In 2001, Kevin Mansfield was told he had Parkinson’s disease and his life immediately changed. After years of having a physically demanding job, Kevin said he was worried about the prospect of not being employed due to his new diagnosis.
Not only did he lose his job, but he had to navigate the health care system including doctors and therapists for a disease he didn’t know much about.
“When I first got diagnosed with Parkinson’s, I had a heck of time,” he said.
Kevin said he found difficulty getting his social security benefits to kick in and in his effort to understand why, he learned about PAN and its work with social security benefits.
Since then, Kevin has gotten increasingly involved in PAN’s efforts to support federal research funding, end sequestration, and ensure the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is providing services to veterans with Parkinson’s.
He said he decided to take on a leadership role at PAN as the assistant state director in Oregon because he likes talking and educating people on Parkinson’s disease and the policies that affect them. He said he’s particularly surprised how little Members of Congress sometimes know a
bout the disease and the major policy issues involved.
Since attending his first PAN Forum in 2012, he said he also feels much more confident meeting with his Members of Congress. So far, Kevin has met with Sens. Ron Wydens’ and Jeff Merkley’s staff and with Rep. Suzanne Bonamici.
“[Members and their staff] really appreciate that when they go pass a bill and they can say, ‘I had 25 people come talk to me about this particular thing,’” Kevin said. “They tell me that they wish more people would come speak with them.”
In addition to his advocacy work, Kevin has also volunteered at health fairs, support groups, Parkinson’s walks, and wants to expand his reach by talking to a younger generation in high schools.
He also said he is happy to speak with anyone who wants to learn more about PAN, Parkinson’s disease, or the major issues advocates are working toward.
“There are so many people out there that have Parkinson’s and even caregivers that have great experiences and they are more than willing to help out; you just have to ask.”