800 job cuts at Veterans Affairs

A memo sent to staff at Veterans Affairs says 800 jobs will be cut over the next three years as a result of the federal budget.

But in the letter, obtained by The Canadian Press, the department's deputy minister says relatively speaking, Veterans Affairs is fortunate.

Suzanne Tinning writes the department expects to manage the cuts mostly through redeployment or attrition, as 30 per cent of the entire workforce is eligible to retire by 2016.

Tinning says the cuts are being made because the number of veterans being served is getting smaller.

She says that, coupled with improved technology, means some of the work the department does is no longer needed.

Veterans' advocates have long taken issue with the assertion their ranks are dwindling.

They note that while there are fewer vets from 20th century conflicts, there are thousands entering the system who served in Afghanistan.

And the union representing employees at the department says no matter how they are presented, jobs cut mean services lost.

At a news conference earlier this week, the president of the Union of Veterans Affairs Employees, said the cuts include at least 75 client service workers.

"They are the ones that knows what a veterans' needs is," Yvon Thauvette said.

"By losing those positions and those jobs, it has a direct impact."

The memo, called "Moving Forward" does not specify precisely which positions are on the chopping block.

A spokeswoman for Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney says the government is trying to eliminate red tape to give veterans hassle-free service.

"We will make sure we have the right people at the right locations to serve our veterans and their families," Codie Taylor said in an e-mail.

In comparison to other departments, Veterans Affairs did emerge unscathed from the budget, which cut $5.2 billion in spending overall.


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