By CARMEN WELD
More than 3,500 veterans in the Central Okanagan will again have a Veterans Affairs office to serve them this fall.
Kelowna-Lake Country MP Stephen Fuhr was joined by Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr to make the announcement Tuesday morning.
“The community wanted its Veterans Affairs office back, and we delivered it,” said Fuhr.
He believes the former government overestimated veterans' ability to adapt to a new online service presented as an alternative in 2014.
“The older veterans can't always log into a computer, go find a website and root around on there to find what they need,” said Fuhr.
“They merit service delivery in the manner in which they are most comfortable, and they are most comfortable coming to a dedicated location where there are trained people who know exactly what they are doing.”
Fuhr said he was pleasantly surprised with how open Hehr was to reopening the office.
“It is a great thrill to be here in Kelowna to open the Veterans Affairs office," said the minister. "We campaigned strongly for veterans and doing things better after 10 years of what we thought were veterans issues going to the side."
He said the Liberals stood by an election promise to reopen nine Veterans Affairs offices across Canada.
“Today is a great day for veterans in this community who will now have their families and issues looked after in a prompt, efficient fashion that will see them build their lives going forward.
“We have an obligation, because of what they've done for this country, to be here for them when they return.”
The office will reopen with up to nine front-line staff. Staffing levels will be determined by the need and case-load of the office.
The government will aim for a per-employee caseload of 25 to ensure case managers have the time and resources to serve clients.
“Our case managers and front-line staff will also be able to travel and help those further away.”
Second World War naval vet Bill Kieper was in the crowd and said it was a good day for veterans.
“This was one of the best meetings I've ever seen with politicians,” said Kieper. “I am looking forward to great things.”
Kieper said he just got a new scooter through Veterans Affairs that will allow him to travel again and visit the office.
Kelowna's Veterans Affairs office was closed by the Conservative government in February 2014.