3801 Coco Grove Avenue  
Miami, Florida 33133
FRG NEWSLETTER, December 2008


          FRG President's Message:  "Seasons Greetings"  I hope that you all had an enjoyable and filling thanksgiving feast and are preparing for the rest of the Holiday Season.  Best wishes from the BVA-FRG and hope that you all have a safe and Happy New Year.  Please don't forget that we have Blinded Veterans who are hospitalized or are in other facilities who may enjoy some additional cheer, around this time of year.  Give of yourself and make life enjoyable for all with whom you come in contact.  The year is moving quickly along.  We have already completed three successful FRG Informational luncheons.  For those who were unable to attend, you missed very enjoyable events.  It is a great time to meet with other Blinded Veterans and also learn about issues or benefits that effect our Blinded Veteran Community.  At the last luncheon in Ft. Myers, the Guest Speaker gave a terrific presentation on eye disorders and the newest clinical studies being done to restore partial vision.  Joyce Thornton, the Ft. Myers VA Outpatient Clinic VIST Coordinator, presented a check to the FRG for donations collected for the Southwest District 5 annual Vision Awareness Walk-A-Thon.  Once again, it was well supported by area Blinded Veterans and actually the entire community participated.  Seven organizations joined together to make the fund raising venture a complete success.  It took a large amount of work and it is sincerely appreciated.  If other Districts would like to do the same, give me a call at : (904) 291-0576 and     I'll get you in contact with your respective District Directors, so that particulars can be worked out.  Remember my focus on us all being ambassadors for the BVA.  Maureen, my wife, has been driving me from place to place, throughout the state, so that I can get to meet, not only members of our association, but also potential friends of the BVA.  Of course, we attend the scheduled luncheons. Unfortunately, not all Blinded Veterans can attend these activities.  I ask everyone that I meet up with, if they would not mind being a BVA Ambassador, with the explicit responsibility to find Blinded Veterans who are not aware of the BVA, VA, or state benefits.  As an ambassador, I ask, when meeting an individual who is legally or totally blind, if they are a veteran.  If they are, then ask who is their VIST Coordinator.  If they don't know what a VIST Coordinator is, then, more than likely, they are completely unaware of the VA or state benefits to which they may be entitled.  An ambassador doesn't have to know the name of the BV's VIST Coordinator, they just need to ask the question.  If we need to identify a specific VIST Coordinator, the information is available on our web site:, on the link from the BRS, VIST, and BROS Directory.  If the web site is not available, call your District Director or call the BVA National at: (800) 669-7079.  Just a reminder, the FRG receives no federal funding, but functions from a dues apportionment from the BVA National and local donations.  So, don't forget the FRG if looking to make the end-of-the-year donation to a worthy charitable organization.  Once again, telephone numbers of our District Directors: Northwest District Darryl Goldsmith - Pensacola (850) 554-7819, email; Northeast District Bill Burgess -Palm Coast (386) 445-4987 email; Central West District Gigi Mathis - Lakeland (863-255-9275 email; Central East District Kirk Harmon -Orlando (407) 380-3371 email; Southwest District John Thomas - St. James City (239) 283-1708 email Southeast District Jerry Abney Miami (305) 270-1739 email;  or BVA National at (202) 669-7079.  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.  (904) 291-0576, email


     Correction:  In the November 2008 FRG Newsletter, it was incorrectly reported that Bill and Mickey Burgess manned a BVA-FRG table at the Lake City VAMC Vision Awareness Day.  Originally, they were scheduled to do so.  However, Tim Thrift, an active BVA-FRG member in the Lake City area volunteered to do so and did a great job for us.  Thanks Tim.                                                                   

          FRG Auxiliary President's Message:  I sincerely hope that all of you have a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  Yes, I am saying Merry Christmas and not Happy Holiday.  I feel strongly that it is Not necessary to hide behind meaningless words to express good wishes on the most sacred holiday of the year.  Happy Holiday is like wishing someone well at the Holiday Inn.  I am proud to celebrate Christmas, the birth of our Lord.  I realize that many use other names and to all they mean everything to each individual.  I still believe that in these United States, it is very appropriate to say Merry Christmas.  I hope that your individual and family celebration are wonderful with your favorite food and treats that we wait all year to taste again.  Loosing the weight we gain in January.  In the meantime, God Bless You and  your family.  Joyce Thornton, FRG Auxiliary President.      


          FRG Meeting Notice:  The next meeting of the Florida Regional Group will be held on Saturday, January 3, 2009 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 for this meeting.  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. 

     The hotel has asked us to notify them as to the number who will be attending and the choice of lunch desired by December 31.  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.  In the Orlando area You may also  call Central East District Director Kirk Harmon at: (407) 380-3371.  In Ocala, 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.  Call Judy for information about that proposed transportation.  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 before December 31 and cancel.  In that way we won't have to pay for meals not used.

     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. 

