BLINDED VETERANS ASSOCIATION (BVA)
FLORIDA REGIONAL GROUP, INC.
3801 Coco Grove Avenue
Miami, Florida 33133
FRG NEWSLETTER, November 2008
FRG President's Message: This month, I thought that I'd give thanks to some of our FRG members who try to show a presence of the FRG in and about the state. This is of course not a comprehensive list, but members who have come to my attention. First, I know that you have probably already read
in the BVA Bulletin about Bill Geden and his wife Nancy of Citrus County. Bill and Nancy have been coordinators for Operation Shoe Box and arranged for 400 BVA Calendars for 2008 to be sent to U.S. Troops stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan in late 2007. They are doing the same thing later this year with the 2009 edition of the BVA Calendar. Operation Shoe Box sends boxes of goodies to
our Troops in harms way. For additional information on Operation Shoe Box go to www operation shoebox.com. Bill and Nancy founded and run a veterans food pantry in their county that currently feed 150 veterans. Bill and Nancy will also be taking part in the Citrus County Veterans Day Parade on November 11. The parade theme is Disabled Veterans-Blinded Veterans. Bill is also a DAV
accredited service officer and past FRG Central West District Director. Gigi Mathis from Lakeland has stepped in as Central West District Director, as Bill's replacement. She arranged for the Disability Transportation to transport her and fellow Lakeland FRG members to Tarpon Springs to set up a table to pass out BVA information, at Tarpon Springs annual Veterans Appreciation Day activities. She also set up a trip to the Tampa VAMC for Vision Awareness Day. John Thomas and
his wife Fran traveled from St. James City to Largo to set up another information table at Largo's Military Families Appreciation Day activities. John also, with the help of his fellow FRG members in the Ft. Myers area participated in a fund raising Walk A Thon in Lee County (see FRG Auxiliary
President's Message, below, for more information). Bill Burgess and his wife Mickey, in Palm
Coast, this year has set up tables in Daytona Beach and Gainesville. Bill and Mickey also participate
in bowling activities that are held in the Jacksonville area with the NFB and FCB local chapters. Bill
and Mickey also set up a table at the Lake City VAMC Vision Awareness Day activities. Kirk
Harmon established a 911 senior veterans emergency cell phone donation program, where donated
cell phones are converted to be given free to seniors for emergency purposes. Kirk has also set up a
picnic for the Orlando VIST Support Group and helped our members get set up with the newspaper
reading service called News Line . The service allows print challenged persons access to
newspapers via their telephone. For more information about the 911 cell phone or News Line
program, contact Kirk Harmon at the contact information later in my message. Jerry Abney in the
Miami area has been working with the transportation issues that face our blind community. Just the
other day, Jerry was telling me that Martin County BOCC Veterans Service Office has transportation
to the VAMC in West Palm Beach, Monday through Friday at no cost to the veteran. He also noted
that, at no cost, Provide door to door service for those veterans unable to drive for medical reasons or
due to financial hardship. If a doctor states that the veterans needs an escort, they will also provide transportation for the escort. Transportation to local VA Clinic is available through the local
Community Coach at a minimal charge of $ 1 each way. Least I not forget the other FRG Officers
and the many unsung volunteers working in the VA hospitals and clinics , we too need to take our
hats off to each and every one of them. My thanks to you all! and to all, help pass the word about the
BVA. Once again, telephone numbers of our District Directors: Northwest District Darryl
Goldsmith - Pensacola (850) 554-7819, email firstname.lastname@example.org; Northeast District Bill Burgess -Palm Coast (386) 445-4987 email email@example.com: Central West District Gigi Mathis - Lakeland (863-701-9389 email firstname.lastname@example.org; Central East District Kirk Harmon -Orlando (407) 380-3371 email email@example.com; Southwest District John Thomas - St. James City (239) 283-1708 email firstname.lastname@example.org: Southeast District Jerry Abney Miami (305) 270-1739 email email@example.com, BVA National Headquarters (800) 669-7079. As always, keep the mission alive, and help one another to help each other. Hope to see you at one of the
Informational Luncheons throughout the state. Paul W. Kaminsky, FRG President (904) 291-0576,
FRG Auxiliary President's Message: Here we are again in the busy fall season. This is the time of year when many things kick off. One of the things that is very important to me is White Cane Day. Every year, the VIST Offices are mandated to do something for White Cane Day. Once again the VIST Office chaired a Walk A Thon for the visually impaired in Lee County. This year, Blinded Veterans from Charlotte County came in by bus to participate along with BV's from Lee County, the Walk A Thon was led by 90 year old Edwin Wack along with Terry King and Larry Newman, all excellent representatives for the Blinded Veterans. The National Anthem was sung. Over 200 visually impaired and sighted volunteers took part in this event. Lunch, prizes, manicures, were provided with the profits going to the Walk A Thon. Hand made jewelry was sold, with the proceeds going to the Walk A Thon. Blood pressure was taken and blood sugar checks were offered. Once again, it took a great deal of planning and work but was well worth it. The BVA-FRG will enjoy income from this event.
