Meeting Thursday intended to inform veterans

Published 5:08 pm Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Chilton County’s Office of Veterans Affairs may have closed, but a group of dedicated people are working to make sure local veterans have the help they need.

Thorsby American Legion Post 206 is hosting an informational meeting for veterans at 7 p.m. Thursday at Helen Jenkins Chapel in Thorsby.

State Sen. Cam Ward and Rep. Kurt Wallace will be among the speakers, as will William Wheat Jr., veterans program coordinator for the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System; and James Appling, minority veterans program coordinator for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

“We’re working on a few others, but we haven’t been able to get confirmation yet,” said Phil Burnette, commander of the American Legion 23rd District.

Burnette said Wheat will talk about health benefits available to veterans and how to get enrolled in the system and apply for them. Appling will focus more on employment assistance and personal needs.

Burnette said he also hopes to be able to give an update at the meeting on a planned volunteer veterans office.

The county VA office closed June 1. Burnette and others want to open an office, staffed by volunteers, that would offer local veterans the same services as the VA office.

Two certified case workers, four volunteers who could handle limited case-related duties, and two potential support staff members have said they are on board to help in the office, which would likely be open three days a week to begin with, Burnette said.

“Basically, we just need a place to set up now,” he said. “We don’t really have funds available to rent a place, so we’re hoping a municipality might be able to help us out.

“Manpower is not going to be an issue.”

The meeting Thursday is open to anyone who wants to attend. Burnette thanked Thorsby Mayor Dearl Hilyer and the town council for their help in organizing the meeting.

Future meetings could be held in other cities in Burnette’s district, he said, such as Columbiana and Sylacauga.

“We’re hoping to do this in the future in different areas,” Burnette said. “It’s going to be an ongoing project to make veterans aware of what help is available.”