking their heads. Passionate advocates from other provinces continue fighting though.
“We are going to re-enact that demonstration,” said Ron Clarke in Ottawa on Wednesday, reflecting on his province’s 2014 rally. Clarke represents veterans from Sydney, Nova Scotia.
“We had about 4,000 at the last one and I suspect we’ll have the same thing,” said Clarke referring to the rally scheduled for Saturday in Nova Scotia.
According to the federal government the savings from the closures are being directed toward mental health offices.