I would like to take the opportunity to wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving. Hope that you can
arrange an activity this month for Blinded Veterans in your community, possibly around November 11 Veterans Day. Joyce Thornton, FRG Auxiliary President.
FRG Meeting Notice: The next meeting of the Florida Regional Group will be held on Saturday,
December 13, at the Sam Seltzer's Steak House 18409 US Highway 19 north in Clearwater. For 20
years, the FRG has held its Clearwater meeting at Bill Irle's Restaurant. Bill Irle's closed this summer
and we will now move to Sam Seltzer's. The meeting will begin at 11:30 AM with a period of
socializing, followed by lunch at noon. For lunch, you may have either: Prime Rib or Chicken Picatta
and Salad, Baked Potato, Rolls & Butter, Iced Tea, Coffee, or Soda, and Dessert. The price of the
lunch will be $5 per person including tax & tip. Beer, wine, and mixed drinks will be available for an
FRG President Paul Kaminsky will preside at the meeting following lunch. A National Legislative
up-date will be presented. Information about the FRG Auxiliary and its programs will be provided.
FRG activities for the coming months will be discussed. 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 restaurant has asked us to notify them as to the number who will be attending and the choice of lunch desired, by December 10. Please make your reservations prior to that date by writing to Central West District Director Gigi Mathis at: 2852 Chapsworth Lane, Lakeland, FL 33813 or call Gigi at (863) 701-9389, email firstname.lastname@example.org . In St. Petersburg, You may call Bay Pines VIST Coordinator Jody Teper at (727) 398-6661 ex 4516 or Tampa VIST Coordinator Charles Nieberding at: (813) 631-7140 or in Clearwater, call Ben Wells at: (727)536-1762. It is important for you to make your reservations so that the restaurant may prepare for our meeting.
To get to the restaurant: Take I 75 north or south to I 275. Take I 275 across the Howard Franklin
causeway to Ulmerton Road (State Road 686). Go west about 2-3 miles to US 19. Then, go north on
US 19 about 1.5-2 miles to intersection of Bellaire and US 19. Sam Seltzer's Steak House will be on
your right side. From the east, take I 4 to I 275 and continue as above. Free parking is available
adjacent to the restaurant. Should you need to contact Sam Seltzer's for direction, you may call (727)
519-7267. Do not call Sam Seltzer's for reservations for this meeting, instead, call those listed above.
US Legislative Up-Date: The Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the 2008 Fiscal Year has been
announced. As a result, a Cost Of Living Adjustment (COLA) for Service Connected Disability
Compensation, Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), Social Security benefits and the Non Service Connected Disability Pension will receive a 5.8% COLA. These COLA will take effect on December 1 and appear in the checks you receive in January. In the past, Congress had to pass
legislation authorizing the COLA for Service Connected Disability Compensation and DIC benefits.
This year, Congress passed legislation indexing the Comp and DIC to the increase in the CPI as it did for Social Security and the NSC Pension many years ago. In the future, the COLA for Comp and DIC will automatically be indexed to the increase in the CPI. It will continue to take effect in December and appear in the January checks.
