Since our founding, the Paralyzed Veterans of America Leadership Team has worked tirelessly to improve the quality of life for veterans and all people living with spinal cord injury and disease.
Every person on our Executive Committee is a member of Paralyzed Veterans of America and was elected by our membership community. Learn more about our dedicated leadership team:
AL KOVACH, JR.
Al Kovach, Jr. was re-elected national president of Paralyzed Veterans of America during its 69th Annual Convention in May 2015.
A member of the elite U.S. Navy SEALs, Kovach broke his neck in a 1991 parachuting accident. He began his service to Paralyzed Veterans of America in 1991 at the chapter level as government relations director for the Cal-Diego Chapter in San Diego, and has since served on that chapter’s board of directors. Since 2007, Kovach has served at the highest levels of leadership within the organization.
Kovach is a two-time winner of the Los Angeles Marathon, he participated in the 1996 Paralympic Games, and completed a 3,700-mile transcontinental triathlon. He was selected as San Diego Hall of Champions’ Disabled Athlete of the Year in 1999. He was also honored by KPBS in San Diego as a “Local Hero” in October 2013, during “Disability Awareness Month.”
In 2015, Kovach received the “Breaking Away Award of Excellence” from KUSI News and Torrey Pines Bank in recognition of his commitment to improving the quality of life for veterans and all people living with spinal cord injury or disease.
A native of Philadelphia, Kovach attended Indiana University from 1983 to 1987 and was a member of their legendary swim team before joining the Navy in 1988. He and his wife, Magaly, reside in Coronado, CA.
SHERMAN GILLUMS, JR.
Sherman Gillums Jr., a native of Buffalo, New York, began his military career in the Marine Corps a month after his high school graduation in 1990. Four months after the September 11, 2001 attacks, as he prepared to deploy to Afghanistan with the 1st Marine Division, Gillums was involved in a tragic accident and became severely disabled, ending his militarycareer at age 29. Subsequently, he received an honorable discharge from military service as a commissioned officer and went on to pursue a new career in disabled veteran advocacyafter two years of successful rehabilitation at the San Diego VA Spinal Cord Injury & Disease Center.
In 2004, Gillums joined Paralyzed Veterans of America as a VA benefits claims expert in San Diego, where he assisted veterans, families, and survivors with obtaining their entitlements. He later became involved with the local Paralyzed Veterans chapter and went on to become the chapter’s president and member of the Field Advisory Committee, established to monitor VA healthcare around the country and provide recommendations for improvement to the VA Secretary. He worked as an Appellate Representative at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals in Washington, DC, before accepting the position of Associate Executive Director of Veterans Benefits in 2011. He was promoted to Deputy Executive Director in 2014 and presently serves as the organization’s Executive Director as of January 2016. During his career ascent in the organization, Sherman had served on the Federal Advisory Committee for Prosthetics and Special Disabilities and RESNA Committee on wheelchair standards, and as a consumer reviewer for the Department of Defense's Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program.
A widely respected writer and commentator on veterans’ issues, Sherman has written opinion editorials for the NY Times, The Hill, Task & Purpose, Liberty Nation, and Buffalo News publications, and his manuscript on veterans’ unemployment is now published in the Spring 2016 issue of the Journal of Applied Rehabilitation Counseling. He is quotedregularly in Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and Military Times on veterans healthcare issues, and he has testified before Congress as an expert witness on veterans benefits along with appearances on CNN, Fox, CBS News, and C-SPAN on behalf of Paralyzed Veterans of America. He was named one of HillVets 100 Most Influential Veterans of 2016 and was a featured “Mover and Shaker” in Savoy Magazine’s 2016 Power 300 Spring issue. Sherman is an alum of the University of San Diego School of Business Administrationand Harvard Business School.
NATIONAL SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT
David Zurfluh, a native of Washington, was elected National Senior Vice President of Paralyzed Veterans of America during its 69th Annual Convention in May 2015.
A member of the Air Force from 1987 to 1995, Zurfluh served as a jet engine mechanic and a crew chief in Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. He was injured in 1995 in a motor vehicle accident while on active duty in Hachinohe, Japan, suffering a shattered left arm, broken left wrist, and a broken neck. He was diagnosed with incomplete quadriplegia and spent one year as an inpatient and two years as an outpatient in Seattle’s VA spinal cord injury unit.
David joined Paralyzed Veterans of America in 1995 and has been active since 2003 with the Northwest Chapter.
He has held chapter-level positions as legislative director, vice president, president, and member of the sports committee. He presently serves on the Veterans Legislative Coalition in Olympia, WA, and is co-chair of the West Slope Neighborhood Coalition
In addition to his work on behalf of Paralyzed Veterans, Zurfluh is a lector at Holy Rosary Church and volunteers at local food banks. His hobbies include handcycling, shooting sports (trap, handgun, and archery), golf, and snow sports. He also enjoys gardening and is a student of Japanese history.
