Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs (ADVA) COVID-19 Precautionary Measures and Status of Offices

October 2, 2020

The Alabama State Veterans Homes have developed plans to resume resident visits that meet federal guidelines and the criteria of Governor Ivey’s Safer at Home amendment for long-term care facilities.

Indoor and Outdoor visitation will be available to families through a scheduling process with mandatory restrictions to meet federal and state guidelines.
Indoor visitation will be allowed under more restrictive criteria to include: no positive COVID cases for 14 days for veterans and staff. Scheduled indoor visitation will be permitted when local county positivity rates are at lower levels, which the homes track weekly. Outdoor visitation must also be scheduled and adhere to the six-foot social distancing guidelines. All scheduled visits allow up to two visitors and 30-minute visitation time.

Our resident’s and staff’s safety and well-being remain our top priority as we reopen the state veterans homes for visits by family members and caregivers while taking measures to prevent further transmission of the COVID-19 virus. During the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, we allowed families to participate in virtual visits through FaceTime and Skype. Each home allowed window visits for families over the last few months as well. Families with additional questions regarding visitation guidelines are encouraged to contact the home in their area for further guidance.

June 10, 2020

Alabama State Veterans Memorial Cemetery at Spanish Fort to Resume Committal and Memorial Services Halted by COVID-19 Pandemic

The Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs (ADVA), Alabama State Veterans Memorial Cemetery at Spanish Fort will resume committal services starting June 15, 2020.

Families who were unable to hold a committal service due to the COVID-19 pandemic can begin to arrange memorial services for their loved ones beginning on June 15 as well.

Families with interments scheduled on or after June 15 will be offered the option of a committal service at the time of interment.

For scheduling committal services that will be held on or after June 15, please contact the Alabama State Veterans Memorial Cemetery Office at (251) 626-7183.

The ADVA has implemented a robust set of measures that will allow us to conduct committal and memorial services while protecting the health and safety of Veterans, their families, and our team members who serve them. The ADVA and the Alabama State Veterans Memorial Cemetery continue to adhere to the Centers for Disease Control and Alabama State prevention guidelines to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The cemetery director has the authority and responsibility to maintain a safe environment at the cemetery for visitors and employees. As such, if a family member or attendee refuses to follow safety measures at the committal shelter, the cemetery will not conduct the committal service or allow the witnessing of the interment.

To ensure the safety of our visitors and employees, all attendees are required to follow these safety measures:

  • Limit the Number of Attendees: Only family members and close friends are permitted to attend the committal service. The cemetery committal shelter can only accommodate a limited number of attendees while maintaining physical distancing. Funeral home directors will regulate and control the number of family members and guests in abidance of all federal, state, and local guidelines to ensure a safe environment for all cemetery staff, guests, visitors, and funeral home personnel.
  • Wear Face Masks or Coverings: All family members, attendees, funeral home personnel, military honor providers, and cemetery staff are required to wear a face mask or covering.
  • Maintain Physical Distancing: At least 6 feet of distance must be maintained between individuals. People living together in the same household do not need to maintain a 6-foot distance from each other.
  • Stay Home If You Are Sick: Individuals who are sick or not feeling well should not attend the service.

Funeral home directors are asked to emphasize the cemetery’s requirement that all attendees follow these required safety measures for the committal service to commence.

Families wishing to display floral arrangements on stands at the committal service may do so, but all handling, placement, and removal of the arrangements must be done by funeral home personnel or the family. Floral arrangements will not be transported by cemetery personnel to the gravesite at the time of interment. Families wishing to place a floral arrangement(s) (limit 2) may do so after 4:30 p.m. on the day of interment or any time thereafter. These changes will be in effect until further notice. As a reminder, the cemetery will not accept floral arrangements for direct interments.

Funeral home personnel, families, and visitors should be aware that buildings, such as the cemetery’s public information center, administrative building, and restrooms remain closed to the public.

Military funeral honors, customarily provided by the Department of Defense and volunteer honor guards, will be based on local availability. Funeral home directors are encouraged to contact military funeral honors providers to determine services and availability. Military honors personnel will be encouraged to wear a face mask or covering and maintain physical distancing.

Families are not required to conduct a committal service. They may continue to choose direct interment and opt for a memorial service at a later date when all restrictions have been lifted.

Memorial services for Veterans and eligible family members who were interred without a committal service between March 23 and June 15 will commence on June 15 on request. Families should contact the Alabama State Veterans Memorial Cemetery Office to schedule a memorial service after June 15, 2020.

Conditions and restrictions at local cemeteries can and will change in response to state, local, and federal guidelines and orders. You are encouraged to contact the Alabama State Veterans Memorial Cemetery for specific information or details.

Lastly, ADVA and the Alabama State Veterans Memorial Cemetery would like to thank you for all that you have done for our nation’s Veterans and their families during these unprecedented times. Your partnership and commitment to ensure Veterans receive the burial benefits they deserve is always appreciated and not forgotten.

For more information, visit the ADVA’s website, https://www.va.alabama.gov. To make burial arrangements, call the cemetery office at (251) 626-7183 or (251)625-1338.

