BLINDED VETERANS ASSOCIATION (BVA)
FLORIDA REGIONAL GROUP, INC.
3801 Coco Grove Avenue
Miami, Florida 33133
NEWSLETTER - March 2004
FRG President's Message: We have some good news and some disappointing news this month. Let me address the disappointing news first. As most of you are aware, if you have been keeping up with the information provided in your Newsletters, we have been exploring the possibility of establishing a Volunteer Office at the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center. This office would have been manned by BVA volunteer members who would also be trained to answer questions and then to direct Blinded Veterans to the appropriate offices, whereby they may have their problems resolved. I have not been officially notified that we were not approved for space at the WPB VAMC, but Paul Mimms, FRG Southeast District Director, has learned from Mr. Sieler, VAMC Director, that due to limited space, unless we were able to have a service officer stationed at the Volunteer Office, he could not make the space available. I am now in the process of contacting Don Cummings, BVA Field Service Representative in Atlanta, for any further information that he might have, as he is actually responsible for establishing the Volunteer Offices. At any rate, at this point in time, it looks rather dismal. I shall continue to keep you informed if there are any new developments.
Now for the good news. We have been working for a web site for the BVA-FRG for some time. That is to say, Paul Kaminsky has been working on it. I am happy to announce that the web site is up and running as of this writing. Those individuals who have computers, may access the web site at: http://www.blindveterans.org. Those who do not have computers, should contact their VIST Coordinators and request training at the Blind Rehabilitation Centers, operated by the VA. In most all cases, veterans who are legally blind are eligible for training. If you complete the Computer Access Training Program satisfactorily, you can be provided with a computer. Paul Kaminsky has deferred the cost of establishing the web site, and has also agreed to be the web master at no charge to the BVA-FRG. The only cost to the BVA-FRG will be the annual $36 for the domain name. We plan on adding and updating the web site regularly. Therefore, I would like to encourage all the interested BV's in Florida, to contact Paul Kaminsky, or me - Terry King, for any ideas that you might want to pass along. Remember, this web site belongs to you, the Blinded Veterans of the Florida Regional Group.
Later in this Newsletter, Dr. Stocking will bring you up to date on the FRG State Convention at the Holiday Inn South in Daytona Beach Shores April 30 - May 2. Be sure to make your reservations before April 10th to insure your place at the hotel. Terry King, FRG President.
FRG Auxiliary President's Message: I have often said, "If you are not ready to change what you disagree with, then don't gripe about it". There are many things that I wish that I could change, and some of them I do try, but some of them I don't even try. Which step do you usually Take? Take this opportunity to come to our Convention and make a difference. This Convention, like many others, is guaranteed to be very informative. If you have questions, ask. I bet we could double the attendance this year. After all, the BVA membership in Florida is approximately 1000.
Come to our FRG Auxiliary meeting on Saturday, May 1st at 9 AM. Of course, you don't have to be a member of the Auxiliary, just a spouse, family member, or friend of a Blinded Veteran. Like I said before, "Check us out". I am ready, my bags are packed, and my ride has been arranged. Whoops, I forgot to make my reservation for the hotel room. Got to do it tomorrow, the Holiday Inn South in Daytona Beach Shores, phone right away, What? Right on the ocean, Yep. Special rates, Yep. Excellent friends, Yep. Great weather, maybe. See you there. Joanne King, FRG Auxiliary President.
US Legislative Up-Date: On March 4th, BVA President Neil Appleby presented a summary of the BVA Legislative Priorities for 2004 to a joint session of the US Senate and House of Representatives Veterans Affairs Committees. These priorities were taken from the resolutions passed at the 58th BVA National Convention in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina last August. Earlier that week, the BVA Legislative Committee, composed of Chairman Dr. George Stocking, President Neil Appleby, and Secretary Dr. Norman Jones, visited key members of Congress and Officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs Central Office. They were accompanied to these meetings by BVA Director of Government Affairs Rebecca Venduska and at the VA Central Office by BVA Executive Director Tom Miller. They described the needs of Blinded Veterans and emphasized the importance of restoring reductions in staff at the various Blind Rehabilitation Centers. In addition, the importance of maintaining the viability of the VIST AND BROS Programs was described. Recommendations were made regarding alteration in the funding process for services to Blinded Veterans. If these changes were made, it would permit a more efficient and cost effective method of providing outpatient services to Blinded Veterans. Our presentations were positively accepted. However, it takes continued work to change words to action on the part of a bureaucracy as large as the VA. Follow up meetings will be held with Congress and the VA Central Office regarding these priorities.
