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Meet the Candidates

Reprinted from PN April 2016

Leading the nation's premier veterans service organization isn't easy, but these individuals are ready to meet that challenge and are seeking your vote

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It’s a big election year in the United States as a new president will be selected in November, but an important vote is also happening for the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) in 2016.

Next month, PVA Officers will be elected during the 70th Annual Convention in Jacksonville, Fla. It’s staggering to think how much PVA has done for veterans and others with spinal-cord injury or disease (SCI/D) over the last 70 years, and strong leadership has been a huge part of that effort.

During the May 17–21 convention, the PVA Board of Directors will once again be tasked with electing the national president, senior vice president, four vice presidents, treasurer and secretary.

Whether it’s working to ensure seriously injured veterans get the best benefits possible, funding ground-breaking research or fighting for civil rights, these officers will be responsible for helping PVA remain the leading advocate for veterans and others with SCI/D.

The following are statements of individuals who, as of an early February press time, have declared their candidacy for office and willingness to continue on the path of changing lives and building futures.

President

Al Kovach Jr.

At the beginning of my first term as PVA national president, I announced several goals I hoped PVA could accomplish, and I’m happy to report we’ve had great success. But there’s still work to be done and for this reason, I’m announ-
cing my intent to serve one more term as
your national president.

Since I was elected as your president, there have been a lot of changes which have resulted in significant improvements in the way PVA conducts business. I selected many new appointees and they’ve acclimated well. Their presence, in addition to changes in staffing and the executive committee’s commitment to working as a team on issues such as the annual budget and political priorities, has sparked new energy into PVA’s operations, resulting in a boost in optimism. 

Changes have also occurred outside of PVA that will affect the way we need to conduct business. Last year, President Barack Obama announced the war on terror was officially over. Consequently, there has been a diminished awareness of veterans’ issues resulting in donors’ priorities shifting to causes that bear more perceived relevance.

I believe PVA cannot simply react to the whims of American philanthropy. PVA must be proactive in harvesting the necessary funds to further PVA’s cause. For this reason, PVA will launch a very aggressive $700 million capital campaign in November that has the potential to change the way PVA funds its outstanding programs.

More change will come in November as Americans cast their votes for new leadership in Washington, D.C. These upcoming elections could result in an undetermined future for PVA, which means we need to be steadfast in our political priorities.

Implementation of the Veterans Access, Care, and Accountability Act was a quick fix for Congress and the newly appointed Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) secretary. I believe we must continue to pressure Congress to maintain oversight and ensure that the VA’s infrastructure remains adequately staffed and resourced to deliver those specialized services that the private sector cannot provide to PVA’s members.

PVA must also continue pushing Congress to expand eligibility for the VA Comprehensive Caregiver Program. I believe veterans and their caregivers of all eras, not just post 9/11, must receive support from this program.  

Another high priority is the provision of assistive reproductive services. One of the most devastating results of SCI/D is the loss of the ability to have children and raise a family. While the Department of Defense provides programs for service members to start families, Congress has banned the VA from providing these services for veterans. This ban is antiquated and unacceptable.

Lastly, I want to improve travel benefits for the most severely disabled veterans. Eliminating the burden of transportation costs as a barrier to receiving health care will improve veterans’ overall health and well-being while decreasing future costs associated with exacerbated health conditions due to postponed care.

I’ve often said PVA cannot survive with a go-it-alone approach. With all the forecasted changes in our nation’s capital, we need to nurture our existing relationships while pursuing new partners with whom we can effectively collaborate. If we want them to invest in PVA’s mission, we need to be open to new ideas with a “can-do” culture where leadership and staff believe in their capacity to produce results for PVA. With your support, I believe we can make that happen.

Senior Vice President

David Zurfluh

I’m announcing my intention to run again for the senior vice president position.

It has been an honor serving PVA and our members as senior vice president. I’ve kept the promise to never forget where I came from and to always improve our organization. I will continue to value any ideas, concerns and criticism whether at the national, chapter or member level. My door is always open; please don’t hesitate to contact me. My passion is to always help and serve past, present and future PVA members and any veteran in need.

