Baldwin County has the fourth-largest veteran population in the state of Alabama. Raymond Williamson, Baldwin County Veterans Service Officer, wants to make sure veterans know where they can find assistance.
“We are your state tax dollars at work. We are trained and certified to assist you. Our biggest obstacle is veterans knowing we are here,” he said.
The Baldwin County Veterans Affair office is tucked within the Baldwin County Satellite Courthouse building in Foley.
“If you need to order records, find discharge papers, see if you qualify for VA medical coverage, file a claim. Whatever the case may be, we do all that here,” Williamson said.
Navigating the dederal claims system is not always easy and often requires supporting documents to substantiate claims.
“So many people will come here after they have tried to file claims on their own. If a claim is filed incorrectly and it is denied you either must start the process all over and miss out on all that time, you could be receiving that benefit or appeal. Appeals are currently taking four to five years,” Williamson said.
The Baldwin County Veterans Affairs office can assist veterans and their families with:
•answering general questions via email, phone or office visit
•Original claims for disability
•Reopen claims for an increase in disability percentage
•File original nonservice-connected pension claims
•Survivor pension claims
•Medical expense reports for those receiving proportion amount pension
•Survivor benefit plan
•Dependent indemnity compensation claims
•Healthcare enrollment or transfer
Between April to June 2019 the office had 3,724 contacts with veterans and their families via letters, phone, email, and in-person visits, 697 of those were in-person office visits. However, Williamson knows there are veterans that still don’t know this office exists.
“Every year that I have been here, our numbers have gone up mostly through word of mouth. We don’t have the ability to advertise,” Williamson said.
The office is also available to those visiting the area from out of state and residents that live outside of Baldwin county.
“I have veterans in my system from North Dakota, California, Panama City, and Semmes. Anyone can utilize our services, including the concerned friends of veterans. We are here to advocate for our veterans and their families,” Williamson said.
Williamson, a retired U.S. Coast Guard Senior Chief, is spending his retirement helping his fellow veterans.
“I have, as far as I am concerned, the best job in Baldwin county. I am just a veteran that gets paid to help other veterans. I love my job, and I am thankful that I can help the veterans and have them come back and thank us.”