Service Circuit: Paralyzed Veterans of America helps veterans regain

When World War II veterans came home from war zones with spinal cord injuries, they were not about to sit around at home in wheelchairs that didn’t give them true mobility. They installed ramps, and hand controls for their vehicles. They got back to work and life.

They banded together in 1946 to form the Paralyzed Veterans of America, an organization dedicated to serving veterans, medical research, advocacy and civil rights — for all people with disabilities.

PVA’s mission is to empower veterans who have spinal cord injury, and spinal cord dysfunction and disease, to regain what they fought for — freedom and independence. The veterans service organization concentrates on quality health care for its members, education, and government benefits.

PVA celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, and the Michigan chapter will mark its 60th anniversary.

The chapter has a #MPVAGIVESIXTY initiative asking people and companies to donate at least $60 to carry on the MPVA’s mission and encourage healthy living among veterans with disabilities. See

MPVA has 380 members throughout the state, many who have high-risk health factors. About 50 MPVA members live in Macomb County.

During the past year, members regularly received care packages of face masks, hand sanitizer, digital thermometers, and sanitizing wipes from MPVA.

Jaclyn Kochis, of St. Clair Shores, is the executive director of MPVA.

“MPVA received a check for $2,750 from the Allen Park Elks Lodge 2194 in support of our ongoing PPE care package program,” Kochis said. “That program helps our members receive check-in calls and care packages full of sanitization items to help keep them safe and healthy. We couldn’t be more appreciative of the Allen Park Elks Lodge support.”

Kochis said when distancing orders went into effect last year, MPVA turned to Zoom and phone calls and it actually helped.

“We learned that by offering remote service, we were reaching out to a broader area than we had in the past,” she said. “We were giving service to our members throughout the whole state with our home checks. Many were using VA Telehealth to connect with their doctors and that was working well for them.

“They so appreciated the sanitation kits. Even without a pandemic, they are always touching their wheels which touch the ground, and having the hand sanitizer to throw in their backpacks is great for them. We also put in back scratchers and long-handled shoehorns. We had many members thank us for calling and checking up on them,” she said.

MPVA members often meet with newly injured or newly diagnosed veterans and offer support and information.

“When our peer support program learns of a new spinal cord-injured veteran, we pair them up with a PVA veteran and they can talk about anything, like how to get shoes on, and transfer to and from a wheelchair. Our advocacy director, Mike Harris, is brilliant at his job,” she said.

Harris, a U.S. Marine veteran, sustained a spinal cord injury in a vehicle accident in 1986 and is a wheelchair user.

When the University of Michigan’s new stadium lacked wheelchair and other accommodations required under the Americans With Disabilities Act, Harris worked with the university, lawyers and architects to set things right.

MPVA teamed up with the Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living on the “Access the Vote” campaign. They worked with disabled consumers on absentee ballots, post office slowdowns, and making arrangements to get to the polls. They found that, although an accessible voting device, called the Direct-Recording Electronic Machine, may be available at a polling place, poll workers may not be familiar with its operation.

U.S. government research shows about half of polling places were inaccessible in 2016 with barriers like inaccessible sidewalks and parking lots, doorways that were not wide enough for a wheelchair, and long lines.

A webinar at 1 p.m. May 25 is about the Americans With Disabilities Act and the COVID-19 pandemic. Send an email to for the Zoom link.

“We are very excited about this webinar refresher of the ADA,” Kochis said. “We’ll be tying in topics on the ADA and pandemic mandates. There are some silver linings to this past year. Our members really like curbside pickup.”

There are more than 750,000 people in the U.S. who have spinal cord injury or disease. PVA seeks cures through its PVA Education and Research Foundations, partnerships, and the Consortium for Spinal Cord Medicine.

PVA offers help to caregivers. (May is the Month of the Military Caregiver.) Its advocacy program deals with disability rights on travel, housing and equal access for all through the U.S. Department of Justice.

Kochis said PVA chapters send representatives like Harris to Washington, D.C. every year to visit with elected officials and provide input on congressional budgets that affect vets and service members.

PVA and longtime partners Disabled American Veterans and the Veterans of Foreign Wars recently released reports on access to long-term care, sufficient VA health care staffing, VA claims transparency, toxic substance exposures, employment, COVID-19, mental health, and minority issues with emphasis on women, African Americans, Hispanic, and LGBTQ veterans.

About 70 locations with professional PVA service officers help vets with multiple sclerosis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and other service-connected conditions, steering them to jobs, prosthetics, home care, mental health treatment, housing and auto grants, pensions and survivor benefits.

“Men and women should not be coming home from the service after suffering catastrophic injuries and be shut up in nursing homes,” Kochis said.

MPVA’s professional service officer Stephanie Strickland is located in the McNamara Building, 477 Michigan Ave., Detroit.

MPVA is located at 46701 Commerce Center Drive, Plymouth, inside the Michigan Life Science and Innovation Center. Call 800-638-6782.

“Our loan closet is not just for our members, it’s for everyone,” Kochis said. “We take in durable medical equipment like bedside commodes, transfer boards, shower benches, power wheelchairs, adult diapers. Not everyone has VA medical coverage or auto no-fault coverage, so we are here to assist them.”

Veterans with a spinal cord injury or disease may become a voting, life member of MPVA for no charge. All others may support the mission by becoming a non-voting Associate member for a one-time $50 fee.

Kochis said MPVA would like to increase fellowship and fun outings in the future.

“We recently finished a very successful turkey hunt with Wheelin’ Team 457,” she said. “They had a huge turnout of 26 hunters and a host of volunteers.”

MPVA sponsors about $5,000 worth of events annually for Wheelin’ Team 457, a nonprofit organization based in North Branch, Mich. that provides people who have physical challenges with indoor and outdoor sports and recreation. Its specialty is finding ways to adapt and make participation in sports and activities a reality. It is funded by grants, fundraising, and private donations and includes elite Paralympic athletes in its membership.

The Novi Memorial Day Virtual Run 2021 benefits MPVA. It is an online event by the Novi Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services at 8 a.m. May 31. See

Send news of service clubs and veterans organizations to Linda May at or call landline 586-791-8116.

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