3801 Coco Grove Avenue  
Miami, Florida 33133
NEWSLETTER - February, 2006

                                                           NEWSLETTER - February 2006

     FRG President's Message:  I must applaud our Blinded Veterans (BV's) who attended our January FRG luncheon held in Ocala.  There were 181 BV's, family members, and friends in attendance.  Not only did they enjoy an excellent lunch, but by attending demonstrated their support for the BVA, Board of Directors, and also their VIST Coordinators.  Maybe next year, they will break their own record of 184, who attended 2 years ago. 


     Here is some important information on part time employment opportunities for some of our BV's and possible full time employment for the younger BV's.  It is called the Willows Project, and the Florida Division of Blind Services (DBS) staff have been working on it for some time.  Now, they have it up and running.  The reason for DBS being associated with the Willows Project is to put DBS clients to work, with respect to their needs and issues, they consider important.  Here are some of the factors that current and pending participants have considered in choosing the Willows Project.  With Willow training, they become CyberCorp; which means they have the benefits of working as independent agents for established companies such as: Sears, AAA, Office Depot, Horizon, and many more.  Since they may work in their own home, there would be no commuting time.  In that way, they may avoid time consuming transportations alternatives that often turns a 4 hour day into a 10 hour work day.  They can choose to work full time or part time which is a major concession.  Many of us do not have the flexibility or the privilege of deciding on the number of hours to work.  Can you work only 21 hours this week?  Willows participants can if they so choose.  Many want this convenient setting and opportunity because they can maintain their Social Security benefits.  They can dress in any attire they desire, since they work at home.  Willow allows visually impaired agents preferential access to hours and scheduling.  This means that they have access to available hours posted by respective companies, two weeks in advance to establish their schedule, before non impaired/physically challenged agents.  They have the freedom to choose as they please.  Thus far, 4 visually impaired individuals are currently working for Sears.  Three of them are JAWS users  and the other one uses Zoom Text.  Due to the scarcity of potential agents, as of now, Sears is the only application that interfaces well with JAWS.  The DBS is looking forward to working with other applications, but cannot supply if there is no demand.  Therefore, this program is crying out for Public Relations to get more candidates.  We need to inform all interested visually impaired persons in Florida about the Willow Project.  The candidates need to be professional Windows or JAWS proficient, self motivated, disciplined, persistent, organized, and able to demonstrate good customer service skills.  For further information contact your local DBS Office. 


     One thing more before I conclude this message.  If you have not sent your email address for the Distribution List to Bill Stockslager, do so now.  In that way, you will receive up-to-date information concerning legislative issues of interest to BV's   To do so, send an email to  Terry King, FRG President.


     FRG Auxiliary President's Message: At this time, I am sending you a report from Peg Toomey, our FRG Auxiliary Treasurer.  Treasurer's Report.  As of January 2006, the FRG Auxiliary had 25 members.  We have $1348.18 in our checking account.  This amount of money was generated through the generosity of many of you at our monthly luncheons.  However, we give two $1000 Scholarship in June to students who are the spouse or children of Florida Blinded Veterans.  You can see that we do not have enough money to pay for these Scholarships, unless we dip into our Scholarship Fund CD's - which we can and are allowed to do.  My question to all of you is why have so few joined the Auxiliary?  Why have you not sent in $15 to become members of the National and Florida BVA Auxiliaries?  We have about 1350 Blinded Veterans who are members of the FRG.  Surely almost all of them have some support - spouse, child or relative who cares for them.  Why haven't you, the caring other half, joined us and helped us with our Scholarship Program?  It is our main activity.  Please consider joining us.  I, Peg Toomey, will be glad to send you an application.  Peg Toomey, FRG Auxiliary Treasurer, 6955 Awawa Court, North Port, FL 34287.  ----Remember our lobbiest need your membership along with the Blinded Veteran's membership, in order to grant our wishes for bettering benefits that are so important to the BV's as well as for you.  Remember, numbers are what counts.  Joanne King, FRG Auxiliary President.           .                  


