Wollongong veterans' affairs office closure 'political'

Illawarra Labor MPs have condemned as a "political move" the federal government's decision to close a shopfront Wollongong veterans' affairs service.

The Burelli Street Veterans' Access Network (VAN) office will close from June, when the service will be moved to the Department of Human Services office in Nowra.

Veterans' Affairs Minister Michael Ronaldson announced the closure this week, after a review of nine VAN offices in NSW and Victoria.

Most of the other reviewed offices will close and be reborn within Human Services offices in the same city or town.

Only three offices - Wollongong, Bairnsdale and Gosford - will close and move further afield.

Cunningham MP Sharon Bird and member for Throsby Stephen Jones slammed the Wollongong closure, and the preceding "short" review.

They have called on the minister to guarantee no jobs will be lost in the transition.

Mr Jones said the consultation process was "not a genuine attempt to get community feedback", and showed the decision to close the office had already been made.

Ms Bird said area veterans and their families needed the Wollongong office and its specialist staff, who helped veterans and their families navigate often complex questions about entitlements and regulations.

Ms Bird suggested the decision to move the service to Nowra was politically motivated.

"There are Labor-held seats up here and a Liberal-held seat down there," she said.

"I don't think you could argue there wasn't a need for a service in Wollongong, so I'd be very worried this would be a political decision rather than a service delivery decision."

Doug Rymer, the retiring Dapto RSL sub-branch pension officer, said the closure of the Wollongong office was "bloody disgraceful".

"The [Wollongong staff] have helped me over many years," he said. "We need that office."

According to a statement from the minister's office, staff from the Department of Human Services will provide the new Nowra service with specialist training and support from Department of Veterans' Affairs staff.

The minister said consultation with veterans and their families had revealed declining demand for face-to-face services.

"More and more clients are choosing to use the telephone or internet to contact DVA and visits to shopfronts have declined by 28 per cent since 2009," Senator Ronaldson said.

The Mercury is awaiting a response from the minister's office as to any job losses resulting from the closure.

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