3801 Coco Grove Avenue  
Miami, Florida 33133
NEWSLETTER - January, 2007



FRG President's Message:  It’s the start of a brand new year, and another birthday to look forward to.  Yeah! Sure, more birthdays!  With the New Year we look also forward to the BVA-FRG state convention held May 4 to 6 in Daytona Beach. Information on the state convention will be delivered in other newsletters, but it brings up something I really feel necessary to discuss. The BVA-FRG is managed by a small group of elected volunteers who feel compelled to expend their time, talents and at times even personal treasure to keep the Association’s momentum and viability strong and meaningful.
The current and/or potential pool of managers to perform the necessary objectives to keep the Association’s mission statement from being simply a statement, but in fact a working reality is not a very deep pool.  If we are looking for members committed to ascend to the top management positions, I know you all realize the depth of that pool is even less.  One of the Association’s biggest problems, and this includes BVA National is knowledge of the intrinsic workings, history, organizational structure, and the myriad of normal complexities always associated with any business and let us not forget having to deal with the variety of individual personalities.  Heck, even writing this newsletter can be a huge deterrent to some; I know it was for me, but these things can be dealt with much less frustration than that which we have to deal with daily over our visual impairment!   
I joined this Association in 1997, shortly after retiring from the military.  The net worth of the Association immediately convinced me that individual participation was necessary for the Association to be a continued benefit for the blinded veteran community that it served.  I became involved as a District Director, and more so as a member of the membership committee I went, throughout the state, luncheon-to-luncheon promoting life membership participation.  I had articles publish locally in the FRG newsletter, and nationally in the BVA BULLETIN.  One of the articles, “Why the BVA”, precipitated the ideal that there were blinded veterans, in our state, that were completely unaware of their VA entitlements.  That was my initial focus.
Later on I realized that another role of the BVA is to also be an active advocacy partner, and concern itself with issues relative to and affecting our blinded veteran community.   In order to be and effective advocacy partner, the larger the group you represent, the louder will be your voice.  Therefore my next motivational approach was to not only connect blinded veterans with their state and federal resources, but hopefully inspire them to become a life member so to increase the volume of the voice and in doing so strengthen the advocacy role of the BVA and BVA-FRG.
The next evolutionary platform was realizing that our source of operational funds is mainly and directly relative to an apportionment received from BVA National’s Life Membership Fund.  Every penny paid toward Life Membership dues are deposited into this fund.  The principle is not touched, and the interest/dividends from this fund are apportioned back to regional groups in good standing based on their percentage of life members.  So in reality dues paid to a life membership status, are essentially perpetual donations gifted for one’s lifetime and beyond.  A gift that keeps on giving.
Now to briefly summarize, initial goals were to connect blinded veterans to their entitlements, then added membership to assist an advocacy role, and next came life membership strength which affected a personal contribution from each life member to the operational funding for the BVA-FRG to achieve their mission.  You might think that the evolution might have reach pinnacle ascent.  But as we all know, evolution is a gradual and continual process.  Therefore now is the time to discuss the depth of the pool available to draw future leaders from.  I am probably one of the few members that have had the opportunity to attend three separate BVA National leadership-training seminars.  One seminar was in a physical classroom, and the other two where held in a virtual classroom, via the Internet.  Last year while a part of the BVA National Board of Directors I was a part of the committee to review and update the BVA’s Regional Group Manual.  The Regional Group Manual was drafted and approved by the BVA National Board of Directors in 1999, and is a wealth of information.  I have taken the liberty to split the manual into course sections, and added a review quiz at the end of each section.  Presently the Central East District Director and his Assistants have been tasked with critical review of the prototype project.  When finished I hope to have a viable source by which to provide no cost leadership training to our membership.  
Hopefully having this historical and operational knowledge will relieve many from the fear of seeking and fulfilling a notion to step into one of the management roles of our Association.  Also I believe that the added knowledge will help make the FRG more visible and promote public credibility.  As the knowledge base increases, I also hope membership will increase, and in such there will be a greater pool of dedicated persons to accept the challenge of leading the FRG into a successful future.
So now the evolutionary process has transformed to seek and connect blinded veterans to their entitlements, increase membership to assist an advocacy role, encourage life membership participation so to create perpetual donations to help meet operational expenses, and now increase membership and functional knowledge base so to increase the viability potential of a sustaining pool of a future management force.  To say the least, a continuing work in progress!  Remember my phone number is 9040-291-0576.   Ideas are welcomed.  Additionally, if you want to step up to the plate and seek to fill one of the 9 elected officer positions, do give me a call, or email me at; same applies if all you want to become is an assistant to one of our District Directors.  Our Association needs self-starters, so start by stepping up to the plate!
On a separate note, at our last luncheon I was asked how one could make a monetary donation, and have it specifically directed to the Florida Regional Group.  To answer that question, as we are probably all aware, the FRG receives no federal funs, and our mission is accomplished through the generous support of our members, and the apportionment from the Life Membership Fund.  Therefore those that wish to remember the sacrifices of our nation’s blinded veterans through a monetary gift, may send the gift to our business address:  BVA-FRG, (ATTN: George Stocking); 3801 Coco Grove Ave, Miami, FL 33133.  Payable, BVA-FRG. 
To all, keep the mission alive and help one another to help each other.
Paul W. Kaminsky, FRG President.


FRG Auxiliary President's Message:  Now that the hussle and bustle of Christmas is behind us and we have dutifully wished everyone within our immediate area a Happy New Year, it is time to start out the New Year with our attention focused on FRG Auxiliary Scholarship Awards for 2007-2008.  Watch your letters and if your spouse or child is interested in applying for the FRG Auxiliary Scholarship please send for an application as soon as possible.  No, grand children are not eligible.  This question is asked every year.  The FRG Auxiliary is so pleased to help a person pursue their chosen career or higher education.  I hope that we receive many applications this year.

