Election Time 2017

Reprinted from PN April 2017

Meet the candidates who want to lead PVA in its mission to improve the quality of life for veterans and all people living with SCI/D.

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The United States swore in its 45th president earlier this year when Donald Trump took the oath of office in January, and soon Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) will install its leaders for the 2017-18 term. PVA’s Board of Directors will vote to elect its executive committee during next month’s 71st Annual National Convention in National Harbor, Md. The board will be voting to elect a president, senior vice president, four vice presidents, a treasurer and secretary. The following are statements from individuals who have declared their intention to run for one of the available positions and help lead PVA in its continuing mission to change lives and build brighter futures. Not having a statement in this issue of PN doesn’t exclude someone from running for office during the convention.


Ken Weas

Why now? In July 2016, I participated in the executive director’s strategic planning session in Washington, D.C. At the end of the two-day session, Executive Director Sherman Gillums Jr., asked us, “What can we (he asked us to replace ‘we’ with ‘I’) do as leaders to ensure the future of PVA continues?” This challenge and a reflection and review of my participation and leadership history since first hearing about PVA back in 1992 at the Tampa (Fla.) Spinal-Cord Injury (SCI) Center, as an in-patient for 10 months, has confirmed my heart’s desire and my honest motivation. Therefore, I would consider it both an honor and privilege to lead our organization as its next president. I would like to continue to give back and serve like they did and continue to do for me, as well as our entire PVA family, the whole disabled veteran community and for all Americans with a disability. My decision to run for this very important job doesn’t come without much deliberation, consultation and discussions with my superiors, peers, subordinates and other PVA members, but, most importantly, my family (immediate and extended).  

I’m offering you a leadership style that is both assertive and hands-on, and one that requires the ability and willingness to identify and maximize PVA’s internal and external resources (both personnel and material) to accomplish the organization’s goals and objectives. It’s the style where obtaining input of information and data by listening and researching from multiple sources is used in making decisions. I was first elected vice president in 2001 and served on the executive committee from 2003 until June 2006 and again from 2010 to the present. During these years, my experiences have been obtained from working with five presidents and six senior vice presidents (and other executive committee members). My PVA history began when I first 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 positions of hospital liaison program/outreach director and was elected as their 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. Prior to serving on the executive committee, I spent five years as a member on the FAC. These combined years have truly provided me with an extensive education and knowledge of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) specialized services and the skills to ensure that PVA monitors and enforces spinal-cord injury and disease, health care and programs, as well as making sure our membership receives its entitlements and benefits as promised. This will always be one of my highest priorities, and I will lead the fight to ensure we have the best quality health care to extend our quality of life. I’ve been, and will continue to be, totally committed to ensure that working with the 32 national directors, the executive committee (specifically the four vice presidents) and national staff, we will provide the chapters with the necessary education, training, support and resources through a team approach. I will ensure that when a chapter is in need of oversight, involvement and supervision of its daily operations and maintenance to provide the eight mandate programs and services to its membership that it’s done in an efficient, effective and timely manner. And, the goal and final results for our involvement is that it maximizes the improvement of the chapter for its members. In my many years as a liaison vice president, I have successfully led eight chapters through PVA’s Monitoring Program. As a liaison vice president, I’ve been assigned to 31 of the current 34 chapters, and I fully understand, support and will always remind myself and PVA employees and volunteers that the chapters are the roots of PVA. Without them, we wouldn’t be here or continue to exist to provide the services, programs, benefits and entitlements of our membership. I strongly believe we must continue to work together as a whole. One “team” (national and chapters) to keep PVA’s representation and integrity so that we can maintain and develop programs both national and local that enable and encourage the membership to become actively involved and in support of one another and all veterans. But before any of us can participate, volunteer, serve and enjoy these programs, we must be both physically and mentally 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 Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is held accountable to us by requiring the enforcement of its own directives, policies and procedures, regardless of upsetting someone’s feelings because they disagree with our enforcement. Specifically, I strongly believe we need 100% daily oversight in their “specialized services,” health care and long-term care and strong resources in order to successfully continue to accomplish our goals. We must continue and strengthen our site visits to the 26 SCI centers and “spoke” facilities. This must remain one of PVA’s highest priorities, and we can’t give into their multiple excuses that they like to provide.  

