Watertown’s new Veterans Services Officer hopes to reach more former servicemen and women, both young and old, to make sure they are getting all the services they are entitled to for serving their country.
Patrick George has been working in Watertown for just over two months, and is trying to get settled in Town Hall, and get to know local veterans groups, veterans in town and their families.
He has already been busy. In May, he has already given his first budget presentation to the Town Council, helped get a memorial to a Watertown Marine killed in Vietnam approved, and will oversee the Memorial Day Parade for the first time.
The main focus of his work is getting services for local veterans. Many he sees served in the Vietnam War era, but even those just coming out of the services are eligible for benefits and services, he said.
Right now, the Watertown Veterans Services Office provides Chapter 115 benefits — financial and medical assistance for indigent veterans and their dependents — to 23 veterans or their relatives, George told the Town Council. He also sent out information to others who may be eligible.
People just out of the service can also get some benefits.
“They are eligible for a Welcome Home Bonus,” George said. “That used to be automatically generated, but now you have to apply for it.”
He has had veterans ask what they are eligible for, and George said it is hard to know, because there are so many programs, with more being created every day. He encouraged veterans to come in and speak with him to find out about what they qualify for. He noted that in 2018 the State Legislature passed the Brave Act, and the Governor signed it, which will extend veterans benefits.
To reach more residents, George plans to use social media, like Facebook and Twitter.
Other programs veterans are eligible for are the GI Bill and the Veteran Home Loan Program. The GI Bill can now be used not only for college, but for trade schools or job training programs. George himself wants to take advantage of the Veterans Home Loan Program, in which you do not have to put money down.
George brings his experience serving in the military and working in government to the Watertown Veterans Services Office. He grew up in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Boston, served on active duty in the military for five years, along with three years of inactive required reserves. During his active service he was deployed twice to Afghanistan.
George joined the Marines on his 18th birthday. After bootcamp he spent a year in Athens, Ga., learning computer systems administrations. While deployed he worked with the Afghanistan National Army on vehicle maintenance and convoy operations, and also served as IT section manager for the Marine helicopter squadron in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
After college, he got his degree at Suffolk University, and he stayed involved with the military. He interned at Mass. General Hospital’s Home Base Program, in which provides service to veterans. He continued his work with veterans in his first job out of college working in the State House as a policy analyst for Republican Brad Jones, the Minority Leader. His specialties included in the judiciary, public safety, and veterans.
“I was the point person for the Republican Caucus to bounce questions off of,” George said.
He wanted to get back serving people, and saw the opening for the Veterans Services Officer and thought it would be a good blend of his experience.
During his first couple months, he has gotten some help from Watertown’s previous VSO, Mark Comeiro, who took the same position in Andover.
“After Mark left, he was pulling double duty to help veterans in Watertown,” said George, who said he frequently speaks with his predecessor to get advice.
George said he wants to stay in Watertown for years to come, and he has already felt welcome.
“The community has been great, and the veterans have been great,” George said.