FRG State Convention Reminder: This is your final notice that the 2004 Florida Regional Group State Convention will be held at the Holiday Inn South, 3209 South Atlantic Avenue, Daytona Beach Shores, Florida 32118, April 30 - May 2. The Holiday Inn is located directly on the ocean and has its own beach, pool, patio area, snack bar, lounge, and restaurant. Your Convention Committee has arranged the low rates of only $57 per day for standard room for 1 to 4 people and $64.50 per day, for rooms with kitchens for 1 to 4 people. These rates are in effect for reservations made on or before April 10th. Send your check for one day's room rate plus 11.5% tax, or your credit card number to guarantee your reservation. Since time is short, you are urged to call the Holiday Inn South, toll free, at: (800) 722-3297. Be sure to tell the reservation clerk you will be attending the Florida Blinded Veterans Association State Convention. The hotel has guaranteed these rates until April 10th. Consequently, you should secure your reservations at the guaranteed low Convention rate as soon as possible. The hotel will accept reservations up to the day of the Convention, at the same rates, on a space available basis. However, if you wait, all of the rooms may be taken. These low Convention rates will be in effect 3 days before and/or 3 days after the Convention. So, you may come early and/or stay late for an extended vacation. If you make a reservation and are unable to attend, the hotel will refund your deposit if you cancel by 24 hours before the day you were to arrive.
The Convention Registration Desk will be located in the hotel lobby and will be open for late registration from 1 to 3 PM on Friday, April 30th. If you have not pre-registered, you may do so then. If you have pre-registered, please check in and pick up your Convention Program and name tags at that time. We need to have you check at the registration table so that we can give the proper count to the chef for the dinner-dance and banquet. The opening session will be held in the first floor Ball Room and will begin at 3 PM on Friday, April 30th. Greg Luther, Director of the Florida Division of Blind Services Adaptive Training Lab in Daytona Beach, will present a program on Technology and Adaptive Equipment. This will be followed by three presentations on adaptive computer operations: Paul Kaminsky, FRG Northeast District Director, on the Computer Users Group; Paul Mimms, FRG Southeast District Director, on Computer Access Training (CATS) at the West Palm Beach, VAMC Blind Rehab Center; and Rick Calissi, Central East District Director, on the Computer Chat Room.
Dinner-Dance: The Dinner-Dance will begin with dinner at 7 PM followed by dancing from 8 to ?. Again this year, the music will be provided by Marcia Summers. Those of you who have attended before will remember what a great job she does playing music for good listening and good dancing. Those new conventioneers will be pleased with an enjoyable musical interlude. A cash bar will be available for liquid refreshments. This should be a fun evening. So make plans to join in the good times.
Saturday, May 1st: The annual Florida Regional Group Business Meeting will be held at 9 AM in the first floor Ball Room. In addition to reports on the past year's activities and planning the FRG program for the coming year, you will have the opportunity to share your thoughts and comments on future FRG programs. Elections for FRG Officers and District Directors, for the coming year, will be held. The election of a Delegate and Alternate Delegates to the BVA's 59th National Convention in Reno, Nevada in August, will also be held. Proposed resolutions for presentation to the BVA National Convention will be considered. Proposed Amendments to the FRG By-Laws, will be considered.
The FRG Auxiliary will also hold its meeting at 9 AM on Saturday in the 1st floor Manatee Room. The BVA Auxiliary is not a "Ladies Auxiliary" but is open to all family members and friends of the BVA. The Auxiliary will receive reports on the past year and make plans for next year. It will also elect officers for the coming year. The Auxiliary will hold a raffle to help fund its Scholarship Program.