Also, through our many years of strong advocacy and legislation work, PVA must regularly oversee and be involved in the implementation of the VA’s efforts to restructure under both the executive and legislative branches in their funding for the VHA. With the uncertainty of our nation’s new president and congressional leadership, the VA needs our support through our yearly efforts to acquire and maintain its necessary federal funding for veterans’ future health care and benefits. We must accomplish this involvement as a one-team approach and offer daily communication with the VA leadership, as well as on Capitol Hill, and work to position ourselves in protecting and maintaining our specialized services for the safety and quality of the lives of our members. We can’t stand by and let it be dismantled and outsourced. The VA is all we have, and it can’t be duplicated in the private sector. I wanted to share this brief bio of work experience because of the importance in knowing that my education and knowledge has prepared me for this critical leadership position, that I started with the basic involvement and knowledge in understanding PVA’s missions and goals, that over the years of service I have increased my level of both education and experience so that now I feel and believe I’m ready to lead us towards resolving any current unresolved action items, as well as preparing to resolve our future barriers and issues in a timely manner, whether internal and/or external. Regardless, if it’s communicating with a political, VA, national and/or chapter leadership, I’ll address and find resolution to all issues and matters with my leadership style, and they won’t go without attention. That means leading and using a respective “team” where individuals can contribute their professional expertise, as well as their personal experiences, in finding and producing an effective, efficient and successful resolution. And when mistakes are made, to take the responsibility to learn what was done wrong and try again and not make the same mistakes. Growth and success comes from doing something and learning from your mistakes. I believe that my leadership style can and will continue with assisting all the PVA leadership, both national and chapter, in any opportunity that lends itself to being a part of resolving any challenges that might come our way. I sincerely and respectfully feel and believe I’m ready to lead our organization.

David Zurfluh

PVA national directors and members, I’m announcing my intention to run for the position of president.

During my last seven years of serving our organization as a vice president, serving on and chairing many committees and the last three years as senior vice president, I’ve strived to take on all challenges and responsibilities to improve this organization. My philosophy has always been to put PVA and its members first and to improve the lives of our members through our programs, committees, working with PVA staff, working on pressing challenges that arise and the ideas that come from our national directors and members. I expect many challenges to come in our next fiscal year but look forward to taking them on as they come with the input from staff, the executive committee, national directors, chapters and our members. After hearing that input, ultimately the decision will rest with me, and those decisions will be made with the best interest of our organization and its members. Though there are many concerns our organization faces, I believe there are five areas that need attention this year and in the years to come. Evaluating PVA staff — I will work with our executive director and executive committee to look within our departments to see what’s working and where we need improvements or a new direction based upon a thorough analysis. I want to improve upon the harmony and value our staff needs to carry out the PVA mission. I want to work with our executive director to provide an opportunity for our staff to voice their concerns and feel like stakeholders in our organization through quarterly department meetings. Addressing chapter needs — Chapters through their vice president liaisons and Association of Chapter Executive Directors meetings have been voicing their concerns. The three major ones I’ve heard are lack of communication with national PVA, chapter board training and fundraising. Communication is vital for our chapters. I think PVA staff are initiating member alerts and newsletters, but there’s room for improvement, and exploring how to use social media, I believe, could be a vital opportunity to sync with our chapters and provide faster feedback to chapter concerns. It has been far too long since we have had chapter president and executive director training, but because of budget strains it may not be feasible or realistic to bring it back. But that may be a topic of debate at convention. However, I believe with the availability of past PVA presidents, staff and executive committee member schedules, chapter board training on a three-year cycle may be more feasible. Lastly, fundraising. I would like PVA staff and chapters to explore opportunities to streamline requests and seek mutual opportunities for fundraising together (chapter/national PVA) in chapter areas.   VA health care and benefits — With the current changeover in our government, VA secretary and Congress, I believe it’s imperative we get our message across to all on the needs of our members and veterans who use the VA, especially the specialty care services on which our members rely. Working with PVA staff, I will lead the effort in maintaining and improving member access to medical and sports equipment and housing, auto and educational grants. We also need to address and solve the VA staffing shortage across America that’s hurting our members in access to care in our SCI centers and VA hospitals across the country. The Denver VA problem and lack of an SCI center needs to be fixed immediately, and the lack of a center is putting our PVA Mountain States Chapter members at risk traveling and seeking care outside their home area. Whether advocating for this through the media or government, it needs to be done and I will lead that charge. Transparency — At the fall board of directors meeting in Cleveland, I spearheaded an effort to create a state of the PVA movement open to all. Since then, we have conducted all executive committee meetings in an open forum and going into executive session when necessary. If elected president, I would like to continue and improve upon the executive committee’s openness when conducting meetings.   Finding new leadership — I believe it’s healthy for an organization to provide leadership opportunities to new and older members at the national or chapter level, including boards and committees. This can be done at national meetings, at sporting events, with newsletters and at liaison chapter visits. If elected president, I will work with PVA staff, executive committee members and chapters to create guidance and opportunities for our interested members. 

