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Help our veterans, help our VA Service Office

Posted: September 1, 2011 11:42 a.m.
Updated: September 2, 2011 5:00 a.m.

In 2005 I was asked to write the history book for my American Legion Post 17 located in Camden. Among the many bits of facts I discovered and wrote into the document was the huge amount of compensation benefits our VA Service Officer and his assistant brought into my home county. At that time the annual amount was a mere $18,375,000 that year. Those benefits are tax exempt. That means every penny/dollar is turned around by the veteran who benefited from the award so they can spend the entire amount back into our local economy for goods and services.  

 Each county in the state has a VA Service Officer in their employ. Their mission statement is to assist and direct the various service members to where their needs can best be handled by medical procedures or counseling. However, far and above that are the many veterans who have served our country, suffered wounds while in combat facing hostile enemy fire or injuries performing their duties under adverse conditions, or other health issues that became exacerbated and made worse during their years of service.

 Veterans Affairs Service Officer Billy Bell and his assistant, Barbara Ray, staff the Veterans Affairs Office in my own Kershaw County. I do not think we as citizens or our elected county officials can ever imagine or appreciate the full impact of what their efforts do to assist our veterans and the huge monetary impact it has on the economy of Kershaw County. 

 I have put off writing about this for too long and recently requested the amounts that our Kershaw VA service office has been credited with in recent years – 2007 -- $28,012,000; 2008 -- $32,620,000; and 2009 -- $35, 828, 000 (the last year the records have been provided). I doubt many other offices or entities come close to infusing anywhere near that amount into the economy of our county. 

 With an annual track record on increases like this, I personally believe that service office should be expanded with both staff and space. Our military population is expanding both with the arrival of Third Army and veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq. Kershaw County Council should have the expanded facilities and personnel to assist them as they return to our communities. This should be done if only to honor their service and sacrifice to the country and to welcome them home and back into the community. That does not consider the help filing for potential VA compensation benefits. Considering all of the above, that is not too much to expect from our county council.



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