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Apr-06-2011 02:21printcomments

A Paralyzed Veteran's Way of Paying it Forward

We need your help more than ever to help America’s paralyzed veterans get the care, benefits and jobs they earned and deserve.

Disabled veterans
Courtesy: Veterans Today

(WOODWARD, Okla.) - Those of us who have had the honor of wearing our nation’s uniform can often find ourselves using the phrase: “I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for…” and we name a battle buddy who literally saved our life.

I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for Paralyzed Veterans of America. It’s the organization that saved my life when a serious injury left me paralyzed. It’s the organization I have the privilege of leading today as its national president.

And this month, it’s the organization that will mark the 65th anniversary of its founding — by a band of seriously wounded brothers from the “Greatest Generation.”

We can feel justly proud of our achievements over the past 65 years:

  • We’ve helped lead the charge for the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • We’ve fought on behalf of thousands of veterans and secured over $4 billion in benefits they’ve earned.
  • We’ve pioneered wheelchair sports.
  • We’ve invested, over our six decades, more than $100 million in research to find a cure for paralysis.
  • And there are many more achievements that you can read about at

But the biggest challenge we face is today — as we work to empower the brave sons and daughters who are coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan seriously injured. The crucial issues: care, benefits, jobs, access, new treatments and cures.

  • We need to see sufficient funding for veterans’ health care, and resist some of these dangerous schemes to cut this vital care that we have heard recently—schemes that dishonor all veterans' service and sacrifice.
  • We need easy access to veterans benefits for those who earned them.
  • We need employers to hire more veterans with disabilities. Surely our soldiers deserve a fair shot at the American Dream, a good job at a good company.
  • We need a nation that’s fully accessible for all people with disabilities. AND, we need an American scientific and medical community that’s fully funded to achieve new treatments and cures.

Now you might be thinking folks, “What can I do this very special month?”

Well, here are some suggestions:

Think about the challenges facing paralyzed veterans. Put yourselves in our wheelchairs for a minute and imagine the barriers we face everyday—from inadequate health care to limited accessibility.

Reach out to a paralyzed veteran in your community—if you get to know us, you might be more likely to help us help ourselves.

Make helping veterans part of your life’s mission.

Please sign up for Mission: ABLE at

We need your help more than ever to help America’s paralyzed veterans get the care, benefits and jobs they earned and deserve.

As we mark 65 years of changing lives and building futures, I would like to express my thanks to you—on behalf of those whose lives were literally saved by Paralyzed Veterans of America. God bless you and God bless America’s veterans.

Bill Lawson, a US Army veteran; is the National President, of Paralyzed Veterans of America. A resident of Woodward, Oklahoma, Bill was elected National President of Paralyzed Veterans of America at its 64th Annual Convention in August 2010. He is a staunch advocate for veterans and people with disabilities. Learn more, visit: Paralyzed Veterans of America.

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