BLINDED VETERANS ASSOCIATION (BVA)
FLORIDA REGIONAL GROUP, INC.
3801 Coco Grove Avenue
Miami, Florida 33133
Newsletter - - January 2005
FRG Presidents Message: The Clearwater informational luncheon meeting was not only exciting, but as usual, the food was excellent. We just happened to have 3 VIST Coordinators, 2 retired VIST Coordinators, and one BROS (Blind Rehab Outpatient Specialist) in attendance. Jodi Teper, the new VIST Coordinator at Bay Pines, gave a short talk and stated she was looking forward to her new position. As in our past luncheons, the attendance has been down. I realize that some of us are still suffering from the overwhelming hurricanes, and there was an increase in the BVs cost from $5 to $7, and we also had 3 VIST Coordinator replacements. We may be questioning the possible mistake that was made by raising our luncheons to $7, at our 2004 State Convention. Hopefully the year 2005, shall bee more favorable.
For a point of information, for those of you who have not heard, there is now a reliable talking thermostat available on the market, for controlling your heat and air conditioning in your home. It is one of the best talking devices within its category, that I have ever come across. I have brought up the talking thermostat, primarily to demonstrate a point of clarification. Lately I have been hearing of veterans being turned down for items that are clearly, either sensory or modified devices that can assist Blinded Veterans to obtain a nearly normal life style. I am not saying that all BVs are eligible for all types of devices, but many of you are. The determination as to whether the veteran is eligible or not is the sole responsibility of the VIST Coordinator, and if necessary, with the further assistance of the BROS. From what I am hearing, denial of such items appears primarily at the decision of the Prosthetics Service. I would urge all Blinded Veterans, and yes even VIST Coordinators, to bring any difficulties concerning the obtaining of prosthetics or sensory aids, to the attention of the Florida Regional Group. I would like to further add, that if the VIST Coordinator states that you are not eligible, you can usually take that to the bank, as being correct One more piece of valuable information. The VA is about to release the new regulations governing all aspects of computers. The new regulations shall cover the receiving of computers, other hardware, software, repairing of existing equipment, training, and updating software. Based on what I have read, the new regulations, in my opinion, appear to be rather liberal. When they are finally approved, we will inform you.
I realize that by the time you have read this Newsletter, we will all ready have celebrated the New Year. Nevertheless, I hope that all of you have the Most Merriest of Holiday Seasons and will have a Happy and Prosperous New Year and also good health.
One last item of importance. I urge all of you that have not yet done so, to please continue to make the FRG a strong and viable organization by joining the ERG, and paying the $8 annual dues. Better yet, from a more practical standpoint, go for life membership, it is more cost effective in the long run. Think positive. Terry King, FRG President.
FRG Auxiliary Presidents Message: This, in no uncertain words, has been a very difficult year for most of us. The changes we all had to make due to the hurricanes, were bad enough, but losing our memories of the past and to notice the devastation for others is more than a lot of us can handle. Knowing that many of our friends and family members are in harms way in Iraq and Afghanistan adds to the distress. After all that, we still have a lot to be thankful for and be at peace. Without our neighbors and families, we would be nothing. Instead of feeling sad, stressed out, or depressed, we should comfort those in need, share with what you can give, and just be there for Them. I feel that that is the Auxiliary in a nut shell. Are you a member? Do you take part by coming to affairs of the BVA? Are you thankful for what you have? If given a chance, our bodies can hold the biggest heart. So, this year, why not make New Years Resolutions, that are very easy to keep, and self rewarding. When you see a person standing alone greet them with a smile. When you hear of someone in distress, send them a comforting card. People are not just people. They are you and wouldnt you appreciate being noticed? I wish you the best New Year and happiness throughout this year and all the years to come. Happiness is being a friend. A friend is someone that you can count upon. Are you a Friend? Joanne King, ERG Auxiliary President.
