PVA From The Top: Presidential Reflections

PVA national president reflects on time in office

By Charles Brown

I hope you’ve gotten the opportunity to read a few of my articles over my two-year period as Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) national president. I shared how I was injured, and I’ve also explained how I became a member of the organization.

I’ve been thinking back to my early days. I never would’ve imagined that I would become the president of an organization as strong as PVA. When you hear of new members/veterans receiving proper care, benefits, accessibility and even jobs if they desire, it’s proof of the hard work and dedication of everyone within this organization.

PVA has a rich history, and we do so many great things despite our smaller size in comparison to our counterparts. Since PVA’s founding, our professional staff and dedicated volunteers have had a profound effect for veterans with disabilities, people across this nation and around the world. As I reflect on my presidency, I see several goals accomplished. But I also see several areas where the job hasn’t been completed.

When I was elected to this position, I told everyone I wouldn’t run for another year if this organization wasn’t in a better position than it was the year prior. I can say from my first term to the second, it was a tight struggle, but PVA is gaining ground and building itself into a more robust and modern organization.

We sold our Washington, D.C., building after 40 years of being there to move into a space that better suits PVA and allows us to work as a single team. We’re no longer separated by floors, which opens opportunities for more conversations. We hold monthly meetings with the board of directors to ensure there’s more open communication. This allows us to be more flexible and up-to-date on information and concerns that need to be addressed.

One area I think wasn’t completed was creating a caregiver program that allows us to continue to care for our caregivers after a veteran has died. Our caregivers have been our help and support network through our difficult days as PVA representatives. It wouldn’t be possible to do what we do without them.

On April 18, U.S. President Joe Biden signed an executive order expanding access to caregivers and providing more funds to better meet the current market cost. If I’m given the opportunity to continue to work on this, I will prioritize the PVA caregiver program that will properly serve our caregivers as much as they have served us throughout our lives.

I’ve made great efforts to bring in the senior vice president to start the succession planning process. The objective here is to have someone with the knowledge that can grow and improve PVA’s position and well-being. Through the executive director’s and deputy executive director’s excellent leadership, PVA has hired some truly strong professionals to lead our national programs and bring us into the 21st century.

I want to thank Carl Blake, Shaun Castle and all of the national and field offices staff. Working with each of you in some capacity, whether closely or remotely, has positively impacted my life, and you have continued to serve the PVA membership in a truly professional and profound manner. A personal note of gratitude goes to former Executive Assistant to the President Carol Hayes and to Executive Administrative Manager Megan Turner Dailey.

To the board of directors, thank you for your confidence in me and for the ability to do my job these past two years. I’m far from perfect, and you have been gracious with my errors. I hope by creating the senior vice president externship, those errors will be eliminated during the next administration.

Last, but not least, to the executive committee members, it was a great time working with each and every one of you. With every difficult moment, you have been gracious, kind and supportive. We may not always have agreed on things, but we have always come to a consensus. You have dedicated large portions of your lives and time to PVA, and that doesn’t go unnoticed.

I want to thank the past presidents who have given me their time and advice. It’s important that we have this leadership structure and the ability to look at our history, or we will be doomed to repeat it.

As I transition to the position of immediate past president, I look forward to fulfilling this role with as much strength and effort. To “Z Man,” aka PVA Past President David Zurfluh, thank you for your friendship and constant support.

You, sir, should be proud of your presidency. You brought us through a global pandemic, while also making necessary changes to push PVA forward.

To those members reading this, I hope my presidency can go into PVA’s history book in a positive light.

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