By David McMillan (commentary)
As I read Thursday, January 30, 2014, articles re: veterans and overwhelmed client service agent, It confirmed my feeling of concern, and verified I should have commented on this issue sooner.
Over the past 12 months the staff at Home Instead Senior Care, a service provider of home care and personal care on P.E.I., has seen firsthand the struggles veterans and their families have had to endure to receive quality service from Veterans Affairs Canada. A service that has been more than earned. While at the same time, we have witnessed VAC client service agents strain to keep up with the changes brought on by cuts and centralization of services.
I have witnessed everything from two-month waits for veterans to be seen and assessed by case workers and or DVA nurses. I have seen an increase in requests by veterans to have our staff assist them with complex papers, letter writing regarding reductions in home support grants, and support to understand policy and procedural changes.
The worst I have seen is a veteran go without home support, and personal care support, all while struggling with the health concerns of a terminally ill spouse. In this case, the veteran waited up to three months for service while changes to DVA were being implemented. This has all come about due to the unavailability of VAC personnel. A direct result of cuts and centralization of services.
Personally, I feel fortunate to be able to assist veterans. I know our caregivers, who spend a great deal of time with these men and women, have similar feelings. They become very close, as veterans share their stories, their history, and what they did for this country. However, many caregivers are seeing the frustration, disbelief and confusion on veterans‚Äô faces with how these changes are affecting them. Veterans, their families and caregivers have become disheartened with the lack of support being offered because of these developments.
As a service provider we often talk with the Veteran Affairs employee who has to navigate through numerous policies and procedures to get service approved for the veteran. These client service agents are under a great deal of pressure. With the time-consuming procedures, reduction in staff, increased caseload, the scrutiny from both the veterans and the client service agents employer, I feel the stress level must be reaching a tipping point for the VAC staff. Good for Michelle Bradley for expressing her feelings.
Are the cuts and centralization of veteran‚Äôs services worth it? Only time can answer this. Presently, I know for certain, quality of service to our veterans certainly has deteriorated and veterans, their families, caregivers and client service agents unfortunately are carrying this burden of change.
David McMillan is franchise owner of DWM Inc. of Charlottetown. Home Instead Senior Care is dedicated exclusively to helping seniors stay in their homes as they age.