ERG Meeting Notice: The next meeting of the Florida Regional Group will be held on Saturday February 5, at the Enlisted Club at the MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa. The meeting will begin with a period of socializing at 11:30 AM, followed by lunch at noon. For lunch, you may have either Marinated Breast of Chicken or Sliced Roast Beef and Salad, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Vegetables, Rolls & Butter, Iced Tea or Coffee, and Dessert. The price of the lunch will be $7 per person, including tax and tip. Beer, wine, and mixed drinks will be available for an additional charge. FRG President Terry King will preside at the meeting following lunch. Representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs will be on hand to provide information about services and benefits of interest to BVs and their families. ERG activities for the remainder of the year, including the FRG State Convention, will be discussed. Information about the ERG Auxiliary will be presented.
Due to tightened security at MacDill AFB, we must provide the Security Guards at the gate, a list of all who will be attending. In addition, the Enlisted Club has asked us to notify them as to the number who will be attending and the type of luncheon desired by February 2. Please make your reservations prior to that date by calling Central West District Director Clyde Emory in Largo, at: (727) 812-6470. Also in Largo call Rhesa (Bernie) Bostick at (727) 595-6326, in St. Petersburg call James Spooner at: (727) 347-8042, in Clearwater, call Ben Wells at (727) 536-1762, and in Tampa call Donald OSullivan at: (813) 977-9257. In addition, you may call Charles Nieberding, Tampa VAMC VIST Coordinator, at: (813) 972-7674 or toll free (888) 716-7787 cx 7674 or Bay Pines VIST Coordinator Jodi Teper at: (727) 398-6661 ex. 4516. The restaurant needs the reservation information in order to prepare properly for our meeting. Please enter the MacDill APB Main Gate at the South Dale Mabray Highway entrance. Dale N4abray Highway is a North to South main artery which may be accessed from I 275 at exit 23B. Those coming from the St. Petersburg or Clearwater areas may take the Courtney Campbell Causeway to Eisenhower Blvd., turn South and go to Kennedy Blvd., Then turn left and proceed Eastward to Dale Mabray Highway. Then, turn right and proceed Southward. The Air Force Base is a good 7 to 8 miles from I 275 or Kennedy Blvd. From the North, (Ocala etc.) I 75 or from the East (Orlando, etc.) on 14, continue until they merge with I 275, then continue as above. You cannot miss MacDill AFB if you are going south on Dale Mabray, as that highway ends at the base. Continue through the Main Gate, bear left on North Boundary Road, follow it by the Exchange and Commissary to the third traffic light. Turn right at the light and the Enlisted Club should be on your immediate right. Parking is available adjacent to the Club. Begin planning now and bring another Blinded Veteran with you and join us at the MacDill AFB Enlisted Club on Saturday, February 5. Please join us there.
The timing of our FRG Newsletters has not been good in recent months. The Summer ERG Newsletter was printed the day before we learned of the retirement of the Bay Pines /1ST Coordinator Marilyn Nolan. Marilyn had worked for the VA for over 30 years and over 12 years as Bay Pines VIST Coordinator. She served BVs in that area superbly and was honored by the BVA National with a Certificate of Appreciation. In the November FRG Newsletter, we announced that Kathy Wales had been selected for that position. Several days after that Newsletter was printed, it was learned that Kathy Wales had decided to remain at the Augusta VA Blind Center. Again, in the December ERG Newsletter, it was announced that a decision had been made for the Bay Pines /1ST position, but the announcement had not been released. Also in that ERG Newsletter, we indicated that interviews for the West Palm Beach VAMC VIST position had been held but no decision had been announced. Just after the December Newsletter was printed, it was learned that Jodi Teper had been selected for the Bay Pines VIST position and that Paul Mimms had been selected for the West Palm Beach VIST position. Below you will find brief biographies on the two new VIST Coordinators. We wish them well and look forward to many years of cooperation in the future.
