Case worker 'defeated and ashamed' she can't help Island veterans more

Dave Stewart
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Veteran Ron Clarke, at the podium, joins fellow veterans, including Charlottetown's Alban LeClair, second from right, as they hold a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday.

Michelle Bradley said she's been overwhelmed dealing with 1,100 veterans files from P.E.I. since government decided to close district office in Charlottetown

One of two Veterans Affairs' case workers handling files from Charlottetown says she is completely overwhelmed with the workload.

Michelle Bradley and a colleague have split more than 2,200 veterans' files from P.E.I. between them.

They are the people tasked with helping Island veterans now that the district office in Charlottetown has closed -- although that closure doesn't become official until Friday.

"You walk away from the office every day feeling defeated and ashamed because you can't help these (veterans, which) is now my job to do,'' Bradley said in a telephone interview from Ottawa on Wednesday morning.

Bradley was waiting for her flight back to Saint John, where she works, after accompanying a group of veterans, including P.E.I.'s own Alban LeClair, trying to convince federal Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino to change his mind about closing nine district offices across the country.

Bradley is one of two client services agents assigned to look after the more than 2,000 veterans on P.E.I.

"We've already taken on files from the Charlottetown office. The impact that I have seen already is that the wait times are increasing for veterans. They are waiting weeks for phone calls back. We just don't have the time to service them the way the Charlottetown office did,'' said Bradley, who has been a client services agent with Veterans Affairs Canada since 2001.

She is now responsible for 1,100 veterans on the Island.

LeClair and his fellow veterans were supposed to meet Fantino Tuesday night to talk about the closures but things didn't go according to plan.

"We're all pretty agitated about the whole thing,'' LeClair said Wednesday. "The minister was supposed to meet with us at a certain time and he didn't show. However, he sent a couple of his (staffers) along and they didn't answer the questions in a way that was expected.

"(Fantino) showed up when we were ready to leave and he shook hands with everyone and that's when he got the blast from some of the older veterans.''

Bradley said Fantino was very "dismissive'' towards the veterans.

"He came in with a prepared message and he just kept repeating it. When the veterans tried to vocalize their displeasure with what's going on, it wasn't what he wanted to hear so he just wouldn't listen at all. It was very disrespectful, the way they were treated.''

Fantino told reporters Wednesday he’s sorry for the way it was handled and doesn’t want it to be seen as a reflection on his commitment to the men and women in uniform.

The Conservatives were in full damage control mode as both opposition parties joined veterans in demanding Fantino be fired over his brusque handling of the meeting — something the minister later said he “absolutely regrets.”

Some veterans, stung by the encounter, refused to accept his apology.

Bradley said the veterans group met with representatives from the federal NDP and Liberal parties and was given assurances both would re-open the district offices should they form the next government.

Organizations: Veterans Affairs Canada, NDP

Geographic location: Charlottetown, P.E.I., Iceland Ottawa Saint John

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Recent comments

  • Trevor Newton
    January 31, 2014 - 23:58

    "He came in with a prepared message and he just kept repeating it. When the veterans tried to vocalize their displeasure with what's going on, it wasn't what he wanted to hear so he just wouldn't listen at all. It was very disrespectful, the way they were treated. " Nice example of a man who holds a position he is not capable of performing. Couldn't respond with out his team of writers. How nice he apologized after, but he still didn't answer their questions. He regrets how it was handled. Does he regret it enough to answer there questions, and to show these men the respect they deserve. I doubt it.

  • proud canadian
    January 30, 2014 - 13:11

    You know what? these men fought for us and I have no problem fighting for them when they need us the most. We as a community need to do more for them right now....if for any reason, because its the right thing to do. Call our MLA's , sign a petition or even join a march or strike and do not vote conservative....they have taken far too much from us as canadians. the final straw are these brave veteran's rights and benefits. I cannot sit by and let them do that to them....its just wrong!

  • A PHONY
    January 30, 2014 - 08:47

    I'ts amazing that you can watch the Minister of DVA look down his nose at veterans on TV. The man is an arrogant phony who cares nothing about the fact that a case worker will now have to travel over 5oo kms to see a veteran. PEI will be the only province in Canada without a DVA office. I myself have dealt with the DVA, presented my medical files, statement of injuries, etc, then gone through the process of talking to an individual who was not even born when I was injured who feel they know all and you are a hinderance to their day as he did to these veterans and tries to make you feel guilty because you were injured on duty. I told them to shove it and go back to their overpaid patronage positions.

  • Billy
    January 30, 2014 - 08:26

    They are closing folks. Try it and see how the new system works. Now petition or go to Ottawa and seek a veterans break on the federal taxes, Or a GST break on the purchase of a new car car, or better still get rid of the clawback that MPs and Senators, including independents, don't have to worry about.

  • Concerned vet
    January 29, 2014 - 22:50

    The NDP and Liberals can promise the moon...the Feds have cut the civil service...because of IT and has a newer way of doing business.You do not need as many paper pushers.....As a Vet I have used the new system and it worked well,no benefits were cut, I got the service I needed and they were prompt......all the hallaboo and grandstanding is fear mongering.. and basicly just politics.IF the vets who are saying they need the service because it saves lives can prove that a civil servant who just manges a case and arranges VAC services can save alife when in fact medical and mental health professionals actually do the interventions.....The vets who are in the media ..if you have issues that require intervention go to a medical doctor and get referred , your benefits pay for same...if you are pensioned for it....

  • Robert James
    January 29, 2014 - 22:15

    "Gambino" should be fired!

    • John Roach
      January 31, 2014 - 17:50

      I have listened to both sides and the veterans that went to Ottawa should know if you want respect give respect and you will get what you give, grow up your supposed to be gentlemen act the way you wish to be treated,

  • Islander
    January 29, 2014 - 21:42

    I witnessed this meeting on T.V and this Fantino guy should be fired on the spot. Did anyone else notice him standing over the Veterans while pretending he really cared. Thats an old Police tactic of intimidation. What a disgrace and to the Veterans who told him it was all bullshit bravo to them. These Veterans did not deserve this treatment from the Minister. The Veterans will not accept his apology because they know he is a phony, full of BS and raking in a big salary to top up his fate pension from Police Services. Look at what he did when he was Defence Minister lieing about the costs of the Jets Program. Boy did he screw that up. Give it up Fantino you have alost all respect from Canadians all across Canada.

  • sammy
    January 29, 2014 - 20:36

    The question is.. how active are these 2200 files? My wife has over 10,000 in her business and is able to deal with it... face it there is just not enough money for everyone in the treasury.

  • BUDDY
    January 29, 2014 - 19:14

    I wonder where Gail Shea is hiding today...What's your stance on this Gail...Oh right...The only time we see Gail is when she's handing out Harper's Bribe Money.

  • Frank
    January 29, 2014 - 19:01

    I hope Ms. Bradley is a union rep otherwise she will likely face consequences at work for speaking to the media. Kudos to her for going on the record!

    • mark
      January 30, 2014 - 15:05

      She is the VP for the union in the Atlantic region. She is fine.