On the door to Room 127 on the ground floor of City Hall, the “5 p.m.” closing time sign is peeling off.
Scott Brown, director of the Veterans Advisory Commission, leads the agency established by City Council in 1957 to help connect veterans with social service needs. Brown said the peeling-off 5 p.m. sign is a reflection of the office’s long hours due to his passion to help every veteran who walks through the office’s door.
Brown gave Philadelphia Neighborhoods insight into how the Veterans Advisory Commission helps veterans in Philadelphia County.
Can you give an overview of the types of services that the Veterans Advisory Commission provides?
One of the introduction letters that I’ve done is [to] try to make this a one-stop shop. It’s trying to say, whether a veteran, a veteran’s spouse, or a veteran’s partner, or a veteran’s family walks in, that we have at least the guidance on where to send that person… The long, just answer of your question is that we advise veterans on their benefits – housing, taxes, 100 percent veterans’ compensation, eligibility. One of the best things I always say is we’re city employees that follow state law but administer federal benefits. And with such a large county, a lot of people always question it. “Oh, you’re the director of the city [of Philadelphia].” But Philadelphia is its own county too. I am also the director of Philadelphia County, which just recently has become the second largest county in Pennsylvania.
What does an average day look like for you in the office?
Every day, you don’t know what it brings, even when you have scheduled events. I try to schedule a service claim for disability at least once a day but there are times when that doesn’t happen. Maybe you get two or three in a rush, and then maybe you plan something for advocacy, or your planning to do this certain type of work, and as you can see from my desk it then piles up. Some days it’s a blessing and some days we look at it and say, ‘We have to remind ourselves that our number one goal is veterans, and that we’re here for them.’ So, every day, it’s another journey.
How can a veteran take advantage of the services here? What would be the first step?
We’re here because of them and we have to remember that. What I do is, if any veteran is listening to something that I said or something I wrote, what I would say is that we are here 24/7 for you.
So they could just stop in here physically or they can call?
Yes. They can call our number, which is very easy. It’s 215-686-3257. Kind of has a ring to it. We have emails. I give out my email constantly. I have a cell phone. I want veterans to know that this is not a bother for me. I tell people in the hallways that this is my famous quote when I’m walking around: “I’m living the dream.”
– Text and images by Nic Cutrona and Jenelle Janci.