This year, I’ve continued to be in communication with PVA President Al Kovach Jr. on a weekly basis at a minimum and sometimes daily when the demand arises. The president and I have developed a great relationship to stay on top of what’s going on in PVA and to work as a team to improve PVA where we can for our executive committee, directors, chapters, members and PVA staff.

I’ve also worked with President Kovach to learn the duties of the president’s office to be ready to run meetings if the need arose like it did in Phoenix this year and other duties that may arise. I believe it’s my duty to PVA and our members to be ready for any situations that may arise. If re-elected, I will continue to improve and grow my skill set.    

I continued dialogue this year with our national vice presidents to communicate every week at a minimum and more when necessary, and to listen and ask about any chapter, committee or personal concerns they may have. I tried to improve and work with them on any ideas or concerns they may have with their particular chapters and committees they serve on. When in face-to-face meetings, I still set aside time to work as a team with them to discuss and find ways to strengthen their relationship with their chapters. If re-elected, I will continue to improve the communication, chapter relationships
and needs of our
vice presidents.

It has been an honor to serve on many committees this year and sit in on or call in on others to still learn all I can about our PVA committees and this great PVA organization. While serving on these committees I’ve found ways to improve and make things more efficient, and where I could to create opportunities for more board of directors and members to serve on PVA committees.

This year, I had many great opportunities to work with PVA’s former executive director (Homer S. Townsend Jr.) and our acting executive director (Sherman Gillums Jr.), as well as PVA’s staff both in Washington, D.C., and around the country when the need arose. I’ll be looking to explore new opportunities and to improve my relationship with our new executive director and staff.

There are four areas I’m focusing on and trying to improve within PVA: Ensuring our members get quality health care at the VA in light of the popularity with the Veterans Choice Act; improving member involvement at the national and chapter levels through sporting or social events — they need to feel some level of ownership; getting the right image of PVA out in social/mass media; and improving fundraising to get the best bang for our buck and diversifying where it makes sense — I think we need to explore different avenues for fundraising but be aware of the return on investment to continue or stop it. If anyone has ideas to improve these four, I’m open to listening and entertaining them.  

The greatest joy this year serving with the executive committee was working with everyone to continue to develop a great chemistry and coming together as a team to focus our efforts on putting our members first! This year, I’ve tried to develop another mantra: Be right and do right for our members.  

Directors, it has been a privilege to serve you and our members this year. I thank you for the opportunity to express my ideas, passion and commitment to this great organization. It would be an honor to have the opportunity to serve again with the leaders of this PVA organization. Directors, I’m again asking for your vote for the position of senior vice president. I thank you for taking the time to read this statement and for your consideration. 

Vice Presidents

Hack Albertson

It has been a honor to serve PVA this past year as a national vice president.

I’ve worked hard to help all veterans and all of the PVA chapters that I serve as the vice president liaison for this year. I personally want to thank each PVA chapter president, national director, officer, board of directors and associate member for your dedication and commitment to PVA. Your work and hours of volunteering is what impacts and changes veterans’ lives.


This year was a learning process and I was able to input some of my ideas to help our executive committee accomplish some good things. Thank you for the opportunity to serve, as I take pride in working with this group of leaders to serve you. It has been a great learning experience, to be mentored by such long-term PVA leaders and staff. Our PVA staff and national service officers are very professional and their work is to be commended.

I want to continue to serve PVA and I’m asking that you please consider me again for a national vice president position so that I may continue the projects I’m working on and build on my efforts from this first term. There’s nothing more important to me than seeing that our veterans get the health care and benefits they need and have earned with their honorable service.

I’m always available 24/7 to assist in any way I can to help when the system falls short of our expectations. I believe in not just monitoring the VA Health Care System but also in accountability and driving improvements.

