VETERANS ASSOCIATION (BVA)
FLORIDA REGIONAL GROUP, INC.
3801 Coco Grove Avenue
Miami, Florida 33133
FRG NEWSLETTER, December 2007
FRG President's Message: Dear Ambassadors (readers), how many new members did you sign up since the last Newsletter? A question arose from my last Newsletter input, having to do with getting an application for BVA membership. I had noted to either down load it from our internet web site or call me and I would mail one out to you. I for got to mention that most of our VIST Coordinators also have BVA applications in their offices, and I also forgot about an even easier way and that is to call the BVA National toll free number (800) 669-7079 and join over the telephone. There are two significant reasons for joining: 1. The larger the BVA the louder our voice; and 2. the more members we have, the better it is to keep the mission alive- "Helping One Another. one of our Blinded Veterans told me he had business cards printed up to hand out to inquiring minds and he told me where on the internet he gets the cards printed free. So, I immediately went to www.vistaprint.com and ordered some. I had to pay the postage, so it was not completely free, but it was 250 cards and they looked really professional. Much better than those I used to print out of my computer printer at home.
Switching gears, I received an email that noted the following and I thought it was worthy to pass along... The American Red Cross has announced that you can send small gifts to the patients at Walter Reed via the Red Cross address below. Walter Reed announced that they only accept telephone cards, Cd's, and individual small packages of candy that can be distributed among its inpatient and outpatient soldiers. You may send your individual packages to: American Red Cross, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, 6900 Georgia Avenue, Northwest, Washington, D.C. 20307-5000. They noted that they are not staffed to handle the anticipated volume of generic "To Whom It May Concern" Christmas cards. They asked that cards, unless to a specific individual, not be sent.
Moving on, I recently returned from the Blind Rehabilitation Center (BRC) in Birmingham. I had a great, fantastic time learning how to navigate with a Ground Positioning System (GPS). It was a challenge to learn all of the buttons and having to visually imagine a new menu screen style that resembles, somewhat, MS Windows drop down menus, was even more of a challenge. Eventually, it started to sink into this difficult to penetrate skull of mine. The GPS was sort of comical, when I went on a walk by myself. It was like having my wife telling me where to go, but not quite exactly, if you know what I mean. I also worked with a scanner reader known as the KNFB Reader and also received training on a set of video glasses Known as the Jordy. I can't emphasize enough, the worthiness of attending our VA BRC. True, they have their inherent "I don't think we are in Kansas", hominess and familiar surroundings, but the training is superb. The camaraderie is fantastic and even with three squares a day, I was still able to lose 3 pounds. One big thing, too, I think the Dietician set my access to food that may have found what was causing my heartburn. I'm not totally sure, but it was much improved while I was there and I am still in good shape, several weeks after returning home. While there, I talked with George Sands, the BRC Chief, and he mentioned that backlogs for basic training and refresher training are at 0. I also noticed that there were some vacant rooms, so if you want to be a bit more independent, talk to your VIST Coordinator and take the opportunity to attend one of the BRC's in our neck of the woods. Today's accessible technology is so much better and while at the BRC, the instructors can try every way available to them, to, not only improve quality of life, but serve to help us become more independent. Of course, if one is resolved to the bark-o-lounger and Talking Books, then who is to say anything. I wonder that if learning the computer was really a smart thing to have done. Certainly, I thought it was the cause of my acid reflux, but now after a trip to the BRC, I think that has been proven to be a false theory. Anyway, in closing, and again as always, keep the mission alive and help one another to help each other. Check the schedule of events at the end of this Newsletter. I hope to see you at one of our luncheon meetings throughout the state. Paul W. Kaminsky, FRG President. email email@example.com, (904) 291-0576.
FRG Auxiliary President's Message: On behalf of the FRG Auxiliary, I would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and yes, of course, a Very Happy New Year. If I was politically correct, I would wish you a Happy Holiday and would be one who is trying to stamp out the true meaning of Christmas and why it is celebrated in the first place. Yes, I wish you a Good New Year and I hope sincerely life is good to you. I am so tired of everyone saying Happy Holiday and have a great holiday. The stations are bombarding us with the latest cameras even though we got a new one last year and it is outdated. They are saying if we really know what we are doing, we will buy new cookware to be Wolfgang Puk. If know better, we will get a new computer even though we don't need one. We will wear the latest watch and jewelry and on and on. The fact that we are celebrating the birthday of our Savior is something that many do not talk about any more. But I am being very controversial when I say proudly that I celebrate Christmas - the birthday of our Lord and am proud to be called a Christian. I also respectfully wish our Jewish friends a Very Happy Chanukah. Joyce Thornton, FRG Auxiliary President.
FRG Meeting Notice: The next meeting of the Florida Regional Group will be held on Saturday, January 5, 2008 at the Quality Inn 3621 West Silver Springs Blvd. in Ocala. Bruce Davis, VIST Coordinator at the Gainesville VAMC, has assisted in making the arrangements. The meeting will begin at 11:30 AM with a period of socializing, followed by lunch at noon. For lunch, you may select between: Roast Beef Au Jus with Mashed Potatoes or Chicken Cordenbleau with Rice Pilaf, and Tossed Green Salad, Vegetable, 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 and the 2 Scholarships they offer to the spouse or children of Florida Blinded Veterans. To get to the hotel, take I 75 North or South to exit 352. Go East off of I 75. The hotel is directly East of the Interstate. Free parking is available at the hotel.
