BORDER veterans are shocked and concerned a key service for past and present defence personnel is under review when those affected may be distracted by holidays.
The Wodonga Veterans’ Access Network (VAN) office in Hume Street for many years has helped veterans and others understand and obtain the services and support available to them.
With the office’s lease expiring in June, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs last week began a community consultation, originally due to end on January 20, about its future.
A department spokesman, responding to inquiries by The Border Mail, this week said the consultation had been extended to February 5 to allow for the traditional holiday period.
Reduced numbers of counter inquiries and greater use of telephone and email were among the reasons for seeking feedback about the best way to deliver services.
“In addition, the DVA client population around the Albury-Wodonga region is forecast to decline by 37 per cent over the next 10 years,” the spokesman said.
Murray Border Vietnam Veterans president Gary Treeve said retaining a shop front for face-to-face contact remained important, particularly in a regional area.
Mr Treeve wrote to the department’s Victorian deputy commissioner John Geary to raise his concerns and hoped other veterans groups would do the same.
“It was a little bit of a stealth thing, the way they did it, very little consultation,” Mr Treeve said.
Wodonga RSL president Kevyn Williams, who is also chairman of the Hume Veterans Information Centre, said losing the centre would impact a community with such a large military presence.
“I have indicated to certain people at Veterans’ Affairs that it would be a travesty to close the Wodonga VAN office,” he said.
“So far this year they've conducted over 1400 counter inquiries and they've had over 200 on-base appointments and referrals.”
The department spokesman said no decision had been made about the future of the Wodonga office.
“This is a genuine consultation process and the outcomes of the consultation will guide the decisions that are yet to be made,” he said.
Feedback can be sent to DVA.In.Person.Services@dva.gov.au or Attn Deputy Commisioner, Department of Veterans’ Affairs, GPO Box 9998 in your capital city.