3801 Coco Grove Avenue  
Miami, Florida 33133
 FRG NEWSLETTER, September, 2007


           FRG President's Message:   Local social activities are great fun, especially when it's among a fellow ship of persons with the same visual problems.  I'm typing this message input as my wife, Ron Mackey and me are driving back from Ocala, Florida.  We drove down to participate in an annual bowling outing set up by Bruce Davis, Gainesville VAMC VIST Coordinator.  Bruce makes the arrangements, seeks funding, and makes it a very enjoyable time for those Blinded Veterans in his service area.  Seems there were enough participants that we used 14 lanes.  I know that transportation is a great issue, but it is essential that we participate or even more so see that other members within our Blinded Veterans community have access to some of these external activities.  By the time this hits your mailbox, the BVA National Convention will be over and we'll be into our monthly Informational Luncheons.  The dates and location of the luncheons through the Ocala luncheon on Saturday, January 5 were listed in the FRG August Newsletter.  The schedule also can be found on the FRG web site at:  I really don't know how to inspire all of our members to attend these state wide  luncheons, but one would think in part the $5 cost for the lunch would be somewhat of a teaser to have lunch with a bunch of friends.  In the last Newsletter, I talked about some of our Blinded Veterans who organized local activities, such as monthly luncheons or fishing trips.  Those types of activities can be a spin-off from our monthly Informational Luncheons.  If persons would like to have monthly or quarterly lunches in their area, they could come to these scheduled annual ones and find out who lives in their local area.  Pass around your business card and get together if only just to talk out some of the tools used to improve your quality of life and lessen the frustration that seems to be associated with vision loss.  There was no reference to sitting around talking about problems and frustrations because the focus should always be on the positive and the fixes found that lessen those frustrations.  Remember my home telephone number is (904) 291-0576.  If you want to pass out word to your local area folks during any of the luncheons, just give me a call and I'll see that we allocate the time to give persons that opportunity to talk to the assembled group.  I guess the reason I continually harp on the social aspects of the FRG is that through this social interaction more and more Blinded Veterans hear about the Blinded Veterans Association.  They also find out about benefits, entitlements, and most important, the ways other BV's live with their visual impairment.  Not all of those in our Blinded Veteran community have any access to a VIST Coordinator who runs routine support group meetings.  There is no reason why ourselves can't unite together to set up local support groups.  The FRG has elected Officers and District Directors.  Leaders of these local support groups can refer concerns or problems solutions back to respective District Directors, VIST Coordinators or even call directly to the FRG President.  We're all in the same boat, so we should all be rowing in the same direction.  Speaking of District Directors, since our last Newsletter, there has been a change in the Central East District Director.  David Dixon of Port Orange has stepped up to the plate to take on the responsibilities of District Director.  I would like to take this opportunity to welcome him.  David will be an outstanding asset to our group and we look forward to working with him, as I know you all will, too.  As always keep the mission alive and help one another to help each other.  See you soon.  Paul W. Kaminsky, FRG President.  (904) 291-0576.   


          FRG Auxiliary President's Message:  Hello, fellow Auxiliary members.  It seems that the lazy days of summer are going by very fast and they are not so lazy.  Vacations, trips, family get-togethers and other obligations seem to make the time go much too fast.  We will be preparing for the busy season of fall and winter before we know it.  By the time you receive this Newsletter, the BVA National Convention will be behind us.  I hope everyone who attended had a wonderful time.  It is great to get together with old friends for another year.  The meetings were informative and congratulations to the Auxiliary National President for her planning.  Her efforts made the Auxiliary members very comfortable.  I would like to take a moment to offer condolences to the family of William Hellums who passed away in July.  to his wife Carol of 55 years, we offer our support and comfort when ever you need us.  We hope you will continue to be with the Auxiliary.  You are not just a member, but a good friend.  I hope to see many of you at the monthly FRG District luncheons.  Joyce Thornton, FRG Auxiliary President and of course the two Amys, I could not function well without them.


          FRG Meeting Notice:  The next luncheon meeting of the Florida Regional Group will be held on Saturday, October 6 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 informational 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 October 3.  Please make your reservations by that date by writing to Paul Kaminsky at:  4295 Powder horn Court, Middleburg, FL 32068 or call Paul at (904) 291-0576 or email  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 3.  Otherwise the FRG will have to pay over $14 for each meal guaranteed, including those unused.