     National Legislative Up-Date:  At the writing of this Newsletter, the 110 Congress is in recess.  It is anticipated that it will reconvene for a lame duck session prior to the end of the year to address some of the issues on the economy.  The 111 Congress will convene on January 10, 2009.  President Elect Obama has requested that Congress take up as a first item, the issue of another stimulus package.  The intent of the bail outs and the second stimulus package is to reverse the slide in the economy and get the country started toward an economic recovery.  It is unsure how these issues will effect programs for veterans and particularly Blinded Veterans.  Fortunately, Congress passed the 2009 Fiscal Year VA Appropriation on September 30 and it was signed by the president that day.  If no reductions are made when the 111 Congress convenes, the VA should be in good shape during FY 2009.  It is probable that there will be a number of changes in the leadership at the VA Central Office after the inauguration . 

      Earlier this year, Congress increased the mileage allowance to $.285 per mile, for travel to VA outpatient treatment, for certain eligible veterans.  That legislation included the authority for the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to make an additional increase in the mileage allowance should the travel costs continue to rise.  In November Secretary James Peake increased the mileage allowance to $.415 per mile.  The deductible remains the same $7.77 each way with a monthly maximum deductible of $46.62.  It is anticipated that the deductible will be reduced in January to $3 each way with a monthly maximum deductible of $16.  Veterans with significant financial hardship may have the deductible reduced or eliminated.  For information about deductible waivers, contact the Means Test Unit at your local VA medical facility.

      In previous FRG Newsletters and BVA Bulletins, it has been reported that the BVA has been working with Congress, the Department of Defense (DOD), and Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA),  to get an Eye Trauma Center of Excellence established to provide treatment and research into eye conditions.  It included a registry of eye casualties from Iraq and Afghanistan.  This registry could improve the seamless transition from the military to the VA.  The BVA secured legislation authorizing this center last year but no funds were appropriated.  Through the efforts of the BVA, the 2009 Fiscal Year DOD Appropriation contains $4 million  to open the Eye Trauma Center.  Funds were also included in the FY 2009 appropriations for the DVA participation in this process.  Although the original intent was to track, treat, and perform research on eye trauma, there is some flexibility which might permit research on other eye conditions.  The BVA is also working with the National Association for Eye Vision Research to get additional funding for research on a number of eye conditions.

      AFB Leaves Talking Book Recording:  When the Library of Congress set up the National Library Service (NLS) for the blind in the 1930's, the American Foundation for the Blind was one of the first organizations to begin recording books for the blind in its New York City studio.  In the 75 years since then, the AFB has recorded thousands and thousands of Talking Books.  Being in New York City, the AFB used many professionals in the entertainment, recording, and radio fields as readers.  Those of us who are long time Talking Book users are familiar with those readers.  The NLS has contracted with the AFB and other organizations to provide this service.  Due to the high cost of leasing space in New York City, the AFB has been subsidizing this service.  The AFB lease on its present recording facility will be up in October 2009.  At that time, the AFB will terminate its contract with the NLS and use those funds to provide other services to America's blind citizens.  The recording work done by the AFB will be transferred to a number of other organizations presently recording Talking Books.  So, there will be no reduction in the availability of Talking Books. 9

      FRG Auxiliary Scholarship:  It is that time of year again.  No, not Christmas or Chanukah.  Scholarship time!  In January, letters will go out to all Florida Blinded Veterans asking for applications for the Florida Regional Group Auxiliary Scholarship Program.  This year we will be giving two $1000 Scholarships for the 2009-2010 academic year.  We always get questions about grandchildren, but our current guidelines do not include them.  Children and spouses of Florida Blinded Veterans are eligible to apply.  College, trade, and vocational schools are opportunities to apply for these scholarships.  If you have questions, contact Trudy Rothenberg (727) 823-4595 or email  Trudy Rothenberg, FRG Auxiliary Scholarship Program Chairperson.            

      Remember to make your reservations for the January 3 FRG meeting in Ocala by calling Bruce Davis or one of the others listed above by December 31.  Call some of your fellow Blinded Veterans and enjoy an informative and interesting afternoon.  Get a group of your fellow BV's and join us in Ocala.  We look forward to meeting you at the Quality Inn in Ocala on Saturday, January 3.


FRG-BVA Meeting Schedule

January 3                                  FRG Meeting Quality Inn  Hotel in Ocala

January 31                                FRG meeting MacDill AFB E Club in Tampa                 

February 28                          FRG Meeting at the Flaming Pit Restaurant in Pompano Beach

April ?5                                    Proposed FRG meeting in Pensacola

May 1-3                                    FRG State Convention Plaza Ocean Club Hotel Daytona

August 18-23                          BVA National Convention in Portland, Oregon

Newsletter Staff

Paul Kaminsky                       FRG President

Joyce Thornton                        FRG Auxiliary President

Trudy Rothenberg                    FRG Auxiliary Scholarship Chairperson                 

George Stocking                         Editor