NATIONAL VICE PRESIDENT
Charles Brown joined the Marines in 1985 and was trained in aviation ordnance. In 1986, he sustained a spinal cord injury as a result of a diving accident while serving in Cherry Point, NC.
During his initial rehabilitation at the Department of Veterans Affairs spinal cord injury center in Augusta, GA, Brown became a member of the Southeastern Chapter of Paralyzed Veterans. In 1987, he moved back to his native Missouri where he served on the Gateway Chapter board in a multitude of capacities, including Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator, advocacy director, treasurer, and vice president.
While in St. Louis, Brown helped establish the Rolling Rams quad rugby team. Seeking a more wheelchair-friendly climate, Brown relocated and joined the Florida Chapter in 1999. In Florida he served in a number of positions, including hospital committee chair, secretary, hospital liaison, national director, and president. Brown has also served on numerous national committees, including strategic planning, planned giving, and resolution.
Currently on the USA Boccia team, he was selected team captain for the Parapan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. Ranked 63rd in the world after one international tournament, Brown fully believes that an active life has kept him healthy.
Brown was re-elected national vice president of Paralyzed Veterans of America during its 69th Annual Convention in May 2015. In addition, Brown took office with the other members of Paralyzed Veterans’ Executive Committee July 1, 2015, for a one-year term. Brown currently resides in Loxahatchee, FL.
JOSEPH L. FOX
NATIONAL VICE PRESIDENT
Joseph (Joe) L. Fox, Sr., was elected national vice president of Paralyzed Veterans of America during its 69th Annual Convention in May 2015.
Fox joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1966 and served with the 1st Battalion 26th Marines. He was wounded on May 8, 1968, while serving in Vietnam during an operation in the province of Quảng Trị outside of Đông Hà. He received the Purple Heart in 1969 and was honorably discharged at the rank of Sergeant E-5.
Fox previously served four terms as national president of Paralyzed Veterans from 2000–2004. Throughout the years he has served in many elected positions within the organization, including the California Chapter in Long Beach as president, secretary, national director, and membership officer. Fox also served as a national service officer, helping veterans obtain their benefits.
Fox took office with the other members of Paralyzed Veterans’ Executive Committee on July 1, 2015, for a one-year term.
NATIONAL VICE PRESIDENT
Hack Albertson was elected national vice president of Paralyzed Veterans of America during its 69th Annual Convention in May 2015.
Albertson served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1981 to 1985 as a weather observer and assistant forecaster attached to Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 31 in Beaufort, SC. He sustained a T-7 complete spinal cord injury in 1994. Albertson has served several years on the Kentucky-Indiana (KIPVA) Paralyzed Veterans Chapter Board of Directors. He has also served as chapter vice president, chapter treasurer and national director and as a hospital liaison officer.
Albertson is on the board of the National Wild Turkey Federation and Lifewaters.org, where he currently holds the position of office treasurer. He is also a member of the Paralyzed and Disabled Scuba Diving Organization. He is very active in outdoor sports, including handcycling, hunting, scuba diving, fishing, shooting, archery and softball. He has received 22 medals from the National Veterans Wheelchair Games (#NVWG) over the five years he has participated.
Albertson and his wife, Jill, currently reside in Campbellsburg, IN, where he is a member of the local First Baptist Church. They have four children, with one daughter currently serving active duty as a LTJG U.S. Navy nurse.
Albertson took office with the other members of Paralyzed Veterans’ Executive Committee July 1, 2015, for a one-year term.
NATIONAL VICE PRESIDENT
Ken Weas was elected national vice president of Paralyzed Veterans of America during its 69th Annual Convention in May 2015. He previously served three consecutive terms as national vice president, beginning in 2002.
During a 14-year career (1978–1992) in the U.S. Air Force — assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency — Weas sustained a spinal cord injury in an automobile accident while serving in the U.S. Defense Attaché Office at the American Embassy in Bern, Switzerland.
Weas joined the Central Florida Chapter of Paralyzed Veterans in 1995. While there he served as vice president and hospital liaison program director until 2000, when he moved to Phoenix. As a member of the Arizona chapter, he served as its hospital liaison program director. In 2006 he returned to Florida and rejoined the Central Florida Chapter, reassuming the position of hospital liaison program and outreach director and also serving as a national director.
Weas has also been a member of several national Paralyzed Veterans’ committees that monitor the quality of healthcare delivered to Paralyzed Veterans’ members and all veterans. In addition, he served as chairman of the Field Advisory Council under the presidencies of Joseph L. Fox, Sr., Randy L. Pleva, Sr., and Bill Lawson.
In 2008, the surgeon general of Florida appointed Weas to the Florida Department of Health, Brain and Spinal Cord Injury Advisory Council, which provides oversight for the state’s healthcare services for individuals with spinal cord injury or traumatic brain injury. Weas continues today to energetically advocate for better quality of life for individuals with a disability.
