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


FRG President's Message:  In the last FRG Newsletter, I reviewed the operation of the FRG and its need for Blinded Veterans to become active in our organization and take up leadership roles.  Now is the time to discuss the depth of the pool available from which to draw future leaders.  I am probably one of the few BV's that have had the opportunity to attend 3 BVA National Leadership Seminars.  One Seminar was in a physical Classroom and the other two were 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 Regional Group Manual.  The present 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 add a review quiz at the end of each section.  Presently, the Central East District Director and his Assistants have been tasked with the responsibility to conduct a 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 of the fear of seeking and fulfilling a notion to step into one of the managements 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 the 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 members to assist in the advocacy role, encourage Life Membership participation so to create a perpetual donation to help meet operational expenses. In addition to increase membership and functional knowledge base so to increase the viability of a sustaining pool of a future management pool force.  To say the least, this is  a continuing work in progress!  Remember, my telephone number is: (904) 291-0576.  Ideas are welcome.  Additionally, if you want to step up to the plate and seek to fill one of the 9 elective positions, please give me a call or email me at:  The 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 funds and our mission is accomplished by 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 to our business address:  BVA-FRG (attn: George Stocking) 3801 Coco Grove Avenue, Miami FL 33133.  Make the check payable to the 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:  I would like to take this opportunity to which all of the Auxiliary members and the BV's a Happy Valentine's Day.  Perhaps if you have access to a VA Hospital, you might take some Valentine treats to the veterans who are receiving inpatient care.  A Happy Smile, a Valentine Treat, and good wishes are always the best medicine.  By Now you should have received your FRG Auxiliary Scholarship letters.  For your information, 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 Nancy Geden at: 622 East Foresthill Place, Hernando, FL 34442 or call Nancy at:(352) 341-6875.  Completed application materials must be received by April 15, 2007.  Please respond in time, so the Committee can have time to evaluate your request.  The winners of the Scholarships will be announced at the FRG State Convention in Daytona Beach in May.  This year is going by fast.  It seems as soon as the new year is born, it goes faster than ever.  Make your plans to attend the FRG State Convention, May 4-6.  It is fun and we get to know each other.  See you there.  However, first the FRG will hold a meeting in Pompano Beach on March 3 so try to make that meeting also.  If you ever need to talk to me, I'm going to give you my telephone number and e mail address.  It is: (239) 433-7722, e mail  Take care and do something special for yourself.    Joyce Thornton, FRG Auxiliary President.


FRG Meeting Notice:  The  next meeting of the Florida Regional Group will be held on Saturday, March 3, at the Flaming Pit Restaurant, 1150 North Federal Highway, Pompano Beach.  The meeting will begin at 11:30 AM, with a period of socializing, followed by lunch at  noon.  For lunch, you may select from Broasted Chicken or Chopped Sirloin Steak 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 Paul Kaminsky 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 February 28.  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 FRG Southeast District Director Paul Mimms, West Palm Beach VAMC VIST Coordinator  at:  (561) 422-5260.  You may also make your reservations by calling:  Roberta Goldstein, Miami VAMC VIST Coordinator, at (305) 575-7000 ex 3607 or April Barnes , Oakland Park VA Outpatient Clinic VIST Coordinator, at:  (954) 229-7791.  Please be sure to make your reservations before February 28, as the restaurant needs this information in order to plan properly for our meeting.  Paul Mimms and Roberta Goldstein are attempting to arrange transportation to the meeting from Palm Beach and Miami-Dade Counties, respectively.  Generally, such transportation leaves from the West Palm Beach and Miami VAMC.  If you need such transportation, contact Paul or Roberta.  


To get to the Flaming Pit Restaurant, take I 95 North or South to Atlantic Blvd.  Go East 1.5 miles to Federal Highway (US 1), then turn left (North).  Go 1 mile on Federal Highway.  The Flaming Pit Restaurant is on the right side of the street.  Parking is available adjacent to the building.  Please mark March 3 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:  For a number of years, the BVA, under the leadership of Executive Director Tom Miller and Government Affairs Director Tom Zampiere, has worked with Congress and the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), to improve services to visually impaired and  Blinded Veterans.  Several years ago, Dr. Garthwaite, then Under Secretary for Health and head of VHA, set up the Visual Impairment Advisory Board (VIAB).  The VIAB was charged with developing a plan for services for visually impaired and Blinded Veterans for the future.  Tom Miller represented the BVA and played a key role in establishing a Continuum of Care for visually impaired and Blinded Veterans for the coming years.  Tom Zampiere has been using that Continuum of Care in pushing the VHA and Congress to implement the VIAB's recommendation.  The BVA's bill to expand the number of BROS throughout the Country was part of that plan.  Although our BROS bill was never considered by the House Veterans Affairs Committee, it appears that it was included into a package of bills passed by Congress just before they adjourned.  Remember, authorizing a program does not mean it will be implemented.  There must be funding to carry out the plan.  Congress should have passed appropriation measures for all government departments prior to October 1, 2006, the start of Fiscal Year  2007.  Unfortunately, Only the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security had their FY 2007 appropriation measures passed.  Congress passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) extending funding for the remaining departments at the 2006 FY level until November 18.  At that time, Congress did not address the appropriation measures and passed another CR continuing funding at the FY 2006 level until February 15.  Rumors have surfaced that the Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman is unhappy with the previous leadership and is considering passing another CR continuing funding for the remainder of FY 2007 at the FY 2006 level.  Everyone should contact their Senators and Representatives and urge them to pass appropriations for FY 2007 as they are needed to successfully operate the government.  This is particularly bad for the VHA where medical inflation runs 9% to 12% annually.  In effect, passing another CR would result in a reduction in real funs available for medical treatment and services for veterans.  The next paragraph is a quote of a press release from James Nicholson, Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs sent out on January 25, 2007.  On the surface, it sounds very good.  However, it will need funding to implement.


Today, due to the efforts of the BVA working with the VHA and Congress, the following announcement was made by James Nicholson, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, which may have significant impact on the future of VHA services for Blinded Veterans and low vision veterans.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - January 25, 2007


"DVA improves services for Blinded and Low Vision Veterans.  Washington, D.C.  More than a million visually impaired veterans will received advance health care services from the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) under a reorganization of VHA's Vision Rehabilitation Services Secretary of DVA Jim Nicholson announced today.  These veterans, many of whom had their vision damaged by their military service, have earned the best health care America can provide.  Under this new plan, we can provide all eligible visually impaired veterans with world-class health care closer to their homes.  DVA will make approximately$40 million available during the next 3 years, to establish a comprehensive nation-wide rehabilitation system for veterans and active duty personnel with visual impairments.  The system will enhance inpatient services and expand outpatient services throughout the 1400 locations where DVA provides health care.  Under the reorganization plan, each of DVA's 21 Veteran Integrated Service Networks (VISN) will implement a plan to provide eye care to veterans with visual impairments ranging from 20/70 to total blindness.  Basic low-vision services will be available at all VHA Eye Clinics and every VISN will offer immediate and advanced low-vision services, including a full spectrum of optical devices and electronic visual aids.  VHA's 10 existing inpatient Blind Rehabilitation Centers will continue to provide the Department's most intensive eye care programs, but each VISN now will also provide outpatient -  based Blind Rehabilitation care.  We intend to assure that our Visually Impaired Veterans receive appropriate care and the latest technological devices at the right time and in the best setting to meet their needs", said Dr. Michael Kussman,, VHA Acting Under Secretary for Health.  "Our goal will be early intervention. So that we can maximize the independence of these veterans and substantially reduce their dependence on their families and communities.  VHA estimates that there are more than 1 million visually impaired veterans over the age of 45 within the United States.  Within this group, approximately 157,000 are legally blind, and 1, 026,000 have low vision.  About 80% of all visually impaired veterans have a progressive disability caused by age - related macular degeneration, glaucoma, or diabetic retinopathy."  -- The BVA will inform BV's of the status of funding of this program.  It is a good first step but the funding must be there to get these programs  implemented.


Please get a group of fellow Blinded Veterans together and join us at the Flaming Pit Restaurant in Pompano Beach, on Saturday, March 3 for an informative and enjoyable afternoon.  Remember to make your reservations before February 28, by calling one of the individuals listed above.  In that way,  the restaurant may make proper arrangements for our  luncheon.  If you make a reservation and can't come, call and cancel it by February 28. 


FRG-BVA Meeting Schedule

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

April 7                                    FRG Meeting in Pensacola

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

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


Newsletter Staff

Paul Kaminsky                      FRG President

Joyce Thornton                     FRG Auxiliary President

George Stocking                   Editor