     FRG Meeting Notice:  The  next meeting of the Florida Regional Group will be held on Saturday, March 4, at the American Legion Post 222, 4250 N.E. 5 Avenue in Oakland Park.  The meeting will begin at 11:30 AM, with a period of socializing, followed by lunch at  noon.  For lunch, you may select from Roast Beef or Chicken and Salad, Potatoes, Vegetables, Rolls and Butter, Iced Tea or Coffee, and Dessert.  The price of the lunch will be $5 per person, including tax and tip.  Beer, wine, and mixed drinks will be available at an additional charge.


     FRG President Terry King will preside at the meeting following lunch.  A national legislative up-date will be provided.  Plans for FRG activities for the coming months , including the FRG State Convention in Daytona Beach, will be discussed.  This will be your opportunity to make suggestions and recommendations regarding these FRG activities.  Representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs will be on hand to provide information about services and benefits of interest to Blinded Veterans and their families.  Information about FRG Auxiliary activities will be presented. 


     The restaurant has asked us to notify them as to the number who will be attending and the type of meal desired by March 1.  You may make your reservations by writing to George Stocking at:  3801 Coco Grove Avenue, Miami, FL  33133 or by calling George evenings and weekends at:  (305) 446-8008.You may also call Paul Mimms, West Palm Beach VAMC VIST Coordinator  at:  (561) 422-5260 or evenings and weekends at:  (561) 863-1407.  You may also make your reservations by calling:  Roberta Goldstein, Miami VAMC VIST Coordinator, at (305) 324-4455 ex 3607 or Bob Gross, Oakland Park VA Outpatient Clinic VIST Coordinator, at:  (954) 229-7791.  Please be sure to make your reservations as the restaurant needs this information in order to plan properly for our meeting.


     To get to the American Legion Post, take I 95 North or South to Oakland Park Blvd.  Go East 1.5 miles to N.E. 5 Avenue, then turn left (North).  Go .9 mile on N.E. 5 Avenue.  The American Legion Post is in a white building with blue awnings on the right side of the street.  Parking is available adjacent to the building.    Attempts are underway to provide limited transportation from West Palm Beach.  For information contact VIST Coordinator Paul Mimms at the number above.   Please mark March 4 on your calendar and make plans to join us for an enjoyable and interesting afternoon.  We look forward  to meeting you there.


     US Legislative Up-Date:  The BVA is working on three measures before Congress.  S 1182, passed the Senate and is awaiting action in the House.  S 1182 includes authorization for 35 additional Blind Rehab Outpatient Specialist (BROS) around the country during the next 3 years.  HR 3579 would also authorize additional BROS over the next 3 years but has not been acted upon by the House Veterans Affairs Committee.  Three House Veterans Affairs Committee members, Michael Bilirakis, Corinne Brown, and Cliff Stearns have signed as co-sponsors of HR 3579.  We need Jeff Miller from the Pensacola area and Ginny Brown-Waite from the Dade City area to also sign as co-sponsors.  BV's in those areas should call the District Offices for Representatives Miller and Brown-Wait and urge them to co-sponsor HR 3579.  Further, we need for all five Florida members of the House Veterans Affairs Committee to work to have this measure voted out of the Committee and brought to the House floor for a vote.  Having additional BROS would be a most cost effective method of providing needed Blind Rehab training to Blinded Veterans, improve their independence, and relieve pressure on the Blind Rehab Centers which have long waiting lists.


     In addition, HR 2963 the Paired Organ Bill is being considered in the House.  Under this bill, if a veteran suffered service connected legal blindness in one eye and later had becomes legally blind from a NSC condition in the other eye, both eyes would be considered service connected.  The BVA has obtained 69 co-sponsors for this measure.  It needs to be brought to the House floor for a vote.  Please call your US Representatives and urge their support of HR 2963.