Lastly, when I lay in my hospital bed like all of you looking at the massive challenges to life before me, PVA came to my aid, showed me a path to take on those challenges and find success in life. If elected your president, I, again with all your support, will take on the challenges that face our organization and strive to achieve the ultimate in success. National directors, I cannot do this alone. However, with your help we can solve the challenges that will face us. I thank you for your time and consideration.

Senior Vice President

Charles Brown

I’m announcing my intention to run for the office of national senior vice president. I’m honored to say I’ve served as a national vice president for five terms now, and I’ve been a member of PVA for more than 30 years. I wish to express my gratitude at the overwhelming support I received during last year’s election. This past year, I’ve worked hard to honor my commitment to serve members and veterans throughout PVA and our nation. I’ve tried to maintain the open lines of communication within PVA without compromising the confidentiality entrusted to me. I value each member and his or her ideas and continue to work hard on helping PVA improve in serving veterans. This past term, the executive committee as a whole has communicated weekly to ensure that every member is aware of current situations and we’re following the guidelines. We have worked to ensure each of us knows the current situations at chapters and national. I’ve continued to communicate with the senior vice president on all of my committee responsibilities and seek advice when needed. I’m the current chair of the field advisory committee (FAC), and it has been a pleasure to work with each committee member in helping PVA maintain one of its top programs. I’m continually encouraged by the commitment each committee and staff member has shown in protecting our most sacred need: health care. This past year, there have been some significant changes to the health care being provided nationwide. The continuation of the Choice Act (Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014), the return of bed staffing reporting requirements to Congress and the availability of in vitro fertilization for catastrophically injured veterans are only some of those changes.  With the new administration in Washington, D.C., there are many concerns for the system of care we so desperately need. It’s the commitment of the FAC, medical services, advocacy/legislation and veterans benefits and executive committee to ensure we don’t lose that care for generations to come. I believe the paramount reason PVA exists is to ensure the VA honors its commitment to proper health care for all veterans. I continue to attend other meetings and learn more about PVA and how we can better serve our members. It’s my commitment to you and our members to find new avenues to provide a better quality of life. As senior vice president, I will work closely with the new president and members of the executive committee to keep PVA strong and moving in a positive direction. In every endeavor I have undertaken and requested assistance from PVA, I have not been disappointed. PVA has been there to support me and assist me. It’s for this reason that I choose to pay back PVA for everything it has done for me. If I’m elected, I’ll serve where asked and I will continue to support PVA. Thank you for your consideration.

