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Prepared for the future: PVA's 64th annual convention was a forum for chapter leaders around the country to discuss issues of concern to the organization's members, veterans and their families, and all people with disabilities.

August 23 marked the official beginning of the five-day Paralyzed Veterans of America 64th Annual Convention. This meeting was remarkable for me in several ways. It was one of the least controversial I have ever attended, and it also made Rhode Island the winner of the last of the 48 lower states in the United States I had set foot in. In my time in the military, I had been in all the lower states except the "Ocean State."

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Rhode Island is our smallest state, measuring only 37 miles wide by 48 miles long. However, it makes up for its small size by the hospitality of its people. Despite the rainy weather the first three days, I can unreservedly say that of the many PVA conventions I have attended, the residents of this small state were among the friendliest I have met.

From the reception the evening before the official meeting started, to the Closing Awards Banquet the day after official adjournment, the kindness of the people and the effort the New England PVA Chapter and its president, Craig Cascella, put into making us feel welcome was unquestionably successful.

Each day after the meetings concluded, the exquisite Italian restaurants of the Federal Hill area, which was close to the hotel, beckoned--urging the attendees to partake of some fine Italian fare. I can attest to the quality of the food they provided. The range of culinary establishments went from casual local diners to formal eating establishments. Whatever you wanted was available to satisfy your palate.

After that, the sights of the history available in this coastal state, from lighthouses to historic architecture to magnificent harbors and waterfronts, were available for sightseeing. What a great state to visit!

Down to Business

PVA President Gene Crayton opened the meeting on August 24, and we were off with official business. The first two days were taken up with the normal meetings that included the swearing in of the directors, reports from the Executive Committee and appointees, and then the reports of the staff. As I mentioned earlier, the smoothness with which these took place was notable.

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On Thursday, we were honored to have VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki speak to us on a variety of issues. He focused on quality of healthcare and issues facing the aging population of veterans. He said PVA has a friend in VA who is concerned with the needs of spinal-cord-injured (SCI) veterans. It is a pleasure to have a highly qualified and dedicated public servant in this position after having some secretaries who were less than enthusiastic about their position.

"Over the years, VA and PVA have collaborated to serve veterans living with spinal-cord injuries," Secretary Shinseki said. "We have been your partners in a broad range of SCI initiatives, especially in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games. It takes a concerted effort--hard work--on both our parts, to address the challenges facing veterans during this period of extended economic difficulty. There will always be unfinished work; that's the nature of this mission."

A combat-injured Vietnam veteran, Secretary Shinseki is a former U.S. Army chief of staff.

I have been unreservedly complimentary about Secretary Shinseki in the past, comparing him to Omar Bradley, the first administrator of the Veterans Administration, now the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Both have proved to truly care about veterans.

Thursday also began the consideration of New Business Resolutions. Although the majority of these were not controversial, one that passed marked a change in the organization's structure that had existed for more than 20 years. In the 1980s, PVA originally had three vice presidents. Because of the increase of administrative duties and the growth in chapters, the PVA Board of Directors increased the number of VPs to four. During consideration of Resolution 10-A-3, the PVA Board of Directors (BOD) returned to only three vice presidents, with the senior vice president picking up administrative responsibilities.

The next item of major significance on the agenda was the PVA budget for the forthcoming year. PVA Treasurer Craig Enenbach, in an effort to shorten the normally lengthy process, changed the process to opening the entire budget up to questions rather than going page by page. Many of us were waiting to see the results. Amazingly, this system worked well, and the budget passed with minor changes and in a record short time. Congratulations to Treasurer Enenbach on a job well done.

Change in Leadership

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On the last day of the formal meeting, election of new officers began. This is always one of the nail-biters of the meetings, with everyone wondering how things are going to turn out.

Having served on the PVA Executive Committee for many years at numerous times, I can unreservedly say to each of the candidates that regard-less of whether you won or lost, you deserve PVA's thanks for your dedication to the organization and its mission. Serving on the Executive Committee is a laborious and, many times, thankless job. We all appreciate your sacrifices in performing your duties.

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When the dust had settled, our new president was Bill Lawson; the new senior vice-president, Al Kovach; and the three vice presidents, John Jackson, Ken Weas, and Laura Ellington. In recognition of their excellence in office, Frank Rigo was returned as secretary and Craig Enenbach as treasurer.

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We extend to Gene Crayton, now immediate past president, and Rick Glotfelty our sincere appreciation for the years of work they have given this organization.

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Awards and Recognitions

On Saturday August 28, although the formal meeting had ended, awards and recognitions were handed out. A complete list of the recipients is elsewhere in this article. However, I specifically want to mention three.

