VETERANS ASSOCIATION (BVA)
FLORIDA REGIONAL GROUP, INC.
3801 Coco Grove Avenue
Miami, Florida 33133
NEWSLETTER - September, 2006
NEWSLETTER - September 2006
FRG President's Message: Well, here I am again. We are just back from the BVA National Convention in Buffalo, New York, where Ron White from New York beat me out for National Treasurer. As they say, that's the way the cookie crumbles! I will leave all of the Convention report to Dr. Stocking, our Convention Delegate, so we don't duplicate our efforts.
So as FRG President, I had the pleasure to attend a great afternoon down in Winter Haven, just prior to the BVA Convention. Gary Sinclair, our Central East District Director, talked with Tony Kirksey, his VIST Coordinator, and came up with the idea of having a picnic outside instead of the normal VIST Support Group meeting, down at the Orlando VA Clinic. During their planning of the event, they both considered that it might be a bit too hot for the outdoor event. So, Gary decided to just have a pool party at his home. Gary then passed an invite on to me, noting that it would be nice for me to interact with the members in a more comfortable and laid back setting. He also felt that his District folks would probably get a kick out of seeing me there. Of course, transportation is our first concern when trying to do anything. So, I put the free lunch idea to my best half and wife, Maureen. I expected the response, especially at today's gasoline prices, to be something to the effect of, "Are you crazy?" Instead, I got a sweet smile and "sounds like a nice day's outing." Of course my "Honey Do List" is down to one last item, but heck, Gary said it was worth it. So bright and early on that Saturday, I inputted Gary's address in my GPS and it meticulously directed us, with a left here, right there, follow the Yellow Brick Road, took us in the correct directions until it announced "you have reached your destination." Having a GPS is like being a part of the trip once again. Sure do love these innovative new inventions. Anyway, Gary put together a great spread. Of course the inevitable failure to get the charcoal to light, was thought, at first, to be the party killer. However, low and behold, Gary had a brand new gas party grill sitting in his garage. So Tony Kirksey cooked his heart away and the Support Group ate their's away. It was a great idea, a fun time, and a hats off to Gary and Tony for such a wonderful way to bring a friendly atmosphere to our Blinded Veterans community. Great work Gary and Tony! If others would like to do what Gary did, talk with your VIST Coordinator about activities in which your or your VIST Support Group might be interested. Have a field trip, go bowling, or maybe play miniature golf, real golf, or horse shoes. I am planning on working with State Blind Groups that have already formed organizational activities such as these. More about that when I get additional information .
On September 12, Bill Burgess, Rick Calissi, Bill Geden, and I will be in Iowa City for the Annual BVA-VA Tee Golf Tournament. I'm not sure if there are other BV's from the FRG going but will find out when I get there. This will be my first time participating in the tournament and I look forward to writing about it in the next FRG Newsletter. Also, I look forward to seeing Northeast District BV's at the Jacksonville FRG Meeting on October 7. Have a wonderful Florida day. Paul Kaminsky, FRG President.
FRG Auxiliary President's Message: Greetings FRG Auxiliary Members! It has been awhile since we have communicated, things are moving along. I was able to represent our FRG Auxiliary at the BVA National Convention in Buffalo, New York and received a Charter for our FRG Auxiliary. When I was installed as President of the FRG Auxiliary in May, I gave all of you a challenge. That was to reach out to a lonely Blinded Veteran (BV) with a telephone call and offer to make a grocery run, a hair cut, or just to communicate. There was a BV in Port Charlotte who was so active in the BVA and now due to her ill help cannot be as active and no one calls her. She said, "no one calls a blind old lady". Our lonely BV's need you as a supporting agency. This is what we need to do. Our FRG Auxiliary Vice President Nancy Geden has developed a food pantry for needy vets and tries to contact a lonely BV each week. When you have a minute, give one a call. If you don't know any, I am sure your VIST Coordinator can give you a name. I want to hear from you so I can tell your story of helping a lonely BV. Amy, my guide dog, and I wish you well and hope life is good to you. Joyce Thornton, FRG Auxiliary President.
FRG Meeting Notice: The first meeting of the year for the Florida Regional Group will be held on Saturday, October 7 at the Holiday Inn - Commonwealth, 6802 Commonwealth Avenue in Jacksonville. Paul Kaminsky, FRG President, has made the arrangements for this meeting. It will begin at 11:30 AM with a period of socializing, followed by lunch at noon. For lunch you will have American Home Made Meatloaf with Gravy, salad, mashed Potatoes, Southern Style Green Beans, Rolls & Butter, Iced Tea or Coffee, and Dessert. The price of the lunch will be $5 per person including tax & tip.
FRG President Paul Kaminsky will preside at the meeting following lunch. A National Legislative Up-Date will be presented. A discussion will be held regarding FRG activities for the coming months. Representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs will be on hand to provide information about services and benefits for Blinded Veterans and their families. The FRG Auxiliary will also provide information about their activities.
To get to the hotel, take I 10 East or Highway 301 North to I 295. Continue East on I 295 to exit 22, which is Commonwealth Avenue. Exit there, the hotel is a short distance on your right. From the South take US 17, US 21, or I 95 north to I 295 and continue as above. From the North, take I 95 South and merge with I 295 at exit 360 B to exit 22. Keep left at fork in ramp, turn left on Commonwealth Avenue and the hotel will be on your right. Free parking is available at the hotel.