Jodi Teper was born and raised in Pembroke Pines, FL. After high school, she attended Florida State University where she earned a bachelors degree. continuing in graduate school at FSU, she earned a Masters Degree in Social Work. Following graduation, she was employed as a Social Worker in a Primary Care Clinic at the Bay Pines VAMC. After four years in that position, she transferred to an inpatient Social Work position. Jodi took up her new /1ST Coordinator duties on Decemberl 7th. Jodi lives in Seminole. Her hobby is kick boxing,
Paul Mimms was born in Iowa City and grew up in Washington, Iowa. At the age of 15, the family moved to Kansas City where he graduated from high school. During the next 3 years, he went to college and worked at several jobs. In 1966, he entered the Navy where he was assigned duty as a seaman on an 1ST. While serving in that capacity in Vietnam, he lost the vision in one eye due to an injury. Following discharge in 1969, he returned to Kansas City where he workedll years as a restaurant manager. The eye injury caused early onset of glaucoma, resulting in the loss of vision in his other eye in 1980. After taking rehab training through the Missouri Agency for the Blind, he entered the University of Missouri, where he earned a bachelors degree. Then, he entered graduate school at Kansas University where he earned a Masters Degree in Social Work in December 1991. In January 1992, he was employed as a Counselor at the Vet Center in Kansas City. He continued in that job until February 2000 when he transferred to the West Palm Beach VAMC Blind Center as a CATS Instructor. Paul has been active in community activities particularly in rehabilitation organizations. He served on the board and as an officer in the Missouri ACB and Guide Dog Users Group. He also served on the Missouri blind Agency Advisory Council Since coming to Florida, Paul. has been active in the ERG, now serving as Southeast District Director. Paul and his wife Catherine live in West Palm Beach, where he continues to be active in his community. He uses his guide dog Fido for mobility. Paul took up his VIST duties on November 29.
Scholarships - Scholarships ready to help. Yes, it is that time of the year again when the ERG Auxiliary is looking for those who are in need of scholarship money to further their education. Remember, children and spouses of Florida Blinded Veterans are eligible for the $1000 scholarships. It can be given for college, trade school, or any training that will allow the individual to advance their chosen field. If you are interested, you may write for an application to: Joyce Thornton, 3033 Winlder Avenue, Ft. Myers FL 33916. Letters will be sent out reminding you of the application date. With higher education costs continuing to rise, I feel that you might want to take advantage of this offer. Joyce Thornton, VIST Coordinator MSW.
Florida Total Homestead Tax Exemption Reminder: Its that time of year, when we remind Blinded Veterans of two Total Homestead Tax Exemption Statutes available to qualified individuals in Florida. This may be old information to some of you. However, we have many Blinded Veterans move into Florida each year and with Floridas older population, many veterans lose their vision each year. Consequently, we are including this information here. The Florida Regional Group worked many years to obtain and improve these benefits.
FS 196.081 provides a total Homestead Tax Exemption to 100% service connected disabled veterans. The exemption has no income limitation. In the event of the veteran s death, the exemption is continued to the surviving spouse, as long as he or she does not remarry. In the past the spouse would have to remain in the same home to continue the exemption. Several years ago, the statute was amended and the surviving spouse may keep the exemption on that home or a different home as long as the new home is assessed at the same or a lower amount. To qualify for this exemption, a veteran should obtain a statement from the VA Regional Office certifying that he or she is a 100% service connected disabled veteran. Take that certificate to the County Tax Appraisers Office before March 1st. This total Homestead Exemption will be renewed each year. If you have qualified for this Total Exemption in the past and have not received notification of the renewal by the end of January, contact your County Tax Appraisers Office.
FS 196.101 provides a Total Homestead Tax Exemption to certain individuals who are restricted to a wheelchair for mobility or who are legally blind. This total Exemption has a total household income limitation of $21,539 in 2004. FS 196.101 has a provision which provides an annual increase in the income limitation equal to the increase in the Consumer Price Index. It is probable that this amount will be increased by about 2.7% for 2005. To qualify, obtain a statement from two Florida licensed Ophthalmologists stating that you are legally blind. Take the statement to your County Tax appraisers Office before March 1st. You will be required to certify your income annually to maintain the Total Homestead Tax Exemption under ES 196.101.
Please join us at the February 5 FRG meeting at the MacDill AFB Enlisted Club. Bring a fellow Blinded Veteran with you and have a wonderful afternoon. Remember to make your reservation by calling one of the individuals listed above by February 2. We look forward to meeting you there.