Since my initial involvement with Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) beginning in 1992–93, the month of March has meant one thing — the annual PVA Advocacy/Legislation Seminar in Washington, D.C., followed by what we used to call “storming the Hill” to meet with our members of Congress.
During the weeklong event, PVA’s national president also testified before a joint hearing of the House and Senate Committees on Veterans’ Affairs. I was in attendance at these hearings nearly every year to hear the PVA president voice our concerns on a multitude of issues. During that time, I saw 10 PVA presidents deliver, in person, our annual testimony.
Speaking in person before these committee members is something I have always thought was important, but now more so than ever, since the last couple years have been relegated to the virtual world due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. As of press time, it’s still uncertain whether this year’s testimony will once again be virtual or in person.
This will be the first testimony for PVA National President Charles Brown, and I truly hope he has the opportunity to look the committee members in the eyes when he delivers it.
Testifying before our elected leadership in Washington, D.C., is nothing new for PVA. In fact, paralyzed veterans were bringing their concerns to Congress before the organization known today as PVA was officially formed.
Fred Smead from the brand new PVA California group made a trip to Washington, D.C., to testify before Congress in June 1946, a full eight months before the national organization formed in February 1947.
The issues Smead brought to our elected leadership’s attention had to do with monthly compensation, automobile grants and the need for accessible housing.
His testimony played a big part in the passage of Public Law 663 by the 79th Congress in 1946.
As published in the October 1946 issue of what was then called The Paraplegia News (now PN), “The enactment of Public Law 663 granting free automobiles to amputees and paraplegics is doing more toward rehabilitating these men than is generally realized. When a man who has been limited to wheelchair existence can own and operate a car, new vistas are open to him. The incentive provided carries over into all phases of his new life.”
Seventy-five years later, these same issues are still on PVA’s radar as far as maintaining and improving these extremely important benefits.
PVA has had many legislative victories since its inception, and our dedicated staff in Washington, D.C., chapters across the country, as well as countless volunteers, continue to advocate on your behalf.
I wish the members well in their virtual advocacy visits this year and hope, as we all do, to see a return to face-to-face visits in the near future.