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Brundidge Rotarians learn about veterans benefits

Randy Ross, Pike County veteran’s service officer, was the program guest of Rotarian Lamar Steed at the Brundidge Rotary Club Wednesday.

Ross is retired from the U.S. Navy Reserves and has worked for the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs for 15 years.

He serves Pike County four days a week at the Pike County Courthouse in Troy and serves Dale County on Mondays.

He has served as itinerant VSO for Crenshaw, Montgomery, Coffee and Butler counties.

“The state VA offices were organized to assist veterans and their dependents with getting their benefits,” Ross said.

“There are three Alabama districts and I serve District 3, which is made up of 22 counties.”

Budget cuts have made it necessary to close VA offices across the state. Sixteen offices in District 3 have been closed.

“We’ve also had 15 people to retire,” Ross said. “ So, I’m the itinerant VSO for Montgomery, Greenville, Andalusia and Dale County.”

Veterans Services Officers assist veterans in every area but, in large cities, Ross said as few as 6 percent of veterans apply for the benefits to which they are entitled because they don’t know they qualify.

The VA offices provide assistance to veterans and their dependants through a variety of services from benefit information to claims to extended care.

“At a veteran’s death, the VA office can assist the spouse with funeral expenses,” Ross said. “And there’s the availability of four state veterans’ homes — in Alexander City, Baldwin County, Huntsville and Pell City.”

Disability income, pensions and sitters’ fees are options available to qualified veterans.

“Dependant scholarships for service connected wartime veterans are available through the Alabama GI Bill,” Ross said. “There are 420,000 veterans in Alabama and the VSO’s job is to assistant them. We are there to answer questions and to assist our veterans with getting the benefits due them.”

Ross said veterans who have questions about veterans’ benefits and their eligibility should visit the local Veterans Affairs Office for answers. “Veterans might never receive the benefits to which they are entitled unless they inquire,” he said.