A native of Alabama, Weas holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Rollins University. He and his wife, Sue, currently reside in Clermont, FL. They have raised four children, Kristen, Justin, Megan and Kaitlyn, and now enjoy 5 grandsons (“cowboys”).
Weas took office with the other members of Paralyzed Veterans’ Executive Committee on July 1, 2015, for a one-year term.
Larry Dodson was re-elected national secretary of Paralyzed Veterans of America during its 69th Annual Convention in May 2015.
Dodson joined the Air Force in 1966 and served until 1970. During that time he worked in a command center in Southeast Asia. On July 4, 1974, Dodson incurred a C-4 spinal cord injury and for more than 20 years he did not know that he was entitled to benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
After his military service, Dodson worked for the Photo Corporation of America from 1973–1984. During that time he attended Fresno State University before transferring to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte where he graduated with a degree in accounting in 1981. After college he owned and operated his own accounting business until 1999.
During his first visit to the spinal cord injury center in Augusta, GA, in 1994, Dodson joined the Southeastern Chapter of Paralyzed Veterans. A Paralyzed Veterans’ national service officer candidate from 1999–2000, Dodson became a member of the Southeastern Chapter board of directors in 2004. His service with the chapter includes assistant chair for the hospital committee, vice president, and national director.
A native of Oklahoma, Dodson currently resides in North Augusta, SC, with his wife, Debra. He has two adult daughters. He took office with the other members of Paralyzed Veterans’ Executive Committee on July 1, 2015, for a one-year term.
JAMES THOMAS WHEATON, JR.
James Thomas (Tom) Wheaton, Jr., was elected national treasurer of Paralyzed Veterans of America during its 69th Annual Convention in May 2015.
Wheaton enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1986 and is a plank owner (original crew member) of the USS Fort McHenry. He sustained a spinal cord injury while serving in Perth, Australia, in 1988. After recovering from his injuries and undergoing expanded rehabilitation, he was part of a group of veterans who ultimately organized into what became the Minnesota Chapter of Paralyzed Veterans of America in 1993.
As the chapter’s first director of sports and recreation, Wheaton coordinated a number of new activities for paralyzed veterans and the disabled community throughout Minnesota. He also served as chapter treasurer.
After moving to Golden, CO, in 1996, Wheaton served on a regional basis as sports director, treasurer, hospital liaison, and executive director of the Mountain States Chapter of Paralyzed Veterans. He founded both the Colorado Rockies Wheelchair Softball League and the Colorado Avalanche Sled Hockey team and coordinated the National Wheelchair Softball Tournament held at Coors Field in Denver in 1998. Wheaton also served as first vice president of the United Veterans Committee of Colorado.
From 1999–2003, Wheaton served on the Paralyzed Veterans’ Executive Committee and was elected as vice president for two years and also as senior vice president. Since 2006 he has served as the organization’s parliamentarian, assisting a number of national presidents to fairly and effectively facilitate meetings of the board of directors. Since 2008, he has also been a member of Paralyzed Veterans’ Finance Committee.
In addition to his numerous Paralyzed Veterans responsibilities over the past 20 years, Wheaton has served on various national veterans and disability advisory committees, including the National Spinal Cord Injury Association. Within his community he is an elder of Hillside Community Church and co-leads its children’s ministries with his wife, Angela. He is also currently the PTA treasurer for his childrens’ elementary school. The Wheatons have been married for 13 years and are proud parents of two school-age children, William and Mia. They reside in Golden, CO.
Born and raised in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota, Wheaton took office with the other members of Paralyzed Veterans’ Executive Committee on July 1, 2015, for a one-year term.
Having served four consecutive terms as national president of Paralyzed Veterans of America, Bill Lawson now serves in the role of immediate past president. He and other members of the Paralyzed Veterans’ Executive Committee assumed office on July 1, 2015.
During his service 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 after 11 years of service to his country. During his time as president, Lawson’s first priority was always to improve healthcare for veterans, especially those with spinal cord injury or dysfunction. He traveled across the country numerous times visiting veterans at Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers.
Lawson has testified before Congress and has been published in several local and national print media outlets, including The Huffington Post, The Washington Post and Stars and Stripes. He has also provided commentary on a broad range of veterans’ issues for broadcast outlets, including News Channel 8 TV in Washington, DC; WNBC-TV in New York; and WGN radio in Chicago, commenting on a broad range of veterans issues.
A native Oklahoman, Lawson was honored with the Advocate of the Year award by the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services in April 2011 for his work on behalf of all people with disabilities. He served as a panelist on the Oklahoma Veterans Council in Oklahoma City, which is composed of numerous veterans service groups within the state. He was also appointed to serve as a representative on a healthcare task force developed by Oklahoma lawmakers.
A Paralyzed Veterans life member, Lawson has held various key positions in its Mid-America Chapter and is a founding member of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) chapter in northwest Oklahoma, where he was its commander for three years. Lawson and his wife, Linda, currently reside in Woodward, OK.