This year, I’ve served as chairman of the spouse/caregivers committee and chairman of the awards committee. I’ve taken part in the financial and budget committee meetings and process. I’ve brought new ideas and a fresh outlook to the executive committee. It has been a very busy year visiting PVA chapters and working with all of the chapter presidents and national directors to update the bylaws and monitor our governing documents for our national charter.

Serving on the executive committee and seeing the changes and new ideas coming forth with this great team of veterans and staff we have in our organization is exciting. I feel good about the direction PVA is headed and the work we’re all doing to support our veterans. I know the present is bright and the future looks great for PVA and the lives we continue to enrich and futures we are building for our veterans.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Charles Brown

It’s my distinct pleasure to announce that I’m seeking the office of PVA national vice president.

I’m extremely honored to have been elected and served in this very capacity for the last four terms. I’m honored by the confidence that the national board of directors has shown by re-electing me, and I’ve worked hard to maintain and hopefully grow that support. 

This past year, I was tasked with chairing the field advisory committee (FAC) and all of the subsequent duties involved. I’ve worked with key staff and the FAC in proposing needed changes to the hospital liason officer program and chaired the ad hoc committee on chapter election policies. 

I wish to thank all the committee members and staff that have given their time and talents in helping the PVA to continue serving its members and veterans across this great nation. 

This past year, we, the executive committee, have maintained open lines of communication and called upon each other for support. The executive committee has taken on many areas that we believe need review and revision. We may not always agree, but after great discussion we do come to a consensus that we think is
in the best interest of the PVA. 

One area that I would like to stress now is the VA and the quality of care provided to veterans with SCI/D. As chairman of the FAC, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in the lack of nursing staff across the nation at spinal-cord injury (SCI) centers. Veterans Health Administration (VHA) guidelines 2008–085 list the minimum staffing standards allowed and all of the SCI centers have failed to maintain those minimums, causing the closing of beds and the delay in needed care to some veterans.

Some VA’s claim shortages of available staff in their area while others refuse to hire the needed staff to maintain the minimum standards. These aren’t PVA guidelines, but VHA guidelines. 

If re-elected, I’ll continue to work with staff in seeking a resolution to this problem. I believe one way our organization can help improve the quality of care is to seek the return of public law 104-262. It specifically gives oversight to Congress requiring the VA to report bed census numbers monthly to Congress.

When this law was first enacted it prevented the VA from arbitrarily closing beds or shorting staff and after the sunset of the law we’ve seen the loss of beds and clinical staff across the nation. Now is the time that we ask for help in forcing the VA to honor its commitment to America’s veterans.

I’m taking this opportunity to thank all of the doctors, nurses, therapists and staff that dedicate themselves to provide the best possible care inside the VA. Your dedication and sacrifice are the glue that holds this system of care together. Without your sacrifice the veterans who need help would perish and our nation would have failed to honor its commitment.

As each of you work within your chapters and communities, please remember that if we don’t look out for our fellow veterans, we’ll lose the very system of care the founders of PVA worked so hard to establish. We’ll be relegated to poor care and a lesser quality of life. 

Thank you again for having confidence in me, and I promise to give you my best efforts. 

Joseph Fox Sr.

I would like to submit my name for consideration for the position of vice president for 2016. I don’t take this lightly and don’t assume this is a done deal; it’s you, the PVA Board of Directors, who choose the leaders of PVA.

I do, however, submit to you that I’ve served this organization in the following positions throughout the years: PVA vice president from 1994 through 1997; senior vice president from 1998 through 2000; president from 2000 through 2004; immediate past president from 2005 through 2009; past president from 2009 through 2014, at which time I returned and was re-elected as PVA vice president 2014 through 2015.

The PVA Executive Committee we have in place now is tight and functions very well together as a team. We make sure that the most important tool we have is communication and continued contact with each other. The other is the ability to look at issues with an open mind. Each of us gives input, thoughts, ideas and in the end we come to a decision, we might not all agree, but it’s a decision we all can tell is good and right.

