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Chesapeake Hopes to Have Veterans Benefits Office

The city’s 27,000 veterans soon may not have to drive to Virginia Beach or Norfolk to collect benefits they’ve earned with their service.

City officials have been working with the state for two years to give them local access to GI Bill benefits, real estate tax exemptions and help finding jobs. They’re now finalizing plans to bring the first veterans’ benefits field office to Chesapeake. It would be the fourth in Hampton Roads and open in May.

The office could come one of two ways.

Two Chesapeake lawmakers introduced a state budget amendment in Richmond this year that would pay for a space to rent and two staffers. Sen. John Cosgrove and Del. Jay Leftwich are asking for up to $139,000 to be appropriated.

Tidewater Community College has offered to house the office on its Cedar Road campus at no cost, which would knock down the price to $125,106, according to city estimates.

But the amendment might not be necessary if talks with the Virginia Department of Veterans Services go well this week.

City Manager Jim Baker said the department has offered to pay for three staffers because of extra funding it received this year.

With staffing, rent and furniture taken care of, the budget amendment wouldn’t be needed, Baker said.

Nearly 15,000 active-duty military members, veterans and dependents were enrolled at TCC’s five campuses in 2012-13.

Nothing is set in stone yet, so officials are asking people to call the governor and lawmakers. The odds of it happening are looking good, though, said Mary Ann Saunders, assistant to the city manager.




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