The hotel has asked us to notify them as to the number who will be attending and the choice of lunch desired by January 2. Please make your reservations prior to that date by writing to Bruce Davis, VIST Coordinator, VAMC, 1601 S.W. Archer Road, Gainesville, FL 32608, or call Bruce at (800) 324-8387 ex. 5560. You may also make your reservations by calling Central East District Director David Dixon at: (386) 760-3180, in the Daytona Beach area or in the Ocala area, call Rick Calissi, at: (352) 629-6799. You may also make your reservations by calling Louise DiGennaro, VIST Coordinator at the Jacksonville VA Outpatient Clinic at: (904) 232-2751 ex 3015 or Judy Hayes, VIST Coordinator at the Lake City VAMC, at (386) 755-3016 ex. 2088. Judy Hayes is attempting to arrange transportation from the Lake City area. The cost of the lunch will be $5 per person including tax and tip. Although the cost of the meal to you is only $5, each meal guaranteed will cost your Regional Group $12. So if you make a reservation and can't come please call Bruce Davis by January 2 and cancel. In that way we won't have to pay for meals not used.
National Legislative Up-Date: At the writing of this Newsletter, Congress is in recess for the Thanksgiving Holidays. Congress recessed on November 16 and will return to Washington on December 3. It is understood that they plan to recess again on December 18 for the Christmas Holidays. Consequently, they will have a little over two weeks to complete all of the work for the first session of the 110 Congress. Most of the appropriation measures are yet to pass. Those measures will be the priority as it appears they do not want to pass another Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government past the end of the present CR on December 18.
The BVA continues to work on the three measures of primary interest to Blinded Veterans about which we have reported in previous FRG Newsletters. Although Congress is in recess, some of the Congressional staff have remained at work. Dr. Thomas Zampiere, the BVA Director of Governmental Affairs, has continued to work on those measures.
The Senate wrapped the BVA's Paired Organ Bill into several measures which it passed before the recess. Unfortunately, the bill passed by the Senate is slightly different than the one passed by the House of Representatives. A Conference Committee has been established to reconcile the differences. As indicated in previous Newsletters, the Paired Organ Bill would make 20/200 the legal description of blindness by the VA. This is consistent with the legal description of blindness used by Social Security and other federal agencies, as well as, the various states. It would significantly change the compensation paid to veterans with service connected blindness in one eye who later suffer blindness in the other eye. Present VA regulations require both the service connected eye and the NSC eye to be rated at 5/200 or less for the Blinded Veteran to receive compensation as if both eyes were service connected. This legislation would make 20/200 the legal description and permit veterans with 20/200 or less to receive service connected compensation as if both eyes were service connected. There was no opposition to this legislation in either the Senate or House. However, when the two Houses pass legislation which have differences, a Conference Committee must be appointed to reconcile the differences. Tom Zampiere has contacted Congressional staff who are working with the Senators and Representatives on the Committee to expedite the reconciliation process.
The second measure, the Military Eye Trauma Center of Excellence and Registry have passed both the Senate and House of Representatives. Again the two measures contain slightly different wording and will have to be considered in a Conference Committee. As with the Paired Organ bill, there is no opposition to this measure in Congress. However, it might be carried over to the next session of the 110 congress. This would delay getting it implemented for a number of months. This measure is of significant importance for those military personnel who are being wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. The military does not have a good handle on the documentation of military personnel who have received eye injuries or traumatic brain injuries (TBI) which have vision limitation components. Further, although there is a move to have a seamless transition of treatment between the Department of Defense (DOD) and the VA, some veterans have already fallen through the cracks. Presently, there are some problems with the transfer of medical information due to the Privacy Act. This legislation would authorize a transfer of such information from the DOD to the VA to insure the treatment of military personnel as they transition to the VA.
The third measure which would provide scholarships for VA staff to take graduate training in Orientation and Mobility and Rehabilitation Teaching has passed the House but has not yet been voted upon by the Senate. Again there is no opposition to this measure but it is not a priority with the Senate Leadership. Some scholarships have been available in the Veterans Health Administration. However, to date none has been allocated to professional training for serving Blinded Veterans. These scholarships have gone to nursing and physical therapy training.
Remember to make your reservations for the January 5 FRG meeting in Ocala by calling Bruce Davis or one of the others listed above by January 2. Call some of your fellow Blinded Veterans and enjoy an informative and enjoyable afternoon. We look forward to meeting you in Ocala on Saturday, January 5.
FRG-BVA Meeting Schedule
January 5 FRG Meeting Quality Inn Hotel in Ocala
February 2 FRG meeting MacDill AFB E Club in Tampa
March 1 FRG Meeting in Ft. Lauderdale
April 5 FRG meeting in Pensacola
May 2-4 FRG State Convention Plaza Ocean Club Hotel Daytona
August 12-18 BVA National Convention in Phoenix, Arizona
Paul Kaminsky FRG President
Joyce Thornton FRG Auxiliary President
George Stocking Editor