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County Veterans Service Office to close on June 1

The Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs (ADVA) is preparing to close county veterans service offices to meet imposed budget constraints and to increase core veterans services in areas of the state with a growing veterans population during financially difficult times.

The Crenshaw County Veterans Service Office in Luverne, Ala. is among 17 county VA offices that are slated to close effective June 1.

Counties affected by the closings are: Lawrence, Colbert, Cherokee, Winston, Tallapoosa, Talladega, Perry, Sumter, Clay, Wilcox, Hale, Chambers, Chilton, Crenshaw, Washington, Baldwin, Henry.

All but one of the county offices that are slated to close provide itinerate services one day a week. The veterans service office in Sumter County provides services twice a week.

“The decision to close county offices that directly assist our veterans is not one taken lightly,” said Clyde Marsh, commissioner of the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs. “Unfortunately, the current and projected shortfall in the department’s General Fund budget is preventing the ADVA from hiring veterans service officers that would allow us to keep the offices open.”

In 2012, the ADVA took a 15 percent cut in its General Fund appropriations. Next year’s budget will reduce the department’s General Fund from $2.8 million to $1.8 million; another 34 percent reduction.

Marsh added that itinerant services require the temporary closing of county VA offices once or twice a week where VA claims are increasing because of a growing population of veterans. The services in these high demand areas of the state are diminished while those offices receiving itinerant services are seeing a decline in veterans’ claims due to smaller veterans population.

“In these austere times, we have to smartly position our resources in the state that enable the ADVA to meet the growing demand of veterans services,” said Marsh. “At the same time, we have a plan in place to ensure veterans affected by the closings will continue to have access to services.”

The ADVA has designated other service offices in neighboring counties to provide continued service.

The Butler, Conecuh and Pike County Veterans Service Offices are prepared to assist Crenshaw County veterans with their VA needs. The ADVA will transfer the veterans’ records to the Butler County VA office in Greenville, Ala. A veteran may have his or her records transferred to another county veterans service office at their request.

After the June 1 closures, the ADVA will have 50 veterans service offices serving Alabama’s 67 counties.

“This is the course we must take because of the severe fiscal constraints the state faces,” said Marsh. “We will always leave on the table the option to reopen the county VA offices if the department has the appropriate level of funding.”

Veterans affected by the closing can access services by calling the following county veterans service offices: Butler County (334) 382-3231; Conecuh County (251) 578-7036 ; Pike County (334) 566-1780.