The reason I choose to run is I do believe my terms and time spent with PVA and for the executive committee brings to the table history of the past and ideas for the future. I try to give my opinion and direction on many subjects and give my leadership when it’s needed. It has worked well over the past two years and many of the PVA Executive Committee believe this has been a good part of the team concept. 

I continue to support the national office and the programs which it runs. I believe
PVA is the best veterans organization out there and that we, as an organization, must not let up on the direction you, the PVA board, has given us. 

We need to strengthen and improve our direction on the hard decisions and issues that face us, which means identifying and perusing the health care that is the life blood to all of us. That includes strengthening all our efforts that we are faced with now and in the future regarding advocacy/legislation issues and fortifying our portfolio and closing issues with or continued problems with the budget and identifying the financial cuts that we have and continue to have each and every year. 

Continuing to work with my nine PVA chapters has been my priority and giving them the guidance they need or getting them the information they need as requested, I have done that 100%.

So in closing, as you read this, please consider my statement and the things I’ve said. Is it time for a change and the old to go? I can’t say. All I know is that I continue to do my job providing positive support and direction. 

Thanks for your support and consideration.

Ken Weas

Please accept this as my request for your consideration and support for my re-election as your vice president to continue to serve on PVA’s Executive Committee.

I was first elected vice president in 2001 and served on the executive committee from 2003 until June 2006, and again, from 2010 to present.

During these years, my experiences have been obtained from working with five presidents, six senior vice presidents and other executive committee members. I joined the Central Florida Chapter (CFPVA) in 1995 and served as its vice president and hospital liaison program director until 2000 when I moved to Phoenix. As a member of the Arizona chapter, I served as its hospital liaison
program director.

In 2006, I returned to Florida and rejoined the CFPVA, reassuming the position of hospital liaison program, outreach director and was elected as its national director. Also, during my 13 years serving as one of your vice presidents, I’ve had the honor and opportunity to serve as the chairman of the field advisory committee (FAC) under the presidencies of Joseph L. Fox Sr., Randy L. Pleva Sr., Bill Lawson and Al Kovach Jr. And, prior to being elected to the executive committee, I served five years as a member on the FAC. These combined years have truly provided me with an extensive education and knowledge of the VA’s Specialized Services and the skills to ensure that PVA monitors and enforces the SCI/D health care and programs, as well as making sure our membership receives their entitlements and benefits as promised.

In addition, I’m currently serving as the vice president for administration, which had been previously assigned to the senior vice president. During my first year in this position, I began working with the chapters individually in converting their current chapter bylaws to the PVA Model Bylaws.

And, as the vice president of administration, President Kovach assigned me as the chairman of the Ad-Hoc Committee for the Review of PVA’s Governing Documents. The committee members firmly believe that due to the critical nature and role of PVA’s Governing Documents in identifying and detailing PVA’s policies, procedures and operations that an ongoing review for consistency in “housekeeping” and “substantive policy” statements within these documents is critical for our future.

I share this brief bio of experience with you because I started with the basic involvement and knowledge in understanding the missions and goals of PVA, and I’ve increased my level of both education and experience so that I can continue my sharing and assisting PVA leadership in any opportunity and be a part of resolving any challenges that might come our way.

I’ll be totally committed to ensure that working with the other three vice presidents, executive committee and national staff that I’ll have the education, training, support and resources and team approach to do what you elected me to do. Specifically, as liaison vice president to my chapter assignments. They’re the roots of PVA and without them we wouldn’t be here or continue to exist to provide the services, programs, benefits and entitlements to our membership.

But before we can participate, volunteer, serve and enjoy these programs, we must be both physically and mental healthy to do so.  The protection of VA’s Specialized Services such as spinal-cord medicine, traumatic brain injury, mental health and blind rehab is one of PVA’s core missions. We must continue to ensure that the VA is held accountable to us by requiring the enforcement of its own directives, policies and procedures. Specifically, I strongly believe we need 100% daily oversight in their “specialized services” health care and long-term care. This must and has to remain one of PVA’s highest priorities! 

