VETERANS LIVING in Southern Ocean County will soon have easier access to claims assistance and counseling services at a county office building in Stafford Township.
The Ocean County Veterans Service Bureau plans to open a satellite office at the Southern Ocean County Services Center in Stafford Township late this summer.
The state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs has also asked the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders permission to utilize office space in the complex, located at 179 East Main Street, Manahawkin.
"This is an opportunity to improve access to these important services for our veterans in the southern end of the county," said Freeholder Deputy Director Gerry P. Little.
The county already operates its Veterans Service Bureau in Toms River, but Little said the long travel distances from some southern communities could be a deterrent to residents who would otherwise utilize the bureau.
"Some of our older and disabled veterans have problems making the trip to Toms River," he said.
Little said the county would staff the southern office one or two days a week, depending on need.
The state and county are also in discussion about the stationing of two accredited Veterans' Services Officers at the Manahawkin facility two days a week.
Under this pilot program, both the state and county offices would provide Veterans Affairs claims assistance and counseling services to veterans, their dependents and their survivors.
Little, who is also liaison to the Veterans Service Bureau, thanked Bureau Director John P. Dorrity for his efforts in working with the state to bring the officers to the Manahawkin offices.
"We proudly serve more than 68,000 veterans that call Ocean County home," Little said. "This partnership between the state and the county is another way to assist those that have sacrificed so much to defend our freedom."
Little said the Freeholders are expected to give formal approval to the state's request in the coming weeks.
The Southern Ocean County Services Center already houses a variety of county satellite offices, ranging from the Ocean County Clerk, Surrogate and Senior Services, said Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari.
"The Southern Center, along with the County Connection in the Ocean County Mall, provide our residents with easy access to all of our county services," Vicari said.