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PVA From the Top - Focusing On 2018

Reprinted from PN/Paraplegia News January 2018

Simply put, the quality of care our members receive at the VA doesn’t exist in the private sector.

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January’s arrival usually means change. We say goodbye to old friends from 2017 and hello to new relationships and topics for 2018. I always like starting a new year with great optimism. I think Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) has a great team of executive committee members, national directors, national staff, chapter leaders, members and caregivers who truly care about veterans with spinal-cord injury and disease and veterans period. That being said, there are four topics we should follow this year: Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Choice care, tax cut bills, the Air Carrier Access Act and the PVA Fellows Program.

VA Choice care: Having heard 50-plus directions on which way VA care should be delivered to veterans, I’m skeptical of any idea the VA comes up with for veterans’ care. However, PVA will continue to advise Congress, the general public and anyone else that privatizing or farming out specialized services for our members will be detrimental to their well-being. Simply put, the quality of care our members receive at the VA doesn’t exist in the private sector. I’m asking all of you to be watchful and ready to advocate for our quality of care this year.

Tax cut bills: Like anyone, I would like to pay less taxes. But a disturbing trend PVA’s government relations and advocacy staff has seen in recent tax cut bills is the removal of tax credits for companies that hire people with disabilities. PVA is addressing this issue with Congress to hopefully eliminate that provision from any tax bill that may be passed. Please monitor this, as it may affect our members seeking employment, especially through PVA’s PAVE (Paving Access for Veterans Employment) program.

Air Carrier Access Act: Two months ago, myself, PVA National Vice President Charles Brown and PVA National Secretary Larry Dodson joined other veteran and civilian groups at a meeting with Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) to discuss our experiences traveling and the damage caused to our wheelchairs, medical equipment and our bodies when traveling on airlines. We meaningfully addressed the fact that we’re a microcosm to the enormity of problems people with disabilities have on a daily basis when traveling by air. The psychological and physical damage caused to a person and his or her wheelchair and equipment is massive and as personal as it gets. It’s the reason why people think hard about whether to drive great distances or travel by air. Please keep your air travel stories coming at airaccess30.org. 

Fellows program: This program wraps up interviews at the end of this month and is set to launch this year on a two-year run. The program is an attempt to get members involved and hopefully reach a new generation of members. There will be 25 member participants who will learn to organize and develop their public/private speaking skills. 

I believe PVA has failed to toot its own horn at times and reach a wider audience, and this program is an attempt to change that.  There are three points I think will help these Fellows strengthen PVA:

 

  • Provide Fellows with the opportunity to advocate through PVA’s network of public, private and nonprofit organizations
  • Through public appearances and donor engagement, Fellows will serve as leaders among their peers
  • Elevate the nation’s awareness of the contributions and struggles of U.S. veterans living with spinal-cord injury or disease

 

Depending on the success of this program, we may create the opportunity for members in the future to get involved with not only PVA chapters but at the local, county, state and national level.

Happy new year to all of you, and hopefully you don’t break any of your New Year’s resolutions for a month or longer.

 

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PVA From the Top - Focusing On 2018

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