The hotel has asked us to notify them as to the number who will be attending by September 29. Please make your reservations by that date by writing to Paul Kaminsky at: 4295 Powderhorn Ct, Middleburg, FL 32068 or call Paul at (904) 291-0576 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also make your reservations by calling: Bruce Davis, VIST Coordinator, Gainesville VAMC, at (800) 324-8387 ex. 5560, Louise DiGennaro, VIST Coordinator Jacksonville VA Outpatient Clinic, at: (904) 232-2751 ex 3015, or Judy Hayes, VIST Coordinator Lake City VAMC at: (386) 755-3016 ex. 2088. Although the cost of the meal to you is only $5, each meal guaranteed will cost the FRG over $14. If you make a reservation and can't come, please call Paul Kaminsky and cancel it by October 4. Otherwise the FRG will have to pay over $14 for each meal guaranteed, including those unused.
US Legislative Up-Date: The BVA had 3 provisions before this session of Congress. House Concurrent Resolution 235 and Senate Concurrent Resolution 71 requests all state governments to add information about the White Cane Law in their Driver's Manuals. It also requests the states to include questions regarding the White Cane Law on all Driver's Licensing Exams. HConR 235 has passed the House. SConR 71 has been favorably reported out by the Transportation Committee. When Congress reconvenes on September 5, Senator Stevens will place it on the Unanimous Consent docket which will automatically pass it if there is no descent. This should be a successful completion of the BVA efforts.
S 1182 has passed the Senate and includes funding for 35 BROS positions over the next 3 years. HR 3579 a similar bill is being held up in the House by Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Steve Buyer. All Florida Representatives on the Veterans Affairs Committee have co-sponsored this measure. Tom Bampiere, BVA Director of Governmental Relations, is working with Representatives from around the country to urge Chairman Buyer to report HR 3579 out of the Committee. Florida BV's should call the District Offices of their Representatives and urge their support for this measure. time is short.
HR 2963 the Paired Organ Bill of 2006, has 81 co-sponsors but is also being held up by House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Buyer. The present VA Regulation permits a veteran with service connected blindness in one eye to receive compensation for the other eye if the veteran loses vision in the NSC eye. However, when the law was passed in 1961 establishing the paired organ eligibility, it did not describe blindness. Consequently, the VA requires the veteran to have blindness rated at 5/200 or less in the service connected eye ands 5/200 in the NSC eye in order to get compensated for both eyes. If passed and agreed upon by the Senate, HR 2963 would specify blindness as 20/200 as accepted by Social Security and all 50 states. Chairman Buyer has sent a request to the Disability Compensation and Benefits Commission questioning the present Paired Organ process. Tom Zampiere will testify before the Disability Compensation and Benefits Commission on September 14 regarding HR 2963. In January a new session of Congress will be opened. Consequently, If these measures are not passed by December, they will expire. Tom Z is presently making contacts for the session next year.
BVA National Convention up-Date: The 61 BVA National Convention was held at the Adams Mart Hotel in Buffalo, New York, August 15-20. A large number of Blinded Veterans, family members, and friends enjoyed the Convention activities and the hospitality of the New York Regional Group. In addition, 140 VA Blind Rehab Service Staff (BRC Chiefs, VIST, BROS, etc) participated in the in-service training during the Convention.
The BVA Board of Directors met prior to the start of the Convention. It completed the Board's Annual Report to the membership and a proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2007. At the opening Business Meeting on Wednesday morning, the membership accepted the Board's Annual Report and the proposed FY 2007 budget. At the Business Meeting on Saturday, the membership approved 1 By-Law Amendment and 47 Resolutions to guide the BVA's operation during the coming year. The following BV's were elected Officers for the coming year: President - Larry Belote, South Texas; Vice President - Dr. Norman Jones , Georgia; Secretary - Dr. Sidney Ordway, South Texas; Treasurer - Ronald White, New York.
The Convention closed with the Awards Banquet on Saturday evening. Randy Green of the South Texas Regional Group was presented with the Major General Melvin J. Maas Achievement Award. Randy is a World War II BV who worked many years as a counselor for the Texas Services for the Blind. Later, he was the Chief of the Blind Rehab Center at the Waco VAMC before ending his career as VIST Coordinator at the Houston VAMC. Donnie Haynes was presented with the Irving Diener Award for his work with the North Carolina Regional Group. The North Carolina Regional Group received the Gold Gavel Award for the largest numerical increase in membership for the past year and the El Paso Regional Group received the Silver Gavel Award for the largest percentage increase in membership. Again this year as last, two of the four Sweepstakes winners were from the Florida Regional Group. Congratulations Willie and Ben.
FRG Auxiliary Barbara Stocking Scholarship Program: At the FRG State Convention in Daytona Beach in May, the FRG Auxiliary named their Scholarship Program after Barbara Stocking who was involved in starting the Auxiliary Scholarship Programs and is Past President of the National and FRG Auxiliary. The FRG Auxiliary will offer two $1000 scholarships to the spouse or child of a Florida Blinded Veterans for the 2007-2008 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 Peg Toomey, at: 6955 Awawa Court, North Port, FL 34287 or call Peg at (941) 423-9298. Completed application materials must be received by April 15, 2007.
BVA-FRG Meeting Schedule
October 7 FRG meeting Holiday Inn commonwealth in Jacksonville
November 11 FRG meeting Whiskey Creek Country Club, Ft. Myers
December 2 FRG meeting Bill Irle's Restaurant, Clearwater
January 6 FRG meeting Quality Inn in Ocala
?? Proposed FRG meetings in Orlando & Tampa not scheduled
March 3 FRG Meeting Elks Club in Oakland Park
May 4-6 FRG State Convention Plaza Ocean Club Hotel in Daytona
August 14-19 BVA National Convention, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Paul Kaminsky FRG President
Joyce Thornton FRG Auxiliary President
George Stocking Editor