© Guardian photo
P.E.I. Senator Mike Duffy, left, chats with members of the Charlottetown branch of the Royal Canadian Legion Friday in Charlottetown. At centre is Gerald Coyle, past-president of the legion, and Junior Dowling.
P.E.I. Senator Mike Duffy promises veterans in the province will continue to receive one-stop shopping when it comes to filing for benefits.
Duffy was in Charlottetown Friday to announce that the federal government has designated all Service Canada locations on P.E.I. as district offices for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
In fact, the same rule applies for all 600 Service Canada locations across the country.
That means, veterans on P.E.I. can process their applications at any one of the five locations in the province, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., five days a week in Souris, Montague, Charlottetown, Summerside and O’Leary.
This announcement comes after news earlier this year that the federal government plans on shutting down its district office in the Jean Canfield Building in Charlottetown by the end of 2013. Until Duffy’s news on Friday, veterans expected they’d have to travel to the nearest location in Moncton.
Duffy said he wanted to address the issue considering all the talk surrounding the issue. He defended the cuts made to the department, explaining that Veterans Affairs Minister Stephen Blaney was committed to cutting red tape around many of the programs and services.
Duffy said it’s about “reducing needless paperwork, streamlining programs and reducing complexity’’.
Service Canada has long been a first contact point for Islanders looking for programs and services such as government pensions and EI.
“What we’ve done is create a partnership between Veterans Affairs Canada and Service Canada so that veterans anywhere in Canada who want to make contact with DVA can do so, not by going to a DVA office but by going to a Service Canada office,’’ the senator said.
Duffy said the department has been working on putting the partnership with Service Canada in play for more than a year, training employees to handle veterans applications.
“The biggest problem the government has found in the last while is in getting veterans into the system there is often a delay. This way, by having 600 points of contact we’ll be able to get them into the system quicker.’’
Duffy said Service Canada employees will also be able to assist veterans with job training, questions about EI, pension, guaranteed income supplement questions and more.
It will also reduce the time it takes to make decisions on disability benefits and simply language used in the decision letters.
“We’re hoping to make sure veterans don’t fall through the cracks.’’
Duffy said it also proves government is committed to veterans.
“The fear mongering that was going on the last six months that people would have to drive to Moncton or Halifax is just not true.’’