Veterans Affairs Office to Re-open by May 2017
Prince George, B.C. – It was a major plank in the Liberal Party’s election platform last fall and it was made official today – the federal government is re-opening the Veterans Affairs office in Prince George.
The announcement was made at the Sandman Signature Hotel by Canada’s Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr who said he was “very proud” the government followed through on its commitment.
“They’re (Veterans Affairs offices) not only places for them to get the help they need when they need it, it’s also a symbol of our government’s commitment to what their service has meant to this great nation,” he said.
“It was a difficult day when the Conservative government closed it and we’re going to do things better and this is part of that.”
The office will be located on the 4th floor at 299 Victoria Street and once opened will employ five staff members who will serve an estimated 1,200 veterans. The office will open no later than May, 2017.
John Scott, a former president of Royal Canadian Branch 43 in Prince George and the current vice-president of the Royal Canadian Legion BC/Yukon Command, was ecstatic at the news.
“It’s an emotional feeling for me today just to get this done. It was a huge mistake as far as I was concerned and this has fixed it. You need to have people here on the ground, talking to veterans.”
According to the government those employees will answer questions about services and benefits, “arrange pension medical examinations, and assist veterans to complete and submit applications and receipts. Case-managed veterans will also be able to meet their case manager.”
The announcement was also music to the ears of Prince George Mayor Lyn Hall after council last year pledged to support the re-opening of the office.
“I’m elated today and you’re right, council unanimously supported this. We’ve felt re-opening the office was a key piece of what we wanted to do here at home. It not only assists the veterans in Prince George but it also assists veterans throughout northern, B.C.”
B.C. Jobs Minister Shirley Bond has long championed veteran’s issues and was also thrilled with the news.
“This is not only emotional day for me but it should be for all Canadians. These are men and women who have served our country. This service is essential so I want to say thank-you to the federal government for honouring their commitment.”
The re-opening follows the closure of not only the Veterans Affairs office in Prince George in 2012, but offices in eight other Canadian cities as well.
Hehr called the move “an investment” to help veterans and estimates it will cost $78 million dollars over the next five years. He says all nine offices will “be up and running no later” than next May.
“I’ve given my department a mandate to get them up and running as quickly as they can. Some will be opening very shortly in the fall and we’re going to continue on that path,” he said.
“It takes time in getting leases arranged, staffing components hired – all these things that seem simple but they’re not so we’re moving as quickly as we can.”