Convention Features Minnesota Connections

Walz, McDonough and Klobuchar highlighted PVA’s 78th Annual Convention


Minnesota connections highlighted the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) 78th Annual Convention held May 14-18 at the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis in Minnesota.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz game an official welcome, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Denis McDonough, who grew up in Minnesota, served as the keynote speaker, while Minnesota senator and lawyer Amy Klobuchar helped close the event out as the featured awards brunch guest. Each emphasized the importance of the work veterans with spinal-cord injury and disease have done and will have for the future.

Walz Proud Of PVA

Walz reminded attendees of how much PVA has played a role in veterans care.

He has a military background, too. Having served in the Army National Guard for 24 years, enlisting at age 17 and retiring as a command sergeant major, Walz served six terms as a U.S. representative for Minnesota’s first congressional district and was a ranking member on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs for 12 years. Walz says PVA’s goals and agendas are Americas goals and agendas.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz gives opening remarks May 14 at Paralyzed Veterans of America’s 78th Annual Convention at the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis in Minnesota. (Photo by Keith Mellnick).


“I can tell you that PVA and the voice that PVA brought to the [Capital] Hill changed the direction of where our country went on to care for veterans in our time there,” he says. “I’m so incredibly proud of the work we did.”

Walz also issued an official proclamation that May 13-19, 2024, was Paralyzed Veterans of America Awareness Week in Minnesota.

“I think at a time when it’s so easy to divide, at a time when it’s so easy to complain about things, the work that PVA has done and continues to do strengthens our democracy and strengthens our commitments. And there are victories,” he says. “And so, I have to tell you, we’re always grateful when you’re in Minnesota. We’re always grateful for this organization and the voices you lift up.”

Important Time For VA

McDonough, who has served as VA secretary since 2021, has strong Minnesota connections, too. He was born in Stillwater, Minn., growing up there in a family of 11 children. He graduated from St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn. And he still visits family and goes on fishing trips throughout the state. In fact, he was staying in Minnesota with family over the weekend and going on one of those trips.

Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough speaks with Paralyzed Veterans of America 78th Annual Convention attendees at the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis in Minnesota. (Photo by Keith Mellnick).


McDonough says the Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks Act, novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022 have changed the American health care landscape and statutory basis for the work they do at the VA. And he says the VA is at a critical moment for shaping and securing the future of veteran health care in America.

“What we do this year, and over these next couple of years, will determine what values can expect from VA and how we deliver that high standard of care well into the future. We’re going to keep fighting like hell to do one thing. And that’s to reliably offer a VA care option to every veteran, even veterans who qualify for community care under the Mission Act,” McDonough says. “We made considerable progress. Whether in person or through telehealth in our community living centers and mobile medical units or elsewhere, vets can access VA care at almost every turn. But we do need your continued help and we need to remain vigilant. And I need and appreciate your demand for accountability from us at VA, from me personally and from Congress, to ensure VA remains the preeminent provider of care, especially for veterans. Most importantly, hold us accountable to veterans, families, caregivers and survivors we serve. We’re counting on it. Our veterans depend on it.”

Meaningful Moments

Klobuchar hopes veterans realize how much courage they have.

A Minnesota native, Klobuchar (D-Minn.) has served as Minnesota’s senator since 2007 and became the first woman elected to represent the state in the Senate. She was born in Plymouth, Minn., and grew up there.

She told attendees that courage is whether or not you’re willing to stand next to someone you don’t always agree with for the betterment of this country.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) speaks at the Paralyzed Veterans of America 78th Annual Convention awards brunch on May 18 at the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis in Minnesota. (Photo by Christopher Di Virgilio).


“And that is what you do every day – what you did in the service. And I want to thank you for what you do now – no matter where you have served, whether it is the hills of Korea, the jungles of Vietnam, the mountains of Afghanistan, the sands of Iraq, our nation is forever in debt,” Klobuchar says. “And I figure when you signed up to serve, there wasn’t a waiting line. And when you’re home in the United States of America and you need health care or a job or benefits or housing, there should never be a waiting line in the United States of America for so many of our vets.”

Klobuchar also shared a handful of stories about traveling with the late former Arizona senator and Navy officer John McCain.

Klobuchar mentioned a handful of funny and meaningful events that happened while she traveled with him throughout the years – including the last thing he did.

“At the end of the meeting, he takes one of his books out. He turns the page and points to the words on a page, his words. And it says, ‘There’s nothing more liberating in life than fighting for a cause larger than yourself.’ So, that’s it for our country,” Klobuchar says. “And that’s what you continue to actually do now, because the cause, larger than yourself, may not be on the battlefield right now, but the cause that you and your loved ones and your caretakers are part of is looking out for those that need the help and making clear that we take care of those who were there for our country – not just with the resources and the gear we give them on the battlefield, but after they come home. So, thank you for fighting for that cause larger than yourself.”

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