New England Chapter receives 2021 PVA Richard Fuller Outstanding Achievement in Government Relations Award
Over the past year, the New England Chapter has made extraordinary progress in the areas of government relations and advocacy, and I’m proud to share with you some of the Chapter’s hard work and achievements that lead up to receiving this prestigious award PVA.
In February 2020, the Chapter hired Kristen McCone Gordon, an exceptionally qualified and talented professional, to fill the role of a separate and dedicated Government Relations Director. Kristen has significant experience providing policy analysis and advice at high levels within both state and federal agencies, as detailed in the our Chapter Press Release announcing her hiring. Given her proven experience, one of her first responsibilities was to re-establish the Chapter’s languishing Government Relations and Advocacy programs.
The week after being hired, Kristen was immediately thrust into educating herself on PVA’s legislative priorities in preparation for attending the 2020 Advocacy and Legislative Seminar in Washington, D.C. with the rest of our Chapter Ad/Leg delegation. She was able to quickly understand both the relevance and importance of these priorities and their impact on PVA’s membership. This allowed her, as the rest of our attendees do, to independently and successfully meet with our Legislators to convey the gravity of these priorities in articulate and meaningful ways to them. Our delegation was able to successfully meet in-person with 26 of the 33 legislators represented in New England. The delegation’s hard work became self-evident once returning to New England as the Chapter received numerous follow-up responses from Congressional field offices. Little did we know, how valuable these relationships would be in the coming months of a global pandemic.
After returning from Ad/Leg, we created the “From the Hill” editorial column published monthly in the Chapter newsletter the CordWord and on our website. This new editorial allows our Government Relations and Advocacy programs to present timely focused content on issues requiring immediate attention whether through channels like VoterVoice, phone calls or letter writing campaigns. As a result, the Chapter has been able to cultivate greater member involvement in our GR program as reflected by a three-fold increase in VoterVoice participation throughout the year. There has also been a marked increase in member letter writing and testimonials.
Also, after returning from Ad/Leg, COVID-19 hit the country requiring the Chapter to immediately pivot our focus to critical healthcare policies throughout New England, that were ruthlessly discriminating against the rights of our members and the disabled. Kristen quickly aligned the Chapter with like-minded organizations and joined coalitions to combat these policies. Kristen recognized that in order to make an impact, our members voices needed to be heard. At her request, several Chapter members provided personal statements to state officials on how they would be affected by these draconian policies. You can read a sample of these letters and testimonials. Through collective hard work and dedication, the coalitions ultimately motivated several New England states to change their policies.
Amid the challenges of COVID-19, Kristen continued the re-vitalization of our Chapter’s GR program by “virtually” meeting with over a dozen district offices. These meetings worked both to reinforce relationships and further advocate for the priorities presented during Ad/Leg. Through the collaborative advocacy efforts of Neal Williams, one of our Maine members, Senator Collins (R-ME) introduced S.4155 the AUTO Act for Veterans. We believe our Chapter’s persistent and thorough advocacy was a determining factor in Senator Hassan (D-NH) cosponsoring the AUTO act. Additional advocacy efforts resulted in Congresswoman Pressley (D-MA) and Congresswoman Hayes (D-CT) signing onto the Access to IVF shortly after our second discussions with their staff.
We believe there are strong indicators that Kristen’s outreach work to so many over the past year has made a significant difference in the effectiveness of the Chapter’s Government Relations and Advocacy programs. Several members of Congress have signed on to additional PVA legislative priorities following discussions with Kristen, and others have told us they are seriously reviewing them.
We were refreshingly surprised recently when Senator Hassan’s office contacted the Chapter to schedule a teleconference. She wanted to learn what our New Hampshire member’s needs were and how she could assist in addressing them in her legislative plans for the coming year. This was a first for the Chapter and is attributed to the strong relationship Chapter President Michael Negrete formed with her since taking office and Kristen’s ability to skillfully communicate our priorities with her staff.
This is only a brief summary with so much more that could be said. To learn more about our Government Relations and Advocacy program, please feel free to contact Kristen directly via email or at 800-660-1181 ext. 3.
Chapter President/PVA National Director
and Paralyzed Veteran