It's All About Training!

Reprinted from PN February 2009

The 2008 National Service Officers Continuing Education Program is much more than a long title. It's a vital tool for ensuring the best information reaches the people who need it most.

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The Paralyzed Veterans of America Veterans Benefits Department (VBD) hosts an annual National Service Officers Continuing Education Program (NSO CEP). The most recent training took place in beautiful Salt Lake City, at the downtown Sheraton Hotel on October 8-11. Some 80 NSOs attended to improve their skills and learn new legal and regulatory changes that affect PVA members and other severely disabled veterans we serve.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) requires recognized accredited veterans service organization representatives to participate in annual training. PVA exceeds VA's standard by providing at least 27 hours of face-to-face instruction in an intensive 3-day program designed to challenge and prepare our NSOs for the difficult job of representing and advocating for veterans on a daily basis.

For outstanding service to PVA members and other clients, Mark Stever (above), an NSO II in Wichita, Kan., and also Debby Burns, senior secretary in the Louisville Service Office, were Victor McCoy Award for Excellence winners.

The day before the CEP began, new employee-orientation took place for NSOs who joined our ranks in the past year. Twelve new NSOs participated in presentations focused on service officer basics, including the use of our Case Management System and PVA National Service Office operations.

This year's program began with a welcome by Willie Clark, director, VA's Western Area. He updated our staff on a variety of topics that impact those we serve and was candid about areas VA is working hard to improve. Much of his discussion concerned the new regulation changes regarding amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease) and traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Kendra Betz, of VA's Prosthetic and Sensory Aids Service, is a physical therapist with an extensive background in spinal-cord dysfunction. She explained the responsibilities of her new role as prosthetics coordinator and taught the NSOs how to properly assist clients when advocating for their prosthetics needs.

Special guests included Doug Vollmer, PVA associate executive director for Government Relations, and three of his staff members: Blake Ortner, Lee Page, and Susan Prokop. They provided updates on Government Relations issues relative to Legislation and Advocacy. It was a special treat to hear from Ortner. Besides being a long-time PVA employee, he is a colonel in the Virginia Army National Guard who recently returned from a tour of duty in Iraq. VBD appreciates his service, and we enjoyed hearing his presentation.

Dr. David R. Gater, chief, SCI Service, McGuire VA Medical Center, Richmond, presented an outstanding class on metabolic syndrome and how it affects patients with SCI. I'm sure we all will watch our diets and exercise a little more diligently after learning how obesity can have devastating impacts on our health!

The first day ended with presentations by Andrew McKenzie, senior associate director of PVA's Information Technology program, and Joan Winkler, program manager, Membership. As you can see, we put in a lot of training in just the first day.

Read more about the remainder of the program, including the awards presented to VBD staff for outstanding service.


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It's All About Training!


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