Let PVA Know

Reprinted from PN/Paraplegia News September 2013

PVA needs to know your concerns in order to help you.

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“Back in the day,” when I was considering joining Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), the one aspect of this organization that impressed me the most was the strong advocacy commitment, which was evident on behalf of its members and the disabled community as a whole.

I can personally testify that they made a vast difference in my life, especially in the areas of medical care, prosthetics and accessibility. This was a giant determining factor in my decision to join up. So many of the everyday details we take for granted are a direct result of PVA’s work; therefore, my decision was to pay it forward for the next generation of veterans coming home.

This month’s message is about asking for your help! If we’re not aware a problem exists, we certainly can’t help resolve it. I’d like to offer several examples.  

Many of you are aware that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has new regulations regarding issuing prosthetic devices and equipment. This new ruling states that any prosthetic item that costs more than $3,000 must obtain approval from the Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN).

Consider those of us who rely on custom wheelchairs or converted vans, or amputees who require a new prosthesis for a missing limb, to list a few conditions. Common sense tells us these fixes are costly and will be over the threshold of $3,000.   

So, here’s where my request for your help comes into play. I am asking that you notify your local national service officer or our national office if you or someone you know experiences an abnormal amount of time in obtaining the prosthetic items the physician or therapist has ordered.

PVA has the expertise to track these delays and is committed to discovering the “whys” and “wherefores” of the delays. As a result, we can then take these cases to VA Central Office proving we have solid evidence this new rule is having a negative impact on the veteran population.

From our past experience with VA, PVA realizes we must have documented names, dates and places before they will look into our claims. We must have this information in our hands, in writing, before we can approach VA with claims of delays. 

In past months, I’ve written articles about the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). During my travels across America in April, I had the misfortune to experience several incidents of potential violations of the ACAA. Each of these episodes involved the stowing of my chair in the plane’s onboard closet. In the past year and a half, due to the airline’s irrational need to stow my chair underneath the plane, the wheels have become damaged … not once or twice, but three times.

These are power-assist wheels that are costly to replace, and this represents a significant inconvenience to me. Yet, time and time again, flight attendants arbitrarily make the decision to exclude my chair from the onboard closet, in favor of the flight crew’s luggage, even though I observe the proper protocol prior to my flight. Upon returning home, armed with flight numbers, names and dates, I wrote a letter to the airline stating my complaints and sent a copy of that letter to the PVA Advocacy Department to be placed on file for future action.

It may seem somewhat bizarre for me to ask that you complain and to state that complaint in writing, but this is the only way we can approach VA, airlines, cities and towns, hotels, motels or restaurants that aren’t in compliance with the rules of accessibility.
We need your help in documenting these cases; help us help you!  Notify our advocacy department every time you experience violations or delays. Again, PVA can’t help if we’re not aware of the problem.

We all know it is not pleasant having to stay in a hospital for a period of time. So I’m asking your help in this area, too. Please take time, just 15 minutes, to visit a hospitalized veteran today. This includes those who are living in nursing homes.


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