VETERANS ASSOCIATION (BVA)
FLORIDA REGIONAL GROUP, INC.
3801 Coco Grove Avenue
Miami, Florida 33133
FRG NEWSLETTER, February 2008
FRG President's Message: Time is surely flying by fast. I recently heard a Kenny Chesnee song that the secret to life according to one 100 year old man is: "never blink". Blink and you are 6 years old, blink and you are 25 years old, etc. We all know that is not possible, so I blinked and here we are looking at another FRG State Convention, right around the corner. The reason I like to bring it up, even though it's not until May 2-4, is that it would be nice to see as many people begin planning to attend, especially those in the Daytona Beach area. We have luncheon once a month at different cities throughout the state. The luncheons are well attended. Yet the State Conventions which are much better than the luncheons, seem to have less members attending. At the State Convention, we elect our officers; plan the FRG program for the coming year; establish the budget; If necessary amend the By-Laws; and discuss how to make the BVA-FRG really mean something to our Blinded Veteran community. Most importantly, this is where we have our horseshoe pitching competition, a dinner dance on Friday , and an Installation Banquet on Saturday night. You know the real important fun stuff. I know that transportation is always a battle. I've been told that individuals have been working on plans to arrange transportation. Paul Mimms (561) 422-5260 or evenings and weekends (561) 863-1407 in West Palm Beach is working on a plan for those coming from his area. Bob Fick (863) 853-1139 Lakeland and Kirk Harmon (407) 380-3371 Orlando are working on a plan from their respective areas. John Thomas (239) 283-1708
is working with Joyce Thornton (VIST Coordinator) from the Ft. Myers area and I will be at work here in the Jacksonville area. Please think about attending this year. If your back seat or seats are empty, call one of the above or talk with your VIST Coordinator because they may know of someone wanting to attend but needs transportation. At last year's Convention there was a great time had by all with our first annual horse shoe pitching event. I refrain from calling it competition, as those attending last year can probably relate to the "why". When you are socially having as much fun as we had last year, it can't be considered competition, even if there were individuals awarded medals for having a better score than the others. From last year's first time experience, we plan on having things like some portable shade, chairs, and some water available. It will be once again held on the beach. Last year we had two courts. This year, we plan on having four. The first day of the State Convention is May 2. Plan on throwing the first shoe at 9 AM so that we finish up in plenty of time for Late Registration and the afternoon Informational Seminar. If you would like to participate in this fun event, call Bill Burgess (386) 445-4987. More information about the FRG State Convention will be coming. As this Newsletter goes to print, we will be hosting the Tampa luncheon. With only the Pompano Beach and Pensacola luncheons remaining. It has been a fun and fast paced year and I've been exposed to a great part of our Blinded Veteran community. Hopefully, I well represented our Florida Regional Group, whether it was speaking in the Senate Chambers in Tallahassee; from the podium at our various luncheons around the state; in fellowship meeting with other organizations which represent the civilian portion of our Florida blinded community; in veteran's planning groups with the head of other veterans service organizations; or best of all just getting to talk with our members at the luncheons. I encourage all of you reading this Newsletter to seriously consider being more involved with the FRG, by being an Officer or an Assistant Director, helping out the six Directors throughout the state. It is a very gratifying feeling. I sure have been humbly appreciative of being allowed to serve as Director in the past, then as Vice President and now as President. If you would like to be involved more, say as an Assistant to one of our Directors, please give me a call and I will asked the appropriate District Director to give you a call. Currently, our organization is made up of nine elected officers: President, Vice President, Secretary-Treasurer, and the six District Directors. There are also 41 volunteers who have stepped up to the plate to serve as Assistant District Directors, helping out as needed. As I said, please give me a call. So, once again, keep the mission alive and help one another to help each other. Hope to see you at one of our luncheons throughout the state or at the State Convention in Daytona Beach. Paul W. Kaminsky, FRG President email firstname.lastname@example.org, (904) 291=-0576. P.S. If you have internet access, periodically visit our web site at www.bvafrg.org
FRG Auxiliary President's Message: Greetings, from the busiest Auxiliary in the world of the BVAA. It is that time of year again when you receive your letter from our Scholarship Chairman regarding the two $1000 FRG Auxiliary Scholarship. The letters were mailed in mid January. Remember if you are a child or spouse of a Florida Blinded Veteran you are eligible to apply . The deadline for having your completed application packet arrive at the Scholarship Chairman's address is April 1. This gives the Committee time to study the applications before the State Convention. If you are interested request an application now. The new year has started with its busy schedule. I understand the meeting in Ocala was a great success. I am sorry that I was unable to attend. On New Year's Day, I moved some furniture and suffered a fractured shoulder blade. This kept me from the meeting. However, I am doing well now. I realize that I am not 20 any longer. I hope to see many of you at future meetings. Of course, it is always wonderful to meet new friends and renew old acquaintenances at the State Convention. Happy New Year to all of you. Joyce Thornton, FRG Auxiliary President.
