Alabama’s decision to close numerous veterans service offices is wrongheaded. It is a poorly thought through desertion of the state’s commitment to disabled veterans.
On June 1, the state of Alabama will close 17 veterans service offices, leaving many veterans without assistance. Of the total 70 former service offices, the 17 closures account for 25 percent.
The purposes of the offices are to help disabled veterans with their disability claims and to receive other services. Without the service offices, many veterans will be left without help and transportation.
The Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs claims the cuts are the result of large funding cuts. Without funding, the veterans service offices cannot function. However, the closings will only impact veterans, not the manpower, which will be reallocated to the remaining offices.
The downturn in the economy is sited as the reason for the cuts. “I hope as the economy turns around we’ll be able to reopen [them],” said Republican State Rep. Duwayne Bridges.
What Alabama politicians forget is a lesson from California. In California, veterans service organizations performed a study on disability compensation. For every dollar spent on helping vets with their disability claims, $10 returned to the state in tax revenue.
Here, we have a state that cannot see the forest for the trees.
First, Alabama has an obligation to its veterans. It should continue to provide services, especially to veteran in remote locations. Only as a last resort should it ever shut its doors.
Second, many thousands of new veterans are soon to be released from active duty. Many of these same veterans will return to an Alabama that refuses to provide assistance necessary assistance. This is an immoral decision, to send men and women to fight for years only to turn its back when help is most needed.
Third, even if immoral, Alabama should keep those doors open if for no other reason than the uptick in tax revenue. It just makes business sense. Foreign lobbyists know that for every $1 they spend in Capitol Hill, they research around $70 in kickbacks. I am unclear why Alabama has not learned this lesson.
Veterans offices that are closing include: Baldwin County office in Bay Minette; Chambers County office in Lanett; Cherokee County office in Centre; Chilton County office in Clanton; Clay County office in Ashland; Colbert County office in Tuscumbia; Crenshaw County office in Luverne; Hale County office in Greensboro; Henry County office in Abbeville; Lawrence County office Moulton; Perry County office in Marion; Sumter County office in Livingston; Tallapoosa County office in Dadevillle; Talladega County office in Sylacauga; Washington County office in Chatom; Wilcox County office in Camden; Winston County office in Double Springs.