Veterans want more from City Hall
While they sound similar, Ari Merretazon says there is a stark difference.
The city hosts a Philadelphia Veterans Advisory Commission, which is composed of seven members appointed by the Mayor and City Council President.
The PVAC is directed to consult with government agencies that distribute veterans’ benefits and to advise veterans of entitled benefits.
Merretazon,66, said the PVAC has not had a regular public meeting since 2009.
He points to state law that instructs each county to host a Veterans Affairs Office, which includes a county-appointed director, and advocates for veterans and distributes grant money that the state makes available.
And Philadelphia, he added, is one of only two counties in the state that does not have this office.
“We need an advocate and facilitator at the city level to make sure that veterans who are supposed to receive benefits receive those benefits,” he said. “The PVAC can only advise.”
Merretazon, a decorated Vietnam veteran, said the state law does not allow money to pay a director of a veterans affairs office, and this could be a sticking point.
Mark McDonald, Nutter’s press secretary, said the PVAC links veterans who have problems with the federal VA.
“We have grant writers in the office of supportive housing in the OHCD,” McDonald said. “We get monies from the federal government to address housing and related needs for veterans.”
He added: “It may be that (Merretazon) would want to see a new office created. I think what’s important is that the mayor has an open door.”
“Veterans and their families are suffering, they need resources,” Merretazon said. “And a veterans affairs office would facilitate access to the benefits they already earned. We don’t have any municipal advocate for us that’s why the state setup this office and provided money.”