For more than 70 years, Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) has been advocating for the rights and benefits of veterans with spinal cord injuries and disease. Since its inception, PVA has grown beyond the veterans they serve.
The Arizona chapter, known as AZPVA, helps local veterans obtain their eligibility at the Veterans Administration Medical Center (VAMC). They’re educated about durable medical equipment, legality regarding ADA issues and often get their first taste of adaptive sports through the VA’s recreational therapy programs. Leonard Smith is a Navy veteran and is AZPVA’s president. “We advocate our elected officials for ‘common sense’ accommodations and legislation,” he said.
PVA has individuals who take on the heavy lifting associated with VA benefit paperwork, called national service officers, who help veterans with their claims. Those claims consist of finances, medical or durable medical equipment. But helping file VA benefits is only a part of the PVA mission. People can always see PVA in action at various veterans organization events throughout the calendar year. Many of the chapter members are on committees within their community, while others keep active by participating in outreach programs at elementary and high schools. One particular outreach is at the Maricopa County Stand Down, held annually in January at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The Maricopa County Stand Down is a program of the Arizona Housing Coalition which holds annual events and resource fairs. PVA staffs tables at the Stand Down and other local health fairs where they’re available to answer questions about the VA and PVA’s mission.
One of AZPVA’s more popular programs is the Loan Closet where medical equipment, from power wheelchairs to shower chairs, is donated to the chapter then loaned out to veterans in need. “The Loan Closet is fast becoming one of our better programs,” Smith said. “We have locations in Phoenix, Mesa, and will soon to start one in South Phoenix. Not only does PVA provide durable medical equipment to our veterans but they also provide medical equipment to the community at large.”
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