At the writing of the October FRG Newsletter, Congress was planning to recess prior to passing
any appropriation measures. However, After the Newsletter went to press, the US financial emergency became critical. Congress remained to pass an emergency bailout measure. While doing that, Congress passed the Departments of Defense(DOD) and Veterans Affairs (DVA) appropriations for Fiscal Year 2009 on September 30. The President signed those measures later that day. So, for only the second time in the last 20 years, the DVA appropriation was available at the beginning of the Fiscal Year (October 1, 2008). The VA Central Office has distributed the funds to the Veteran Integrate Service Networks (VISN) and on to the Medical Centers. If the various facilities complain about not having the funding to implement the authorized services, they are equivocating and not telling it as it is.
It included funding to add 15 new Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialists (BROS)during FY 2009. The list of stations which will receive those BROS positions has not been published. It is hoped that he Miami VAMC and what was the Oakland Park VAOPC, now the new Clinic in Sunrise will be included in that number. It did not include funding for any new VIST Coordinator positions this Fiscal year. The DVA appropriation included funding for the full continuum of Care for Low Vision and Blinded Veterans. This will bring to 55 the number of Low vision outpatient treatment facilities around the country. These facilities will provide a variety of services to Low Vision Veterans and Blind Veterans. The appropriation also included $6.9 million for the VA's part to work with the military medical staff at the 4 Military Eye Centers of Excellence. These VA staff will work collaboratively with the DOD staff to insure the seamless transition of visually impaired and Blinded Veterans from the DOD to the DVA. They will also work on research and new treatment modalities.
Veterans Benefits Handbook: Each year, the DVA publishes a Benefits Handbook. Generally, this
is printed in 10 or 12 point type and not accessible to Low Vision or Blinded Veterans. This year, the
Virginia Wolfe Foundation has taken that handbook and printed it in 18 point type. Unfortunately, this has resulted in doubling the number of pages in the handbook. The 18 point type handbook is available on line at: email@example.com. If you have access to the internet, you may load that document and select the sections in which you are interested. Then, you may read them or down load to your own file. Hopefully, the DVA will publish this Handbook in a recorded version in the future.
West Palm Beach Blind Rehab Center: Inn June, officials from the VA Central Office Blind
Rehabilitation Service did a site visit at the WPB Blind Rehab Center (BRC). A number of
recommendations were made regarding the management and programs at the BRC. Those officials
recommended that the VAMC maintain full staffing of the BRC and to keep the full bed capacity for
Blinded Veterans in the various programs offered at the BRC. As a result of the site visit, the WPB
management transferred John Getz to an other position out of the BRC Chiefs position. Yvette Hill, a
Nurse Administrator has been appointed as the Acting Chief of the BRC. It is understood that the WPB VAMC will announce the Chiefs position nationally. This will take some time.
Please join us at Sam Seltzer's Steak House in North Clearwater on Saturday December 13 for an
interesting and enjoyable afternoon. Get a group of your fellow Blinded Veterans together and bring
them with you. Remember to make your reservations before December 10 by calling those listed
above. If you make a reservation and can't come, please call and cancel your reservation, before December 10, so that the FRG will not have to pay for lunches not used. Although your cost is only $5, the FRG will pay $15 for each reservation guaranteed. Help us limit the guarantee to the actual number who will attend. We look forward to meeting you at Sam Seltzer's Steak House in Clearwater on December 13.
Schedule of Events
December 13 FRG meeting Sam Seltzer's Steak House in Clearwater
January 3 FRG meeting at the Quality Inn in Ocala
January 31 FRG meeting at the MacDill AFB Enlisted Club in Tampa
February 28 Proposed FRG Southeast District meeting in Pompano Beach
April ? Proposed FRG meeting in Pensacola
May 1-3 FRG State Convention Plaza Ocean Club Hotel in Daytona
August 18-23 BVA National Convention in Portland, Oregon
Paul Kaminsky FRG President
Joyce Thornton FRG Auxiliary President
George Stocking Editor