State VA leader clarifies Durham office move, ‘miscommunication’

Photo by Justin Quesinberry/WNCN

DURHAM, NC (WNCN) – The head of the state’s division of Veteran’s Affairs is working to clear up what he calls a miscommunication.

His agency is re-locating its Durham office, but that left some thinking it was closing all together.

The state’s division of veterans affairs office on Market Street in Durham is open for now.

But will close by March and move full time to the VA Medical Center, where it already has a presence.

“Veterans can’t find the state office that we have in Durham right now, but they all know where the VA Medical Center is, so we think that’s going to make it easier to get more services faster,” said Ilario Pantano, the state Director of the NC Division Of Veterans Affairs.

But some misinterpreted the move as the state closing the office all together.

“I think that there was fundamentally just a communication mistake. The way that this information was presented to the county partners, I think that that caused some confusion and we’re working to clear that up,” Pantano added.

Pantano says the move has been in the works for years.

“We’ve been briefing folks on this for a long time. The fact that this caught anybody by a surprise is unfortunate,” he said.

“I suspect communication is always a two-way street and there’s always two parties that could probably do a little bit more to communicate better and we’ll work on that,” Pantano added.

Right now two employees work with the 20 to 50 veterans who visit the state office in Durham each week…. But the state expects them to see even more vets in the new location.

“ It will certainly increase the workload. One of the things that we’re trying to do is, unfortunately we haven’t gotten a budget increase, so it’s true that we’re increasing the workload, but what we’re trying to do is to add some new tools to make their jobs and productivity better and faster.”

Pantano said the VA Medical Center will lease space to the state at no cost.

The savings on rent will go toward things like a resource guide for veterans.

In town hall style forums, Durham VA Medical Center leaders have said their biggest issue is space. WNCN asked about how adding the state’s agency will fit into the constraints.

Megan Warren Moore, public affairs officer, sent this response:

“Having a representative from the NC Division of Veterans Affairs (DVA) at the Durham VA Medical Center (VAMC) is extremely helpful for Veterans who visit the facility and may have benefits questions. The NCDVA currently holds office hours at the Durham VAMC two days a week, with plans to increase to three days a week in mid-August. We will work closely with NCDVA to determine future space needs and provide more as it becomes available.”

Asked whether the space was already available for the state to move into in March, Warren Moore said it was “in coordination.”

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