Vice Presidents

Hack Albertson

I’ve worked hard the last two years for you as a national vice president liaison, and a lot of good things have come from those efforts. I’ve helped to train and educate the chapter board of directors and their staff on PVA governing documents and the chapter by-laws. When there were issues, I worked with the PVA chapter and the executive committee to work them out. The PVA chapters I work with know I’m available 24/7, anytime day or night, if needed, to help a chapter or a PVA member. I’ve been mentored by some long-serving vice presidents and PVA past presidents who are true legends with their work ethic and personal commitment and sacrifice to PVA, and I feel very blessed to be serving PVA and working and learning with this executive committee team. Change comes and is inevitable, and as our current national president steps down and becomes an immediate past president and the PVA cycle of life and our political process works, I’m asking that you please consider me for the position of a PVA national vice president again next month. The time continues to fly by, and it has been a very busy year serving you and PVA as one of the national vice presidents and chapter liaisons. I hope you’ve followed my monthly itineraries and seen how busy our PVA Executive Committee has been and the changes that have occurred. It has been a honor and privilege to work helping PVA and all veterans and the disabled community this past year. Our organization is a huge player in the veteran realm, and so many things we do and work on have positive ripple effects for everyone who is a veteran or is a person with disabilities. The Air Carrier Access Act and the continuous efforts of our advocacy staff to monitor and bird dog every action on the Hill affecting the Americans with Disabilities Act and benefits for all veterans is work that’s ongoing every day with our PVA national staff. PVA helps make the world a better and accessible place for everyone, and that’s something to feel very good about. PN and SPORTS ‘N SPOKES magazines shine the light on our organization and the programs and sporting events we offer to all handicapped individuals regardless of anything else. They’re both a true beacon and road map to living with a spinal-cord injury or disease. It’s a very exciting time for PVA with the new president and commander-in-chief coming in for our country and the shaping and monitoring of our VA health care and benefits. I want to continue to work hard and push to improve the quality of life of our PVA members. A big commitment for me is transparency so that every one of our national directors and PVA members knows what’s going on and can ask and direct us as we work to grow our organization. I hope this is a very happy and prosperous new year for you and all of PVA. Thank you for your continued service to our country and organization!

Joseph L. Fox Sr.

I’m again honored to submit my name for the position of PVA vice president for the 2017 year. It has been and will continue to be, you, the PVA Board of Directors, that will decide who you want to serve on the PVA Executive Committee dealing with and making decisions on your behalf throughout the year. For many years, I’ve served in many positions within PVA and do so because I believe I can and do bring a sensible and open perspective in making the decisions that we deal with throughout the year. The position of PVA vice president is one no one should take lightly, as it requires, at times, long hours of travel throughout the year crossing from one chapter to another, writing reports and chairing committees assigned to you, and traveling into Washington, D.C., and other events. Times are changing as we go forward into 2017 and beyond with a new president, new congressional leaders and new legislation. There will be new things that PVA will deal with and new ideas that will be needed to archive these challenging times. I would very much like to be part of this for another year. PVA is launching into what could be a very strong future regarding the very efforts that PVA and the membership have fought for over these last 70 years. Issues will include new legislation, fundraising changes, overall health care for veterans and their families, veterans benefits and caregivers, research and education and unknown direction on where the VA is going and what it will become, along with a dwindling population of members. These, along with other issues, are why I, and others of the PVA Executive Committee, continue to serve, as this year we will see changes with our leadership. Some will leave and others will come on board to serve. Because of this, I think some continued leadership needs to be in place for stronger support of the new leadership. Right now, the team in place is strong, but with the change comes new learning for those taking over at the top, and I would like to help with this process. But that will be your decision, not mine. Many of the board know me and the work that I’ve done. I try not to put myself above anyone, and I will continue to support the mission and ideas of PVA. I say this because it’s not about me, it’s about the 17,000-plus members and families we serve across this country, which is slowly dropping off each and every year. It’s about building a stronger and better PVA for the future. If re-elected, I will continue to work with the chapters in building and strengthening our existing chapters with ongoing communications, educational training on programs and support to provide good and beneficial programs to their members. I’m not saying I alone can do this; it has to be a continued effort of many. But with my assistance and working with those I have worked with for many years, we can continue to make your organization what you, the members and board, want it to be, as you’re the reason we serve as your PVA Executive Committee. This next year may bring many new challenges to our organization, and with that, let us continue to be a united and strong voice for what we have built within PVA and what we want PVA to be in future. It’s through your direction of ideas and voice that leads us forward into the future. All I can ask is that you might ask others and listen to what they say as you make your decision and vote for who you want in the position for leadership this year. And if you have a question or concern, call or ask me and let me give you my answer. I’ve really enjoyed the years of service and working with this team and would like to continue with your vote. Together, we can move PVA, its staff and programs forward. Thank you for your consideration to be elected for another year as your vice president. As it has been said, it’s not about what we have accumulated in life but what we have shared with others that will define our life in the end. Thank you.