The Speedy Award (member category), the highest award PVA can give to a member, went to Keith Wingfield and posthumously to Ken Huber. I have known both these fine men for many years. Wingfield has served PVA in a variety of posts from executive director to treasurer and as problem solver extraordinaire. He is imminently worthy of this recognition.

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Huber was a past national director and PVA national president who dedicated his life to our organization. He worked diligently, and Mary Huber, his surviving spouse, gave a moving comment on his receiving the award.

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The third one I will comment on is the Cliff Crase Award for Professionalism. Jerry Dugan received this award. Cliff Crase was editor of PN and SPORTS 'N SPOKES prior to my ascension to the position. He served in that position for more than 30 years and was the ultimate professional. Dugan exemplifies the dedication to work that Cliff characterized.

I served with Jerry on the PVA Executive Committee when he was treasurer, and he is truly dedicated to our organization. He continues to work at his local PVA chapter level and stays involved in state and national issues. Congratulations, Jerry!

With that, the meeting ended, and we departed the "Ocean State" for home. We look forward to our next meeting, in The Woodlands, Tex., in August 2011 for the 65th Annual PVA Convention.

Decisions, Decisions

During this year's business meeting, the Board of Directors debated and passed the following resolutions. To implement them, the Resolution Committee will make changes to PVA's governing documents.

Ad-Hoc Committee

10-A-1. Bylaws Amendment

Proposed to implement the interpretation concerning the change in voting practice from weighted vote to one in which each member chapter would cast one vote on all issues requiring a vote by the Board of Directors.

Independent Director Committee

10-A-2. Definition Clarification for Independent Board of Directors

Amends the PVA Bylaws, Board of Directors, to clarify the term "employee."

10-A-5. Standing Rules Change for Independent Board of Directors

Amends the National Meeting Standing Rules, Meeting Procedures, regarding additional duties of the national secretary.

10-A-8. Administrative Implementations for Independent Board of Directors

Amends the PVA Administrative Guide, Code of Ethics, Standards of Conduct and Conflict of Interest Policy.

Cal-Diego PVA

10-A-3. Number of PVA Vice Presidents

Modifies PVA Bylaws to read three vice presidents (instead of tour).

10-A-18(S). Service Connected Compensation (Consent Agenda)

PVA will place a high priority on exempting all service-connected compensation from consideration in the calculation of a Federal Entitlement Cap, if such an effort is put forth by the President or Congress.

10-A-24(S). Implementation of Fund-raising Diversification Outcomes from PVA Strategic Planning Sessions and Exploitation of New Fund-raising Opportunities

Adds a full-time-equivalent (FTE) position to the FY 2011 PVA budget. Specifies an amount in this budget for Development, Marketing, and Communications to be used by the AED to analyze, test, and, if found beneficial to PVA, begin full-scale implementation of the fund-raising diversification project.

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10-A-25. PVA Awareness Month (Consent Agenda) PVA created PVA Awareness Week (PAW) to showcase the organization's good works. Because PAW has become extremely crowded with activities, changing it from a week to a month (PAM) will give chapters more opportunities to showcase their abilities. Therefore, April of each year is designated as PVA Awareness Month.

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10-A-02. Chapter Presidents/ED Seminar Amends the PVA Chapter Administrative Manual to make it mandatory for chapter executive directors to attend the seminar.

Gateway PVA

10-A-7. National PVA Communication with Chapters

Amends the PVA Administrative Guide.

10-A-11(S). Change in Land Travel Reimbursement Policy

Amends PVA Administrative Guide.

BER Committee

10-A-10. Advance Rates for Travel

Revises the May 2010 PVA Administrative Manual, Travel Reporting Procedures.

Executive Director

10-A-14. Ministerial Changes to Membership Reporting Section in Chapter Admin Manual

Amends PVA Chapter Administrative Manual, Membership Reporting and Membership Officer Guidelines.

10-A-21. Health Care AED

Eliminates director of Medical Services position, and creates Medical Services and Health Policy Department and its associate executive director (AED).

10-A-16. Required Telemarketing Agreement Provisions

Revises chapter telephone solicitation procedures in the PVA Chapter Administrative Manual.

Membership Application Ad Hoc Committee

10-A-15(S). PVA Membership Application

Removes the application in the May 2010 PVA Chapter Administrative Manual and replaces it with a revised one.

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Chapter Hospital Liaison Program Committee

10-A-17(S). Chapter Hospital Liaison Program

Effective October 1, 2010, replaces the Chapter Hospital Liaison Guidelines of the May 2010 PVA Chapter Administrative Manual.

Nevada PVA

10-A-19. Employee Insurance

National PVA will review its previous investigations about including chapter employees in the National Office's healthcare plan and find some way of providing similar coverage for chapter employees. Findings and recommendations will be reported to the Board of Directors at the Midwinter Meeting.

