11/21/2014 09:58 EST | Updated 01/21/2015 05:59 EST

Veterans Affairs district offices didn’t need to close, says MP

NDP MP John Rafferty is questioning why eight Veterans Affairs district offices had to close, following news that the department left $1.1 billion unspent from 2006-2013.

Rafferty is the MP for Thunder Bay, Ontario, the location of one of eight offices that closed at the end of January.

"To say they need to close these offices because they need to save $5 million a year is simply not true. And when we suggest that they're trying to balance the budget on the backs of veterans it appears to be absolutely true,” said Rafferty.

“Sometimes there are, as the government says, efficiencies to be found in departments, but when you're affecting programming it's a different issue altogether.”

Conservative MP Parm Gill, parliamentary secretary to the veterans affairs minister, said in the House of Commons Thursday the lapsed funds are a "normal practice of all governments."

He pointed out the department's annual budget has seen an injection of an extra $5 billion since 2006 over and above what Paul Martin's Liberals planned to spend.

The government has argued closing the district offices, which provided face-to-face services for veterans, should not affect services to veterans. The offices have been replaced with Veterans Affairs employees in Service Canada offices, and training in veterans’ services for Service Canada staff.