Tom Wheaton

Serving as PVA’s national treasurer over the past few years has been a profound honor, and I desire to continue serving in this capacity, so I ask for your consideration in this quest. Fortunately for our organization, we have enjoyed tremendous favor, which has allowed us to remain stable, deploying resources to effectively accomplish our mission and clearly communicate our priorities and concerns. Although PVA has been an extremely credible organization for more than 70 years and provides programs that are life-changing for its members and their families, we are in an era where we need to diplomatically educate and cultivate new leaders in our country.  This includes those within President Donald Trump’s administration (the Department of Veterans Affairs and other key agencies) and influential members of Congress. Our message and priority today is clear — we must protect the best specialized health care available through the SCI units within the VA system. Through our advocacy, this system has a profound appreciation not only for our condition of paralysis but to deliver care for all secondary conditions that are a part of this reality that not too many know about, except for our dear loved ones and caretakers. It costs money to get this done right. We not only have tremendous expertise through our highly professional employees throughout the country, but we also enjoy the benevolence of scores of reliable and capable volunteers who graciously provide various services to our membership, primarily through local involvement administered at the chapter level. PVA is at its best when we work together and make wise decisions after wrestling with and eventually determining what’s the best course of action. In my capacity as treasurer, I’ve strived to build such an atmosphere by developing and encouraging a group to objectively evaluate how we budget our priorities. This has included a sober analysis of how we raise money and the cost to bring in those dollars. We’ve conducted a detailed analysis of all revenue streams since the year 2000. In this continued journey, I’ve enjoyed working with our executive director, chief financial officer and elected leaders of the executive committee and those committees concentrating on our finances, audit and budget. There has been solid accountability through these working relationships, and I’m confident in our future as a premier veterans service organization. PVA has been there for me since being injured overseas when I was just 22 years old and now that I’ve hit my 50s, I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to participate in everything PVA has to offer and to serve in so many capacities throughout the years in between. We are there for all members for all of their years post-injury, and I truly enjoy being a partner with so many others who strive to make a meaningful difference in the lives of our members, their families and all who want to be positively impacted by everything we are about. Thank you for your consideration. 


Larry Dodson

I’m Larry Dodson, current PVA national secretary, and this is my notice of intent to seek re-election for fiscal year 2018. I have served with pleasure as PVA’s national secretary since 2012, and I would welcome the opportunity to build upon the progress and work I’ve accomplished in the last five years. With the help of my fellow officers and all of the members of PVA leadership and staff, I’ve tried to serve our mission with integrity and distinction. I ask you now to consider letting me continue that service. 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. It’s also a multifaceted position that requires an eye for detail and thorough approach to data. I believe my background in accounting has served me well in this position, as I’ve methodically worked through the production process of recording, transcribing and publishing our minutes to ensure record accuracy and integrity. The linear approach that must be taken in accounting ledgers, I’ve also applied to each set of meeting data. It has greatly diminished the margin of error and given our organization accurate and reliable records for future generations of PVA leaders. This is something of which I take great care and great pride. For instance, 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 our executive committee, board of directors and convention meetings. These documents contain the historical records of PVA and the decisions made by its governing body. I work through them quickly, but carefully, and ensure they are reviewed by all those who appear in that set of minutes, whether that is the executive committee or the many program directors who contribute. My years of accounting experience have also enabled me to act as a resource for the finance and budget committee. National Treasurer Tom Wheaton has extended me the privilege of being the first national secretary to serve on this committee. This experience has given perspective and unity of purpose in my overall duties as national secretary. As a matter of protocol, the national secretary also serves as a 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 national president will ask an executive committee member to chair an ad-hoc committee. I have received this presidential honor, and I’m proud of the trust it shows on behalf of our leaders. In my tenure, I’ve also worked to ensure the best business practices available are in place and being utilized, so all processes of my office are as expedient, efficient and effective as possible. I’ve particularly focused on the certification of members and officers for the organization. During my tenure, and with support of the PVA Board of Directors, this process has become more expeditious, less costly and offers more confidentiality in the handling of our members’ sensitive information. I have worked closely with PVA Executive Director Sherman Gillums Jr., and the national staff to digitize membership records and archives to ensure these records are maintained securely and more easily accessed. This is an ongoing effort that I hope to see completed in 2017. In the end, whomever PVA elects as the next national secretary, the important thing is that the person be dedicated to this organization’s and our members’ success. I truly believe I’m that person and, if re-elected, it would be my honor to continue serving our organization in its mission for our nation’s veterans. Thank you for your consideration.


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