 I would also like to take this opportunity to wish all of you a Happy New Year and will looking forward to seeing you at the luncheon meeting at the MacDill Air Force Base Enlisted Club in February.  I am still asking you in this New Year to contact a lonely Blinded Veteran, either by telephone or a visit.  Don't let our Blinded Veterans sit alone waiting for the door bell or telephone to ring.  Let me know your story when you have reached one of our vets who live alone..  Joyce Thornton, FRG Auxiliary President.    


FRG Meeting Notice:  The next meeting of the Florida Regional Group will be held on Saturday February 10, at the Enlisted Club at the MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa.  Due to scheduling problems at the Enlisted Club, the meeting will be the second Saturday in February this year.  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, Potatoes, Vegetables, Rolls & Butter, Iced Tea or Coffee, and Dessert.  The price of the lunch will be $5 per person, including tax and tip.  FRG President Paul Kaminsky will preside at the meeting following lunch.  VA Representatives will be on hand to provide information about services and benefits of interest to BV's and their families.  FRG activities for the remainder of the year will be discussed.  Information about the FRG Auxiliary will be presented. 


IMPORTANT!  IMPORTANT!  Security has been significantly tightened at the MacDill Air Force Base where we will hold the next meeting of the Florida Regional Group.  As a result, no one will be admitted to the base who has not previously been cleared.  Individuals with valid Military ID cards will be admitted.  Otherwise, one of the following information items must be provided in advance, for each person attending, so that BV's and their guests can be admitted to the base:  1.  Full name with middle initial, Social Security number and date of birth;  2.  Driver's license number, full name, and state issued;  3.  Non driver's Identification number with full name and state of issue.  This is a tightened security requirement.  Below you will find the names and phone numbers of the individuals taking reservations and ID information.  Please give one of the above indicated ID information, along with the type of luncheon desired, so that we can provide the required information to the security guards and to the Enlisted  Club. 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 7.  Please make your reservations prior to that date by writing to Central West District Director   Bill Geden at:  622 East Foresthill Place, Hernando, FL 34442 or by calling Bill at:  (352) 341-6875.  In addition, you may call Charles Nieberding, Tampa VAMC VIST Coordinator, at: (813) 631-7140 or Jody Teper, Bay Pines VIST Coordinator at (727) 398-6661 ex 4516.  You may also call in Newport Richey James Bennett at:  (727) 372-6022; or in Punta Gorda, Terry King at (941) 505-7747.  The restaurant needs the reservation information in order to prepare properly for our meeting. Please enter the MacDill AFB Main Gate at the South Dale Mabray Highway entrance.  Dale Mabray Highway is a North to South main artery which may be accessed from I 275 at exit 23 B.  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 I 4, 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 10.  Please join us there.


National Legislative Up-Date:   Prior to adjourning on the morning of December 16, the 109 Congress pass a package of veterans legislation.  Since the House never voted on HR 3579 the BVA Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialist (BROS), we were

concerned that it would not make it through this session of Congress.  BVA's Government Affairs Director Tom Zampiere worked hard with the Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees staff to get our BROS bill added to the package.  When the smoke cleared and Congress had left Washington, it was learned that our BROS measure was included in that package of legislation.  The package authorized the VA to add at least 35 new BROS positions over the next 3 years and authorized $3.5 million for each year through FY 2012 for this purpose.  Since the VA is being funded through a Continuing Resolution (CR) through February 15, the 110 Congress will have to complete the appropriation measures for most of the government organizations including the VA. It is uncertain if the Appropriation Committee will fund the package of legislation passed at the end of the 109 Congress.  In addition, there is uncertainty as to how and when the 35 new BROS will be appointed.  Watch for additional information on this matter in future BVA Bulletins and FRG Newsletters.  


Florida Total Homestead Tax Exemption Reminder:  It's 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 Florida's 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 Appraiser's 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 Appraiser's 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 $23,463 in 2006.  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 possible that there will be a small increase for 2007.  To qualify, obtain a statement from two Florida licensed Ophthalmologists  stating that you are legally blind.  Take the statement to your County Tax appraiser's Office before March 1st.  You will be required to certify your income annually to maintain the Total Homestead Tax  Exemption under FS 196.101.

 In Memoriam:  It is with sadness that we report the death of Donald Cummings, the BVA Field Service Representative for the Southeast for the past five years.  Don entered the Army during the Vietnam era after completing school in his native Kentucky.  Later, when his vision resulted in his being legally blind, he operated the BVA Volunteer Office in Louisville for a number of years.  When Norman Jones retired as the BVA Field Service Representative in Atlanta, Don was hired to fill that position.  Although Don had to be on dialysis for the last few years, he continued to work full time in that position.  Funeral services were held for Don in his home area.  We extend our sincere sympathy to Don's family. 


BV's Poem:  by Robert Reed 

          Out of sight;  Out of mind;  That's not true if you are blind.         

          I recognize your presence, dear;  Always sense when you are not here;

          The soothing comfort of a touch;  Little things that mean so much;

          How you mean the world to me;  Knowing THAT I cannot see.    


Remember to make your reservation for the February 10 meeting at MacDill by calling one of the individuals listed above before February 7 and provide the necessary identification information for each person attending. 

FRG-BVA Meeting Schedule

February 10                             FRG Meeting at the Madill AFB Enlisted Club in Tampa

March 3                                  FRG Meeting at the Flaming Pit Restaurant in Pompano Beach.

May 4-6                                  FRG State Convention Plaza Ocean Club Hotel in Daytona

August 14-19                         BVA National Convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico