VETERANS ASSOCIATION (BVA)
FLORIDA REGIONAL GROUP, INC.
3801 Coco Grove Avenue
Miami, Florida 33133
FRG NEWSLETTER, August, 2007
FRG President's Message: After the FRG State Convention, I headed up to Birmingham to attend the Blind Rehab Center Annual Alumni Reunion and played in their golf tournament. Love the game and would have had the longest drive on one of their par 5 holes, that is, if the ball had been in the correct fairway. Since my sighted partner was busy talking and forgot to point me in the right direction, they let me hit another shot. Of course, it didn't go as far as the first one. It was nice to be able to mix playing golf, seeing old friends, and getting to sit down and talk with the Blind Rehab Staff Members about some of the new technology available to us. Sue Martin and Lynn Hedle even held special classes on a Saturday answering questions about computer access soft ware and portable scanning devices. It was a well organized and fun experience I plan on repeating next year. Speaking of golf, for those golfers that are out there, the Iowa TEE Tournament is coming up September 10th to the 14th. If you haven't filled out an application and want to go, you can contact Kirk Sickels, VA's National Blinded Veteran TEE Tournament Coordinator at (319) 339-7104, to see if there are more openings available. It's a first come first served event, but there is always an enjoyable time had by all who attend. July 1st, Bill Burgess, FRG Northeast District Director, Bill Geden, FRG Central West Director, and myself along with our wives, headed to Tarpon Springs. US Representative Gus Bilirakis held his first Annual Military Day /Fair and invited representatives from all veterans service organizations. The intent of the fair was to involve the multitude of veterans service organizations in an interaction with the Representative's areas veteran community. Approximately 2000 people showed up at the event. We were assigned a table to set up our display and BVA literature. Once people began arriving, many people stopped by and talked to us and as seems the norm, not many knew of the BVA nor the benefits or entitlements afforded to Blinded Veterans. In addition to the Congressman, Guest Speakers included Rear Admiral Collins, who was our Guest Speaker at our State Convention Installation Banquet, and Tony Orlando, without song. Apparently Tony Orlando is a huge veteran advocate. During his lecture, he noted that on his first USO tour with Bob Hope, he came off the stage after singing his Tie A Ribbon Around The Old Oak Tree song, and Mr. Hope came up to him with his arms crossed over his chest and said, " Better get used to singing that song, because you're going to be singing it for a very long time! Little did Mr. Orlando know that he'd still be singing it over 40 years later. At the end of the lecture, he knew that the audience was waiting for him to sing the song. He said that he didn't bring his band and he doesn't do Karaoke, but that he did a mean lip sink. He told the sound guy to hit the play button on the CD player and pump up the volume. After he finished the song, he stayed around just to talk and sign autographs. Bill and Nancy Geden worked their way up to talk with Tony and Bill gave him one of our newly commissioned BVA-FRG lapel pins, which we will be selling at our luncheon meetings. Tony accepted it gladly and told Bill that he does a show every year at Branson, Missouri on Veterans Day and that he'll be wearing the pin during that show. Then, Tony turned to Nancy and gave her a big kiss. Tony signed my BVA Ball Cap and no! I didn't get a kiss. Last notes: Fishermen in the West Palm Beach area, Simon Buchsbaum is working with local boat captains who are willing to take Blinded Veterans out on fishing trips. Call Simon for details at: (561) 684-9643. Lakeland area: Bob Fick has monthly lunches with his area Blinded Veterans. If you are in the Lakeland area and want to join Bob and the group there for lunch, give Bob a call at: (863) 853-1139. Keep the mission alive and help one another to help each other. See you soon. Paul W. Kaminsky, FRG President (904) 291-0576
FRG Meeting Notice: The next Informational Meeting of the Florida Regional Group will be held on Saturday, September 1, at the Rosen Plaza Hotel 9700 International Drive in Orlando. Kirk Harmon has made the arrangements and invited the speakers for this meeting. He has arranged for an Air Force Color Guard to present the colors and for a volunteer VFW band to play for the group prior to the luncheon. The meeting will begin with a period of socializing at 11:30 AM, followed by lunch at noon. Let's make it a memorable event. For lunch, you may have Sliced Sirloin of Beef with Roasted Garlic Potatoes or Breast of Chicken Picatta with Angel Hair Pasta and House Salad, Mixed Vegetables, Coffee or Iced Tea and Double Chocolate Cake or Fruit Bowl. 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. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer will greet the group. Our second Guest Speaker will be Timothy Liecert, Project Director for the proposed Orlando VA Medical Center. Representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs will be on hand to provide information about services and benefits of interest to BV's and their families. A National Legislative Up-Date will be presented. Future FRG activities will be discussed. Information about the FRG Auxiliary will be presented. Kirk Harmon is attempting to make transportation arrangements for those who need it. Call Kirk, at the number below, for information about transportation alternatives. Arrangements have been made for a block of 10 rooms at the hotel, at $69 per night for Friday and/or Saturday nights. If you are coming from out of town and wish to stay over night call the hotel at (407) 996-1703 and make a reservation giving the BVA-FRG as the organization which made the arrangements.
The hotel has asked us to notify them as to the number who will be attending and the type of lunch desired by August28. Please make your reservations prior to that date by writing to Kirk Harmon at 1031 Lenmore Court, Orlando, FL 32812, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (407) 380-3371, cell (407) 404-0001. You may also make your reservation by calling Rick Cassidy (407)877-8448 or Ralph Ingram (407) 351-1922. In the Daytona Beach area, call David Dixon (386) 760-3180 or VIST Coordinator Teresa Sanchez at: (386) 323-7528. Please give the name of each person who will attend and the choice of meal desired. The restaurant needs the reservation information in order to prepare properly for our meeting.
To get to the Rosen Plaza Hotel from Tampa and the Gulf Coast, take I 4 East to exit 72, take 528 East (Bee line Expressway) to exit no. 1- International Drive. Turn right on International Drive, the Rosen Plaza will be on your left after the Convention Center. From Daytona or the East Coast, take I 4 and continue as above. From the North or South on the Turnpike, go to exit 259. Take I 4 West to exit 72 and continue as above. Note: The Orlando Convention Center is between the Rosen Plaza Hotel and the Rosen Center Hotel. Our meeting is in the Rosen Plaza, so be sure you have the correct hotel. The last meeting in Orlando in 2005 was held at the Rosen Center, so be sure to get the correct hotel. Free Parking is available in a parking garage behind the hotel. Check with your fellow Blinded veterans, family members, and friends and make plans to join us in Orlando on Saturday, September 1. We look forward to meeting you there.
National Legislative Up-Date: Tom Zampiere, BVA Director of Government Affairs, has worked with the Appropriations Committees in Congress and has succeeded in getting $10 million added to the supplementary appropriation for Blind Rehabilitation in the FY 2007 appropriation bill. This should help implement the establishing of new BROS positions in selected VA stations around the US
Presently, the BVA is working with Congress on our Paired Organ Bills (HR 797 & S1163). Under present VA regulations, BV's with service connected blindness rated at 5/200 in one eye who later incur non SC vision loss in the other eye may receive comp as if both eyes are service connected. However, those regulations require that both eyes be rated at 5/200 or less to qualify. The BVA Paired Organ Bill would permit veterans in that situation with visual impairment of 20/200 or less to qualify for comp as if both eyes were service connected. With the exception of the VA almost all other governmental organizations consider 20/200 to be the legal description of blindness. Passage of this measure would bring the VA into consistency with other government organizations. If passed, it might also have an effect on other VA benefits. The BVA measure (HR 797) passed the full House on a vote of 414 to 0. The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee has passed S 1163. If the Senate will get away from political grumbling and pass some legislation, we have a good chance of having S 1163 passed.
Adaptive Housing Grant: Just after WW II, Congress passed legislation establishing an Adaptive Housing Grant for service connected wheelchair veterans, now Section 2101 A. In addition to paralyzed veterans and double leg amputee veterans, the 2101 A grant was also available to Blinded Veterans with one leg amputation. The grant provided half of the cost of purchasing or renovating an existing home, up to $10,000 , to make it wheelchair accessible. That was a one time grant. If the veteran did not use all of the $10,000, he/she could not request additional renovations later. That grant has remained in effect for 60 years but due to inflation it has been increased and is now $50,000. In 1979, while your Newsletter Editor was BVA National President, I met with Mack Fleming, then Chief Counsel for the House Veterans Affairs Committee and his staff regarding services and benefits for Blinded Veterans. During that meeting, Max Cleland, then head of the VA called to request that the House Veterans Affairs Committee sponsor legislation to provide a smaller Adaptive Housing Grant to double hand amputee veterans. Mr. Cleland suggested a $7500 grant. After that call, Mack Fleming asked us about the proposal. We suggested that Blinded Veterans be included in the grant and that the House push for passage. In 1980, Congress passed legislation establishing a $5000 Adaptive Housing Grant (2101 B) for Blinded Veterans and double hand amputee veterans. For BV's the grant was generally used for special lighting for those BV's with residual vision, for sliding doors, and most often to add a room to house the BV's adaptive equipment. It too was a one time grant. During the past 27 years, the 2101 B grant has been increased to $10,000.
In 2006, the one time nature of the 2101 A and 2101 B grants was brought to the attention of the Veterans Affairs Committees. The original discussion was concerned with the one time nature of the grant. It was anticipated that congress might permit eligible veterans who did not use all of their original grant to use the difference. As it evolved, Congress went much further than most of us anticipated. When Congress passed PL 109-233, not only did it remove the one time nature of those grants, as written it will permit individuals to used the difference between their original and its present level. According to Patrick Arnold of the VA Central Office Adaptive Housing Unit, a WW II or Korean veteran who used all $10,000 of the original grant may go back and request to use the remaining $40,000 of the present Section 2101 A $50,000 grant. If a Blinded Veteran or double hand amputee used the $5000 from the original Section 2101 B grant, they may now apply for an additional $5000. When PL 109-233 was passed there was considerable confusion regarding the nature of the change. It appears that there is still some confusion. If you have basic eligibility for either the 2101 A or 2101 B grant, contact Dennis Thompson at the VARO Adaptive Housing Unit for information. You may reach Mr. Thompson directly by calling (727) 319-7602. If you call the (800) 827-1000 number the Adaptive Housing Unit is under the Home Loan Guarantee Department.
Although this should not be a deterrent for you to check out the matter, Congress presently is considering legislation to increase the Section 2101 A grant to $60,000 and the Section 2101 B grant to $12,000. Congress may or may not pass this bill this year.
Remember to mark your calendar for Saturday, September 1, so that you, your family members, and friends, may attend the FRG meeting at the Rosen Plaza Hotel in Orlando. Be sure to call those listed above and make your reservations, before August 28. If you make a reservation and can't come, please call and cancel your reservation before August 28. The FRG will pay $15 for each meal we guarantee. So, we don't want to pay for meals not used. Join us in Orlando on September 1 for an informative, interesting, and enjoyable afternoon.
BVA and FRG Meeting Schedule
August 14-19 BVA National Convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico
September 1 FRG meeting Rosen Plaza Hotel in Orlando
October 6 FRG meeting in Jacksonville
November 3 FRG meeting Porto Bello Restaurant in Ft. Myers
December 1 FRG meeting in Clearwater
January 5 FRG meeting at the Quality Inn in Ocala.
Paul Kaminsky FRG President
George Stocking Newsletter Editor