In honor of United Spinal Association’s late executive director, the Bronx Veterans Affairs Medical Center will be officially renamed the James J. Peters Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center today, during a 10 a.m. ceremony at the medical center.
Speaking at the ceremony will be Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and Congressman Jose Serrano (D-NY) who were instrumental in introducing legislation endorsing the name change, which was signed into law on November 17, 2004. The keynote address will be given by Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary R. James Nicholson.
Peters launched his career with United Spinal (then known as Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association) in 1969 after rehabilitation for a spinal cord injury suffered while in the United States Army. His rehab experience at the Bronx VAMC convinced Life magazine to run a cover story in 1970 exposing the deplorable conditions facing Vietnam veterans with spinal injuries. The story sparked a national outrage and convinced Congress to raze the Bronx facility and build a brand new hospital with special attention to spinal injuries. In 1989, Peters helped establish the Spinal Cord Damage Research Center at the Bronx VA, which has since become one of the premier spinal cord injury research facilities in the country. His tireless efforts also engineered the creation of the Center for Neuroscience and Regeneration Research at Yale University.
In addition to his commitment to research and education, Peters’ legendary gift for getting services to those in need of medical treatment, legal representation, VA benefits, adaptive equipment, or the simple companionship of fellow veterans won him the admiration and affection of people everywhere. Since his untimely death in 2002, Peters’ vision has been greatly expanded to include all Americans with spinal cord injury or disease.
“Renaming the Bronx VA Medical Center in memory of Jim Peters is a fitting tribute to a man who served his country and his fellow veterans, especially those with spinal cord injuries (SCI),” said Gerard M. Kelly, Executive Director of United Spinal Association. “Jim’s impassioned dedication led the charge for quality healthcare both here in the Bronx and nationally. He was the driving force behind the creation of the VA’s unparalleled SCI programs and we thank both Senator Clinton and Congressman Serrano for recognizing Jim’s contributions through this legislation.”
“I am very pleased that we can honor the legacy of Jim Peters, a man of tremendous achievements, ability and determination, in this way,” Senator Clinton said. “Peters was a champion of veterans and those suffering from spinal injuries and his legacy lives on in the high quality of care being delivered on a daily basis by the Bronx VA. It is only fitting that we rename this hospital after such a great veteran and a great man who played such an instrumental role in enhancing care for both veterans and non-veterans alike.”
United Spinal Association was founded in the New York City metropolitan area in 1947 by returning World War II veterans with spinal cord injuries. The nonprofit, national veterans service and disability rights organization is dedicated to enhancing the lives of individuals with spinal cord injury or disease (SCI/D) by assuring quality health care, promoting research, advocating for civil rights and independence, educating the public about these issues and enlisting its help to achieve these fundamental goals. Membership is free and open to all people with SCI/D.