VETERANS ASSOCIATION (BVA)
FLORIDA REGIONAL GROUP, INC.
3801 Coco Grove Avenue
Miami, Florida 33133
FRG NEWSLETTER, August 2008
FRG President's Message: Important Notice: Hope I got your attention, now. If you travel north for the summer, please notify BVA National at: (800) 669-7079 to inform them of your temporary or permanent address change, every time you move. Why? It seems that the Post Office doesn't always forward Free Matter For The Blind materials. So, the mail comes back to BVA National and after 3 consecutive times, the name and address goes into a "U" (undeliverable) file and no more mail is sent out to that individual. It also removes the name from the Florida mailing list. Thereby precluding any future Florida Newsletters or special notices being sent to Anyone on the "U" file. Help us keep in touch with you. Something I found out from BVA HQ in preparing for the BVA National Convention in Phoenix. Boots for service dogs, if you find the ground too hot in the summer for your service dog or are afraid of the sand tearing up their pads, a company named Ruff Wear might be of help for you. If the boots are for a service animal, they give 50% off the price. Contact information is as follows: Ruff Wear For Dogs On The Go, Toll free (888) 783-3932; email: email@example.com, web site: www.ruffwear.com. Looking forward, I guess like many of you, I know the rewards of membership in the BVA. Our association stands out as a protector, advocate, and a friend to all Blinded Veterans. The association has built a reputation for representing Blinded Veterans in the adjudication of their claims with the VA, fought for the establishment of Visual Impairment Service Teams at our local VA Medical Centers, and monitored the quality of services at the VA Blind Rehabilitation Centers. BVA personnel serve on a variety of committees involved in providing services to the blind community. The National Board of Directors meet on a regular basis with key members of Congress and their annual testimony presented to the joint Senate and House of Representatives Veterans Affairs Committees is considered essential before the debate on the VA budget. The BVA serves in a joint enterprise along with the American Council of the Blind and the National Federation of the Blind to formulate useful legislation in Florida. We are a non-governmental organization represented on the World Blind Union and a number of rehabilitation organizations through out the country. In Florida, our members are represented on Advisory Committees of the State's Veterans Planning Group, Rehabilitation Council for the Blind, and the State's Legislative Vision Caucus. Why am I telling you, the members, all of this information? As members, we all share in the prestige and accomplishments of the BVA. To paraphrase an old adage, you can judge an organization by its members; and I'm proud of ours. I believe all of the members should be on the Membership Committee. Therefore, I am going to ask your help in recruiting new members. Spread the word about the BVA to non members at VIST Support Group Meetings, and other gatherings where you may encounter a candidate. An increase of membership permits greater opportunities for local activity in the various Districts within the group. Bringing in new members will help guarantee them the support, services, and fellowship of the BVA. New applications will be sent to all District Directors or may be secured by calling me at home. Also, you can call BVA National at: (800) 669-7079 for applications. Here are the telephone numbers of our District Directors: Northwest Darryl Goldsmith, Pensacola (850) 554-7819, email firstname.lastname@example.org; Northeast, Bill Burgess, Palm Coast (386)445-4987, email email@example.com; Central West Gigi Mathis, Lakeland, (863) 701-9389, email firstname.lastname@example.org; Central East, Kirk Harmon, Orlando (407) 380-3371, email email@example.com; Southwest, John Thomas St. James City, (239) 283-1708, email firstname.lastname@example.org; Southeast, Jerry Abney, Miami, (305) 270-1739, email email@example.com. As always, keep the mission alive and help one another to help each other. Hope to see you this year at one of the FRG Luncheon Meetings, throughout the state, starting with Orlando on September 6. Paul W. Kaminsky, FRG President (904) 291-0576, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
FRG Auxiliary President's Message: Fellow Auxiliary Members: I hope that you are having a fantastic summer. Mine has been a busy season. However, I did manage to take a vacation and am going to share my feelings about it with you. I am not going to do a run down of what I encountered but will try to relate to you my reaction as a blind person. I did go to our nation's capital and unlike most tourist that see with their eyes, the beautiful monuments, the capitol, etc., I saw them with my inner vision. The result of being at the World War II Monument, filled me with the greatest admiration for that generation who gave their lives and risked their lives to keep Americans, like myself and my grand daughter who accompanied me, safe and yes free to worship, work, and talk about our government without risk to our lives. The Capital was filled with many statues of the great people who came before us giving their entire lives to try and make things better for us. By the way, Rosa Parks' statue is in the Rotunda. Most of all, Mount Vernon, the home of our first President and the only President voted unanimously as President of the United States, was awe inspiring . The Korean and Vietnam Memorials made me cry as I walked forever along the wall that was so high I could not reach the top. In the First President's Mansion, I could visualize the great men of our country walking through the halls bent on creating a new form of government for the generations to come. Those halls became sacred to me. I wonder what they would say about Washington, D.C. now. No matter if one is a Democrat or Republican, or what we think is wrong, Washington, D.C. is the corps, the soul, and the heart of our wonderful country. Yes, I am proud to be an American and equally proud to be able to serve, to the best of my ability, our American Veterans. God Bless All Of You. Joyce Thornton, FRG Auxiliary President.