     The BVA is also working on the White Cane Recognition measures in the Senate and House.  These Concurrent Resolutions HCR 235 and SCR 71, if passed,  would have no cost to the federal government.  The measures request all state governments to add information about the White Cane Laws in the driver's manuals and have questions about the White Cane Law on the driver's licensing exam.  This would help raise awareness of the necessity for drivers to watch out for individuals using a guide dog or white cane for mobility.  Both Senators Nelson and Martinez are on the Senate Aging Committee and should be cognizant of the importance of SCR 71.  Please urge your Senators and Representatives to support this legislation.        


     Florida Total Homestead Tax Exemption:  In the January 2006 FRG Newsletter the total household income limitation for FS 196.101 (Total Exemption for individuals restricted to a wheelchair for mobility or who are legally blind) was incorrectly reported as $21536 the amount of the 2004 income limitation.  Actually the 2006 income limitation will be $22,872.  That statute includes an automatic increase equal to the annual increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI.  THE CPI COLA for 2006 is included in the $22,872 indicated above.  For further information check with your County Property Appraiser.  Remember if you wish to qualify for FS 196.101 you must do so by March 1.                 


     Walk-A-thon:   The Blinded Veterans of Florida celebrated National White Cane Day at different times, in different ways, and in different places.  Still the BV's had the same goal and focus;  To promote the Florida White Cane Law, raise public awareness of blinded persons, and to raise money for the Florida Regional Group.  These funds are earmarked to expand our luncheons/meetings that are held throughout the state.  Although a detailed report has not been completed as yet, it is safe to say over $12,000 was raised throughout the state.  William Menendez's group in the Central West District, topped all with almost $8000  being brought in to aid the cause.  In the Central East District, Dwight Sayer raised $3750.  The Southwest District chipped in with over $1000, to add to the total.  Vision Awareness Walks were held in Homosassa, Jacksonville Beach, and Ft. Myers.  In Venice a White Cane Day Walk was held in conjunction with the ACB and in Orlando there was a consortium of blind groups working together to promote the theme of Vision Awareness.  Many thanks to all those who walked, participated in any, and to all of you who contributed money to help to make this day and month a great success.  Blinded Veterans worked with over a half dozen other blind groups in the state.  This cooperation and sharing of effort is a healthy sign.  You are all to be congratulated for your efforts to make this a success.  Michael Toomey, Chairman - Public Relations Committee & Southwest District Director.             


     FRG Auxiliary Scholarship:  The FRG Auxiliary will offer two $1000 scholarships to the spouse or child of a Florida Blinded Veterans for the 2006-2007 school year.  These scholarships are not available  to grandchildren.  Individuals who have applied previously may apply again but must submit a new application.  The scholarship is merit based and may be used for college, university, vocational or technical school training.  For information and/or an application contact FRG Auxiliary  Scholarship Chairperson Joyce Thornton, VIST Coordinator,  Veterans Outpatient Clinic, 3033 Winkler Extension, Ft. Myers, Florida 33906 or call Joyce at (239) 939-3939 ex 6284.  Completed application materials must be received by April 15, 2006.


     Please get a group of fellow Blinded Veterans together and join us at the American Legion Post 222 in Oakland Park, on Saturday, March 4 for an informative and enjoyable afternoon.  Remember to make your reservations before March 1, by calling one of the individuals listed above.  In that way,  the American Legion may make proper arrangements for our  luncheon.  If you make a reservation and can't come call and cancel it by March 1.  We look forward to meeting you there.  


FRG-BVA Meeting Schedule


March 4                                            FRG Meeting at the American Legion in Oakland Park

May 5-7                                            FRG State Convention Plaza Ocean Club in Daytona

August 15-20                                     BVA National Convention Buffalo, NY


Newsletter Staff

Terry King                                                 FRG President

Joanne King                                        FRG Auxiliary President

Mike Toomey                                  FRG Southwest District Director, FRG PR Chairman

George Stocking                                  Editor