 

May 4, 2020

ADVA is following Governor Ivey’s “Safer at Home” Order and has reopened many of its offices to provide customer service to our clients.  However, we are still bound by social distancing rules still in place for Alabama.  ADVA also continues to follow current guidance as provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) specific to COVID-19 prevention in the county veterans service offices, veterans cemetery, administrative areas, and long-term care facilities. We are also following advice from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (USDVA), the Alabama Department of Public Health, the White House, and a host of other organizations providing valuable guidance. Considering that guidance, and in the best interest of public health and safety for our clients and employees, the status of ADVA facilities is as follows:

Veterans Service Offices

 Our 55 county-based veterans service offices reopened to the public on Monday, May 4.  Most will provide service to veterans on an appointment-only basis.  Due to the limited space in many of our waiting areas, walk-ins are not allowed until further notice, but we will be glad to set up a face-to-face appointment at your convenience if you will kindly call to set up a time.  Because some of our offices are located in county facilities that are still closed, there may be limited cases when face-to-face meetings are not even permissible, but we will work diligently with you to offer a means for you to drop off documents or meet at an alternative site. Therefore, we ask that you call your local office to set up an appointment and to handle as much of your individual case as possible by telephone.  In addition, our employees will need to maintain an appropriate social distance from you during face-to-face appointments and may take other precautionary measures when meeting with you, such as wearing a face mask.  This is intended for your protection.  Similarly, we highly encourage you to wear some type of covering over your nose and mouth when visiting our veterans service offices. A complete list of the status of each of our 51 offices is attached to these guidelines.  That list includes the phone number or e-mail you should use to set up an appointment.

State Veterans Homes

The four Alabama state veterans homes (located in Huntsville, Pell City, Alexander City, and Bay Minette) are actively involved with all local, state, and federal agencies in coordinated efforts to protect veterans, families, and staff from exposure to COVID-19.  Through increased screening, communication, and visitation controls, ADVA is actively responding to updated guidance from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH), and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to better protect everyone at the state veterans homes.  The homes’ administrators are remaining in close contact with suppliers to ensure needed supplies and materials are available.  The Alabama state veterans homes are taking the following specific precautionary measures to protect both employees and residents:

  • All visitations and work by volunteers were temporarily halted. Additional restrictions were placed on family visits unless for a compassion visit to a terminally ill veteran in their final days
  • All employees, as well as other healthcare personnel and family compassion visits, must enter through entry checkpoint in which they are screened for symptoms to include sore throat, cough, fever, new shortness of breath, headache, muscle aches, increased malaise, dizziness, diarrhea, conjunctivitis and new loss of taste or smell. Additionally, their temperature is checked and recorded, and they are provided a mask and needed PPE as required.

The facility has and continues to remain in close communication with the staff and families as changes related to COVID-19 occur. This includes notification of positive employees and/or residents in the veterans home. Additionally, the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs (ADVA) communicates regularly through press releases to the media, posts to the ADVA website, media interviews, and town hall meetings. Families are able to remain in contact with their loved ones by phone calls and video calls such as Facetime or Zoom.

We continue to accept applications to the state veterans homes although we are not receiving new admissions at this time. All applications will be date stamped for review to be placed on the waiting list.

Alabama State Veterans Cemetery

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and in the best interest of public health and safety, ADVA continues to implement the following policies for interments at the Alabama State Veterans Memorial Cemetery at Spanish Fort:

  • The cemetery will continue to provide casket interments for veterans and eligible family members on request. However, witnessing of those burials, committal services, and the rendering of military funeral honors by military personnel and volunteer veterans service organizations are suspended until further notice.  The cemetery will schedule committal and memorial services for any casket interments at a later date for family members who desire a belated service. Those belated services will have to be scheduled around other future burial events once the current COVID-19 emergency has ended. Scheduling such belated services should be made through the cemetery’s administrative office.
  • Interment of cremated remains will be delayed until memorial services and military funeral honors can be resumed at a later date.

Please note that these new policies largely mirror those of the National Cemetery Administration at its many federal veterans cemeteries.

All current and future interments at the cemetery should be scheduled by phone or facsimile to the cemetery’s administrative office at 251-625-1338, or by FAX at 251-626-9204.

Public visitation to the cemetery remains open at this time. However, all indoor facilities at the cemetery, such as access to the administrative building and restrooms, will remain closed to the public until further notice.  We strongly encourage you to follow social distancing guidelines and take other precautionary measures (such as the wearing of facemasks) when visiting the cemetery.

As the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs follows the emergency guidelines of our state and federal government, the department recognizes the solemn occasion of honoring and laying to rest of a loved one. In these unprecedented and challenging times that our state and nation currently face, the policies followed by the Alabama State Veterans Memorial Cemetery at Spanish Fort are temporary precautions for the health, safety, and well-being of our citizens.

ADVA Headquarters in Montgomery

The ADVA headquarters is open with full manning, and you are welcome to call us at (334) 242-5077 during normal work hours.  However, visits to headquarters are restricted due to social distancing measures.

Appeal and Review Division in Montgomery

ADVA’s Appeal and Review Division is located within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs facility on Perry Hill Road in Montgomery, which is effectively shut down at the present.  In addition, The Board of Veterans Appeals has canceled hearings until further notice, which is the primary mission of the Appeals and Review Division.  Thus, the ADVA office there will be closed to the public until further notice.

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Should an Alabama veteran have any additional questions or concerns for Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs, please call 334-242-5077, or you may email us at: adva@va.alabama.gov.

If you are a veteran who needs emergency assistance, please call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 or the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs at 1-800-827-1000.


 

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