FRG Meeting Notice: The first Informational Meeting of the Florida Regional Group, for this year, will be held on Saturday, September 6, at the Rosen Plaza Hotel 9700 International Drive in Orlando. Central East District Director, Kirk Harmon has made the arrangements. 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 in mushroom sauce 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. 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. Arrangements have been made for a block of rooms at the hotel, at $89 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 before September 3. Please make your reservations prior to that date by writing to Kirk Harmon at 1031 Lenmore Court, Orlando, FL 32812, email email@example.com 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. 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. 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 6.
National Legislative Up-Date: Tom Zampiere, BVA Director of Government Affairs, is working with Congress on a number of measures. However, HR 6445 has recently passed the House Sub Committee on VA Health Care which has reported the measure favorably to the full Veterans Affairs Committee for a vote. If passed, HR 6445 would forbid the Secretary of Veterans Affairs from collecting co payments on Hospital and Nursing Home Care treatment from catistrophically Disabled Veterans in category 4. Blinded Veterans are eligible for category 4 status. This could be a significant reduction in co payments for health care for Blinded Veterans. The BVA encourages all BV's in Florida to contact their Representatives in the US Congress and urge them to co-sponsor HR 6445. Check your Voter Registration card for the Congressional District in which you reside. Then, contact your County Elections Office and get the name of your US Representative. You may call the Representative's District Office, send an email, or write a brief letter. Just urge your Representative to co-sponsor HR 6445 to eliminate the VA co-payments for these catistrophically disabled veterans.
Update - New BROS and VIST Positions: In recent BVA Bulletins and FRG Newsletters, it was reported that the BVA had been successful in obtaining funds for new Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialist (BROS) and Visual Impairment Service Team Coordinators (VIST) in the 2008 Fiscal Year appropriation for the VHA. It was also reported that two new full time BROS positions were established at the Jacksonville and Ft. Myers VA Outpatient Clinics. It is understood that the Jacksonville VAOPC has not, to date, advertised for that BROS position. However, the Ft. Myers VAOPC has filled its BROS position (see below). The two new full time VIST Coordinators positions were established and the individuals have been hired. Scott Turner has been hired to fill the full time VIST position at the Pensacola VAOPC. He is presently working as a Social Worker in the Pensacola VAOPC Homeless Program. When his replacement for that position is hired, he will take up his duties as VIST Coordinator. For a short time, he was the part time VIST Coordinator there in the early 1990's. The full time VIST Coordinator at the Daytona Beach VAOPC has been hired. Constance Stolt is presently employed as a Counselor by the Division of Blind Services in Orlando. She will take up her duties in Daytona Beach shortly.
Ft. Myers BROS:
Joyce Dyer took up her duties as full time BROS at the Ft. Myers VAOPC on July 21. A native of Arkansas, Ms. Dyer earned a Bachelor's Degree in Organizational Communication from the University of Arkansas in 1987. During the next 5 years, she was employed as a Benefits Manager in the insurance industry in Atlanta. At that time, she returned to Little Rock where she entered graduate school. Initially, she enrolled in the Rehabilitation Teaching for the Blind Master's Program. Later, she pursued studies in Orientation and Mobility to gain as much knowledge and experience as possible in the two disciplines. Subsequently, she earned dual Master's Degrees in those fields. As part of those programs, she interned at the Blind Rehabilitation Center in Birmingham, in 1999. After working in dual capacities in Ohio, she accepted the position of Director of Programs and O and M Specialist at the Minnesota Lighthouse for the Blind. She also serves as an ordained elder in her church. To take up her BROS duties, she is moving from Sarasota to Ft. Myers. She loves going to the beach, photography, traveling, music, and is quite eclectic when it comes to embarking on new hobbies and interests. In her spare time, she is pursuing a doctoral degree in Organizational Leadership from Argosy University. On behalf of the BVA-FRG, we welcome you to the VA and look forward to many years of cooperation with you in the future.
Remember to mark your calendar for Saturday, September 6, 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 September 3. If you make a reservation and can't come, please call and cancel your reservation before September 3. The FRG will pay $15 for each meal we guarantee. We don't want to pay for meals not used. Join us in Orlando on September 6 for an informative, interesting, and enjoyable afternoon.
FRG Meeting Schedule
September 6 FRG Meeting Rosen Plaza Hotel in Orlando
October 4 FRG Meeting Holiday Inn Commonwealth in Jacksonville
Paul Kaminsky FRG President
Joyce Thornton FRG Auxiliary President
George Stocking Newsletter Editor