FRG Meeting Notice: The next meeting of the Florida Regional Group will be held on Saturday, March 1, 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 27. 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, or evenings and weekends at: (561) 863-1407. 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 27, 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 1 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: Congress has passed and the President has signed PL 110-161, The Fiscal Year 2008 Consolidated Appropriation Act. Among other things, it includes significant funding for the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The BVA's Paired Organ Bill funding was included in this measure. For the first time, the VA will provide compensation to veterans with service connected vision of 20/200 or less in the service connected eye if later the veteran incurs blindness at 20/200 or less in the non service connected eye, as if both eyes were service connected. In the past both eyes had to be limited to 5/200 or less in order for the veteran to receive SC compensation as if both eyes were service connected. In addition, the other BVA major bill, the Military Center of Excellence for Eye Trauma was authorized by Congress . Tom Zampiere, BVA Director of Government Affairs is working with the Army Surgeon General's Office to implement this as soon as possible. He is also working to have it permanently located in a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Center of Excellence being planned at the Bethesda Naval Medical Center in the Washington area. If space can be secured in that facility, it will guarantee the necessary space to carry out the work of the Military Eye Trauma Center of Excellence. This is an important facility due to the large number of eye injuries suffered by our military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan and the even larger number of TBI which have vision involved symptoms. This facility is charged to work closely with the VA so that research and treatment innovations can be passed on for the benefit for the treatment for all veterans.
Orlando VA Medical Center Up-Date: Central Florida Veterans are a step closer to having a new 134 bed Hospital and Outpatient Clinic on Lake Nona Boulevard, in Orlando, across from the new University of Central Florida College of Medicine. The preliminary negotiations have been completed to purchase the site for a full-service VA Medical Center which the VA expects to be operational in 2012. Currently more than 90,000 veterans from the region are enrolled in the VA Health Care System. Terms of the agreement for the 65 acre tract have not been disclosed, pending formal execution of the agreement by the VA and the Developers. A final agreement is expected to be signed soon. The VA hopes to complete its design specifications for the new Medical Center early this year as site preparation begins, with a construction award made in 2009. The VA estimates that 400,000 veterans reside in the service area of the new facility. Currently, enrolled veterans receive health care at six different Outpatient Clinics in the region. Approved plans call for construction of modern facilities to provide acute care, complex specialty care, and advanced diagnostic services through a Hospital, an Outpatient Clinic, a 118 bed Nursing Home, and a 60 bed Domiciliary. The site will also contain a Veterans Benefits Office that will help veterans to obtain Compensation, Pension, or other financial benefits earned by military service
Adaptive Housing Grants: The August 2007 FRG Newsletter reported changes in the Special Adaptive Housing Program available to certain service connected severely disabled veterans. In 1948, Congress established the section 2101 A Special Adaptive Housing Grant for service connected veterans who were restricted to a wheel chair for mobility or who were blind and had lost one leg. Initially it was a one time grant providing half of the cost of the adapted home up to a grant of $10,000. Over the years the Section 2101 A grant has been increased to its present $50,000. In 1980, through the efforts of the BVA, the Section 2101 B Special Home Adaption Grant was a one time grant of $5000 for Blinded veterans or double hand amputee veterans. Over the years the Section 2101 B grant has been increased to $10,000. The 109 Congress changed that benefit to permit an eligible veteran to use the grant up to 3 times as long as the total used did not exceed the maximum amount of the present grant. Approximately 3600 eligible veterans have taken advantage of this new provision. If you feel that you might qualify for this change in the law you may clarify your status by calling Dennis Thompson at the VARO Adaptive Housing Unit in St. Petersburg at (727) 319-7602.
Please get a group of fellow Blinded Veterans together and join us at the Flaming Pit Restaurant in Pompano Beach, on Saturday, March 1 for an informative and enjoyable afternoon. Remember to make your reservations before February 27, 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 27. In that way the FRG won't have to pay for unused meals.
FRG-BVA Meeting Schedule
March 1 FRG Meeting at the Flaming Pit Restaurant in Pompano Beach
April 5 FRG Meeting in Pensacola
May 2-4 FRG State Convention at the Plaza Ocean Club in Daytona August 12-18 BVA National Convention in Phoenix, Arizona
Paul Kaminsky FRG President
Joyce Thornton FRG Auxiliary President
George Stocking Editor