Boston's new Commissioner of Veterans’ Services will be the first-ever Puerto Rican to hold the position, as well as the first LGBTQ person, and he's a Jamaica Plain resident. "I am grateful to Mayor Walsh for this opportunity to serve the veterans of Boston," said Robert Santiago. "I remain dedicated to promoting the Mayor’s agenda to serving all veterans no matter the zip code, status, or orientation.”
Santiago started working for the city as the deputy commissioner at the Mayor’s Office of Veterans’ Services in 2016. Before working for the city, Santiago served 20 years in the military, including duty on four warships, with overseas tours in Belgium, Puerto Rico, Panama, and Japan. Santiago was in Desert Shield/Desert Storm, Eastern Exit, Enduring Freedom, and Iraqi Freedom.
The VA Boston Healthcare System operates a fully equipped medical center in Jamaica Plain in support of area veterans. While easily accessible, many veterans are unaware of the many services offered there so the VA will be hosting an Open House and Veterans Town Hall event on May 10th. Additionally, many veterans do not realize that they are eligible for VA care or that it is provided without premiums or deductibles. This full service medical center offers a number of programs to include primary care, diabetes services, tele-health services, pharmacy, physical therapy, housing, lab services and mental health services among others. Representatives from many services will be on hand to offer free hearing and blood pressure as well as onsite physicals, enrollment and benefits information, and local area veteran programs information as well as VA disability claims processing.
The record cold over the weekend was too much for the aging plumbing at the VA in Jamaica Plain. According to NECN, appointments at the facility are cancelled until at least Thursday. The high-rise building, a well-known landmark for the South Huntington area, did not have to be evacuated, NECN reported. However, several patients were taken to other facilities. WBUR reported that veterans who have appointments on Tuesday and Wednesday should call first.
On Monday, Massachusetts Secretary of Veterans' Services Coleman Nee and District 6 City Councilor Matt O'Malley co-hosted a roundtable discussion on the needs of the increasing number of women service members and veterans in Massachusetts. Held at the Loring-Greenough House, special guests included Superintendent of Chelsea Soldiers’ Home Cheryl Poppe and Coordinator of Women’s Veterans’ Network for Veterans’ Services Viviana Marcotte. Nee facilitated a roundtable discussion with Poppe and Marcotte on the needs of the increasing number of women service members and veterans in the state. Topics of discussion included access to available services and benefits and ways in which the City of Boston can provide more support. The event was co-sponsored by the Loring-Greenough House, a historic building that played a significant role in the Revolutionary War.
On Wednesday Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced that as part of Boston's "Homes for the Brave" initiative, the City this morning hosted its first-ever housing surge for veterans at Pine Street Inn. Representatives from 11 partner agencies gathered for the first time in one place to efficiently assist veterans in connecting with housing and housing resources. "One of the biggest barriers for a returning veteran is finding safe, affordable housing," said Mayor Walsh. "We must do all that we can to honor the men and women who have served our country, and I thank all of the partners who stepped forward to make this event a success. No veteran should be homeless - and in Boston, we are working to make that a reality." At today's event, 60 homeless veterans met with representatives from various agencies to better understand the resources available for them to become housed. Veterans were able to speak to the Veterans Administration (VA) to apply for benefits; to the CORI board to learn about their CORI status and how to make appropriate changes to their criminal records; to housing search experts from HomeStart, and work with the VA and the Boston Housing Authority to become certified for housing vouchers that will enable them to afford apartments in the private market.