As the VA continues with its restructure to five regions vs. the 23 Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISN) that they’ve been operating under, PVA, through our many years of strong advocacy and legislation work, must regularly oversee and be involved in the implantation of the VA’s efforts to restructure to ensure that our membership’s health care and entitlements and benefits don’t get lost! We must continue to have a strong and loud voice with both the executive and legislative branches in their funding for the VA. The VA needs our support!

If I’m elected, I promise to represent and dedicate myself and my efforts toward making sound decisions and complete, concise actions that will contribute to ensuring positive, improved results for what is best for the entire PVA membership. Thank you.

Treasurer

Tom Wheaton

I announce my intention of being a candidate for and to continue serving as PVA’s treasurer in 2016-17. One of the things I’ve been grateful for is serving alongside our dedicated and capable leaders. Our accomplishments as a premier veterans service organization both over the last 70 years and most recently are substantial.

Having a plan to allocate precious resources to effectively support our mission is critical to our ongoing success in meeting the needs of our membership, their families and all veterans and the disability community at large. Fortunately for us, scores of passionate leaders have served us well in the past and continue to do so.

Did you know that many past national treasurers serve on our finance committee and work intimately on our annual budget generation process? They even provide relevant historical perspectives on how we manage our resources and plan for the future. Because of them, and our executive committee members, senior national office staff, board of directors and leaders at the chapter level, there is great encouragement in what we do as an organization.  

Changes have come quickly for PVA this year, and I’ve seen various national office employees initiate innovative ideas to streamline our efforts. It’s also evident that many leaders at the local level provide wonderful (and unique) programs to encourage participation of PVA members, particularly those who are newly injured and need examples of living out a life of dignity.

I desire to continue being a part of these dynamic teams of leaders who spend the necessary time and effort to make wise decisions.  Whether it’s our entire accounting staff, executive director, executive committee, board of directors or finance, budget or audit committee members, we all play a part in providing an appropriate budget, tracking our success against it and ensure that we accomplish our mission more efficiently than we have in the past.

I’m grateful for the confidence our leaders have had in me over the course of most of my adult life, and it would be a great honor to continue serving with our organization’s leaders as PVA’s treasurer.

Thank you for your consideration.

Secretary

Larry Dodson

I’m Larry Dodson and I ask that you accept this as my notice of intent to seek re-election as national secretary for PVA. I’ve served with pleasure as PVA’s national secretary since my first election in 2012.

As national secretary, my full attention to detail is an asset as I continually review the production process of recording, transcribing and publishing our minutes. I strive to ensure the best business practices available are in place and being utilized. The success of PVA is always my main concern when tough decisions must be made.

The position of national secretary is multifaceted. All requirements are equally important, but the one that requires the most time and attention to detail is our minutes. This entails the recording, editing and timely publishing of accurate minutes of PVA’s Executive Committee, Board of Directors and convention meetings. These documents contain the historical records of PVA and the decisions made by its governing body.

As a member of the executive committee, the national secretary is an integral part of  a synergistic decision-making team that assists PVA, the chapters, our members and all veterans to achieve a healthy, productive future.

Due to my accounting background and years of practice, National Treasurer Tom Wheaton has extended me the privilege of being involved in both the finance and budget committee meetings. It’s my honor to be the first national secretary to serve in this capacity.  

The national secretary also serves as an ad-hoc member of the resolutions committee. This committee is responsible for reviewing all proposed resolutions prior to submission to the executive committee and the board of directors.  

When a resolution is acted upon, the committee assures that the changes are consistent in all PVA governing documents. Occasionally, the PVA president will ask the executive committee members to chair ad-hoc committees. I was asked to chair a committee to review PVA’s medical requirements for membership, and that report will be given at our 70th annual convention.

Another important requirement is the certification of members and officers for the organization. During my tenure this process has become more expeditious, less costly and offers more confidentiality in the handling of our members’ sensitive information. 

If re-elected, it would be my honor to continue serving PVA in its mission of “changing lives and building futures.” 

Thank you for your consideration.  

 

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