PVA MS Ad Hoc Committee

10-A-20(S). Five-Year Plan for Multiple Sclerosis

This committee will update the five-year MS plan and report to the PVA Board of Directors at the Midwinter 2011 Meeting, make recommendations for necessary changes to VA MS Handbook 1011.06, and advocate for a VA directive to enforce that handbook.

Texas PVA

10-A-23(S1). Chapter Development Director--Matching Funds

Effective October 1, 2010, PVA will establish a Chapter Development Director Matching Funds program to help chapters acquire professional fund-raising personnel to meet the ongoing financial needs associated with PVA's mandated programs. This resolution also sets forth funding amounts. A committee of two chapter and two national representatives will develop the implementation plan and report to the Executive Committee prior to release of any funds.

10-A-26.

The PVA Board of Directors (BOD) pays tribute--on behalf of the members, staff, and ourselves--to those spouses and significant others whose care, compassion, and support have contributed to the organization's successs. The PN editor is significant others whose care, compassion, and support have contributed to the organization's success. The PN editor is directed to publish such a tribute at an appropriate time and in a conspicuous place.

RELATED ARTICLE: Meet the New Prez

During the 64th PVA Convention, Bill J. Lawson, of Woodward, Okla., was elected national president. His one-year term began October 1.

"I'm very humbled to have been elected president, and I look forward to serving this organization and the veterans it represents," Lawson says. "I look forward to working with everyone on the national staff and in our field offices, as well as with our chapters."

Lawson, a PVA life member, was national senior vice president in 2009-2010 and had served as a national vice president since 2006 and previously from 1995 to 2000. He chaired the Field Advisory Committee from 1996 through 2000 and was reappointed by then PVA National President Randy L. Pleva Sr. to this position in 2006. As chair, his primary responsibility was that of "watchdog" of the numerous spinal-cord-injury facilities across the United States.

He also is chair of a PVA ad hoc committee on multiple sclerosis (MS). Although he is active in advocacy and legislation issues, Lawson has as top priority improving healthcare for all veterans, especially those with SCI/D.

Before his election to national office, Lawson held various positions in the Mid-America PVA chapter. He was a panelist on the Oklahoma Veterans Council (Oklahoma City), which consists of numerous veterans service groups within the state. He also was appointed to be a representative on a healthcare task force developed by Oklahoma lawmakers. Lawson was a founding member of the Disabled American Veterans chapter in northwest Oklahoma, where he was commander for three years.

While serving in the U.S. Army, Lawson was stationed at various bases throughout the United States, Germany, and Japan. He enlisted in 1968 and was honorably discharged in 1979.

RELATED ARTICLE: Awards Presented

Host Chapter

New England

John M. Price Most Improved Chapter

Mid-South

John M. Price Most Outstanding Chapter

Cal-Diego

National PVA Membership Development Award

Buckeye

Annual Chapter Volunteer Service

North Central

Chapter Sports & Recreation

Buckeye

Bob Webb Excellence in Newsletter Award

Mid-America

Chapter Website Award

Mountain States

Dwain Taylor Volunteer Service Award (member)

Joseph Romagnano

Dwain Taylor Volunteer Service Award (nonmember)

Barbara Biesboer

PVA VA-Voluntary Service (VAVS) Award

Ralph Smith (Colonial)

Richard Fuller Outstanding Achievement Award for Government Relations

Frank Anderson

PVA Patriot Award

Bobby Kotick

Corporate Patriot Award

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Richard Brooks

Cliff Crase Award for Professionalism

Jerry L. Dugan

Speedy Award (member)

Keith Wingfield; Kenneth Huber (posthumous)

Speedy Award (nonmember)

Dr. Vincent R. Hentz

President's Award

Cal-Diego

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Chapter Website Award: Jim Sack for Mountain States PVA

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Annual Chapter Volunteer Service Award: Mike Olson for North Central PVA

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VA Voluntary Service Award: Ron Hoskins for Ralph Smith

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PVA Patriot Award: Roger Dimsdale for Bobby Kotick

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Corporate Patriot Award: Richard Brooks

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Speedy Award (nonmember): Dr. Vincent R. Hentz

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Dwain Taylor Volunteer Service Award (member): Joe Romagnano

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President's Award: Jim Russell for Cal-Diego PVA

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John M. Price Most Outstanding Chapter: Kelly Price-Noble for Cal-Diego PVA

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Richard Fuller Outstanding Achievement Award for Government Relations: Frank Anderson

by Richard Hoover/photos by Bill Fitz-Patrick
COPYRIGHT 2010 Paralyzed Veterans of America
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Author:Hoover, Richard
Publication:PN - Paraplegia News
Date:Dec 1, 2010
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