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County VA office could see increased traffic

The Alabama Veterans Affairs recently announced plans to close 17 offices throughout the state.

The closures, slated to take place Friday, are the result of cuts in state funding. While the Butler County Veterans Service Office is not among those on the list of closures, the office will likely be affected by the closing of neighboring offices.

Veterans Affairs offices in both Crenshaw County and Wilcox County are listed among the 17 offices that will close.

“We anticipate the Crenshaw traffic being split between both Butler and Pike,” said Tammie R. Rice, Butler County veterans service officer. “The Wilcox traffic will more than likely be split between Marengo and Dallas.”

The Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs has planned for closures in Baldwin, Chambers, Cherokee, Chilton, Clay, Colbert, Crenshaw, Hale, Henry, Lawrence, Perry, Sumter, Talladega, Tallapoosa, Washington, Wilcox and Winston counties.

Baldwin and Tallapoosa counties have multiple offices and only one will close in each county.

“It was a difficult decision, but the only decision the department could make,” said ADVA public information officer Robert Horton of the closures. “We’re at a point now where we just don’t have the funding to keep the offices open.”

The closures are the result of a 15 percent cut in the ADVA’s allocation in the 2012 General Fund as well as projected cuts in its 2013 budget, which include a 34 percent reduction from $2.8 to $1.8 million.

For the past several years, a veterans services officer has been available at least once a week at the locations scheduled to be closed to offer assistance with disability compensation, pension benefits and other claims as part of an itinerant services program, which Horton said pulled the officers away from the counties where they provide full-time services. Because the VA offices to be closed are currently vacant, no ADVA employees will lose their jobs.

Friday’s office closings will leave 53 ADVA locations to serve more than 420,000 veterans residing in the state.

To view a list of veterans service offices to be closed, visit www.va.alabama.gov.