     US Legislative Up-Date:  At the writing of this Newsletter, the first session of the 110 Congress is in summer recess.  It will return after Labor Day.  As reported previously, the BVA's Blind Rehab Outpatient Specialist (BROS) bill passed at the end of the 109 Congress.  It was signed into law by President Bush on December 20.  That bill authorizes the VHA to add 35 new BROS positions over the next 30 months.  Tom Zampiere, BVA's Director   of Government Operations succeeded in getting $10.5 million added to the VA appropriation bill.  This should be sufficient to begin implementing the BROS bill around the US.  It is understood that the VA Central Office plans to start filling BROS positions at the Veteran Integrated Service Networks (VISN) where there is presently no BROS.  Then when each of the 21 VISN's has at least one BROS, the remaining BROS positions will be located at Medical Centers which have a large number of Blinded Veterans and presently do not have a BROS. 


          During the 110 Congress, the BVA is working on two legislative initiatives.  One was introduced in the 109 Congress but not passed.  HR 797 ,we refer to as the Paired Organ Bill.  Presently, a veteran with service connected blindness in one eye who later injures his/her NSC blindness in the other eye could receive comp as if both eyes were service connected.  However, under present VA Regulations, the VA requires that vision be 5/200 or less  in both eyes to qualify.  HR 797 would change that acuity to 20/200 as is used by most governmental organizations as the legal description of blindness.  HR 7797 passed the full House 416 to 0.  Its companion bill S 1163 was introduced into the Senate by Senator Akaka, Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  It has passed the Veterans Affairs Committee but has not yet been considered by the full Senate.  While Congress is in recess Tom Zampiere is working with the Senate staff to get S 1163 before the full Senate when Congress returns in September.


          Presently, there is a shortage of Blind Rehab Specialist.  At the BVA's request, HR 1240 has been introduced into the House.  Its companion bill S 1672 has been introduced into the Senate.  If passed those measures would provide scholarships up to $12,000 for VA employees to take the necessary training to qualify as BROS.  In return, those receiving the scholarships would have to work for the VA as a BROS for at least 3 years.  This is a method of providing a pool of candidates as BROS positions come open.


          Tom Zampiere and BVA Executive Director Tom Miller have visited Blinded Veterans at both Walter Reed and the Bethesda Naval Hospital.  There appears to be no accurate accounting of the number of Blinded Veterans from Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) or Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF).  Further, there is no way to track those Blinded Veterans nor the OIF-OEF veterans who have suffered blindness in one eye or who have suffered visual impairment as a result of Traumatic Brained Injury (TBI).  Tom Zampiere is working with the Department of Defense Medical Staff in an attempt to establish a registry of OIF-OEF veterans who have suffered significant visual impairments as a result of their service.  Just before Congress recessed, four Senators introduced an amendment to the Department of Defense (DOD) Appropriations bill requiring the DOD to establish a Military Center of Excellence for service members who have suffered vision trauma as a result of their OIF-OEF service.  It also requires the DOD to establish a registry of all service members with such visual trauma so that future vision problems can be evaluated according to the injuries they suffered as a result of their OIF-OEF service.


          Last year, the BVA started Operation Peer Support (OPS).  Tom Zampiere raised money from a number of companies to bring  blind OIF-OEF blind service men to the BVA Convention in Buffalo.  This year, additional funding was secured and 18 blind OIF-OEF service men and family members attended the BVA Convention in Albuquerque.  Many of these men are still on active duty completing their medical treatment before separation from the military.  The OPS program was started to assist them and their families in  beginning their adjustment to blindness.       


          FRG Auxiliary Scholarship:  Again for 2008-2009, the FRG Auxiliary Barbara Stocking Scholarship Program will offer two $1000 Scholarships for the children or spouse of a Florida Blinded Veteran.  The Scholarship may be used at a vocational or trade school, community college or university for tuition, books and fees.  Watch for the announcement letter which will be sent out in January.


          Remember to make your reservation for the FRG meeting in Jacksonville on Saturday, October 6 by calling the individuals listed above by October 3.  Please join us for an enjoyable and informative afternoon.


BVA-FRG Meeting Schedule


          October 6                      FRG meeting Holiday Inn commonwealth in Jacksonville

November 3                            FRG meeting Porto Bello Restaurant in Punta Gorda.

December 1                                      FRG meeting Bill Irle's Restaurant in Clearwater

January 5                                  FRG meeting Quality Inn in Ocala

February ?                                Proposed FRG meetings in Tampa

March ?                                    Proposed FRG Meeting in Ft. Lauderdale area

April ?                                      Proposed FRG meeting in Pensacola

May 2-4                                    FRG State Convention Plaza Ocean Club Hotel in Daytona

August 12-17                          BVA National Convention, In Phoenix, Arizona

Newsletter Staff

Paul Kaminsky                                FRG President

Joyce Thornton                        FRG Auxiliary President

George Stocking                         Editor