At 2 PM on Saturday, a second Informational Seminar will be held in the Ball Room. Mike Gunde, Chief of the Bureau of Braille and Talking Book Library Service, will report on innovations in the Talking Book Program. Then, Brent Arrantte, VA Regional Office Liaison Representative to the Florida VIST Coordinators, will present information on veterans benefits. The Seminar will close with a presentation and display on Adaptive Technology by Lisa Kretschmer from the Florida Reading and Technology Service.
The Hospitality Room will be open from 5 to 7 PM. The Installation Banquet will be held in the Ball Room at 7 PM. Terry King, FRG President, will be Master of Ceremonies. Dr. Elwood Headley, VISN 8 Director, will be our Guest Speaker. Dr. Headley has had a distinguished career as a Physician and Administrator with the VA. Prior to his appointment as VISN 8 Director, he served as Director of the Gainesville VAMC. Funding for veterans health care is sent to the 21 VISN's around the US. Dr. Headley is responsible for allocating these funds in VISN 8, which is composed of Florida and Puerto Rico. So, let's make a good impression on him. He has a direct influence on funds for services for Blinded Veterans in Florida. Prior to the end of the Banquet, the FRG Auxiliary will hold the drawing for its raffle. The Banquet will close with the installation of Florida Regional Group Officers and District Directors and the FRG Auxiliary Officers for the coming year. Join us in the Hospitality Room, after the Banquet, for more socializing and refreshments. Sunday will be the time for goodbyes and travel home.
Convention Registration Fee: The Convention Registration Fee will be $35 per person (for each BV, family member, and/or friend attending). However, an early Registration Fee of only $30 per person will be in effect for registrations received on or before April 10th. The Registration Fee will cover general Convention activities, including the Dinner-Dance on Friday night, and the Hospitality Room and Banquet on Saturday night. Please make your check payable to the BVA and send it to 3801 Coco Grove Avenue, Miami, Florida 33133. Please include the first and last name of each person registering, so that we will be able to make name tags prior to the start of the Convention. It will be helpful if you will send your Registration Fee in advance. This will greatly speed up the late registration at the Convention. It takes a lot of volunteer work to put on this Convention and your help will be greatly appreciated. Remember, contact the Holiday Inn to make your hotel reservations and send your Convention registration fee to the BVA FRG in Miami.
Directions: To get to the Holiday Inn South in Daytona Beach Shores, take I 95 to exit 256 (formerly 85), Dunlawton Avenue, go East to Atlantic Avenue (Highway A 1 A) then North one half mile. The hotel will be on your right, directly on the ocean. From I- 4, go to I 95 then South one exit to exit 256 then repeat as above. Exit 256 is one exit South of the Daytona Beach exit.
VIST Coordinators Meeting: For a number of years, the Florida Regional Group has shared its Convention facilities with the VIST Coordinators and Blind Rehab Specialists in Florida for an in-service training meeting prior to the start of our Convention. This year, it will begin at 8 AM on Friday and continue until our opening meeting at 3 PM. Many of them will attend our other meetings and the Banquet on Saturday night. We are happy to share our Convention facilities with VIST Coordinators and BROS and appreciate their taking part in our Convention. We greatly appreciate the dedicated service they provide to Blinded Veterans and their families. Let's greet them in Daytona and express our appreciation for the wonderful work they do for us.
While you have this Newsletter in hand, make your arrangements to attend our FRG State Convention. Sometimes, when we put things off, we forget and they don't get done. Please remember to send your Convention Registration Fee to the BVA FRG in Miami and your hotel reservation to the Holiday Inn South in Daytona Beach Shores, or better yet, call them at the toll free number (800) 722-3297. Remember, if you need to cancel your reservation, you will receive a full deposit refund, as long as you cancel 24 hours prior to your scheduled arrival date. Make plans to join with us and renew old friendships and make some new ones.