The decision to relocate Canberra’s veterans services to a nearby Centrelink office has astounded a local Vietnam War veteran.
The Veterans’ Access Network office in Woden has closed and will instead operate from Centrelink on Bowes Street.
The Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) said the move would provide easier access to a variety of services in one location.
DVA advised veterans they would benefit from direct access to a large carpark and better access to public transport.
But Vietnam veteran Gavin O’Brien said he was gobsmacked by the move.
“When I got the letter in the mail late last week I wasn’t told the services would be moved into the Centrelink office,” the 69-year-old said.
“I just thought the office was relocating to a different office space.
“To my way of thinking, we are not Centrelink people to any stretch of the imagination.
“There’s no connection between DVA and Centrelink and our needs are completely different to the people that need social security.”
Specific needs of veterans
Mr O’Brien told ABC Canberra he was concerned specialised services would diminish over time.
“We need that specialised assistance that Centrelink doesn’t have,” he said.
“My major concern is the younger guys, who probably still think they’re indestructible.
“Sooner or later PTSD is likely to come back and bite them and that’s when they’ll need dedicated services most.
“We’ve been subject to experiences most regular civilians would not understand.”
DVA advised that all Canberra staff had been relocated as part of the move and would continue to deliver the same services.
Move described as demeaning
Mr O’Brien said he had previously dealt with Centrelink while helping his daughter manage a student allowance.
“Centrelink deals with an incredible diversity of things — health issues, employment, unemployment, student allowances — you name it they do it,” he said.
“I found Centrelink to be confrontational.
“Most of us have worked through our entire lives and find this really demeaning to be honest.
“I suffer PTSD among other things and we’ve got issues that are very particular to people in the armed services.”
Labor Canberra MP Gai Brodtmann described the change as a disgraceful attack on veterans.
“These offices have been the first point of contact for the veterans community,” she said.
“They give veterans advice on issues ranging from pension benefits to financial assistance, transport problems and mental health issues.
“Our veterans deserve better, they deserve tailored treatment, and they deserve advice and support that is dedicated to them.”
Ms Brodtmann said several other veterans service offices had already closed in Victoria and New South Wales.