VETERANS ASSOCIATION (BVA)
FLORIDA REGIONAL GROUP, INC.
3801 Coco Grove Avenue
Miami, Florida 33133
FRG NEWSLETTER, Januaryr 2009
FRG President's Message: This is the first FRG Newsletter of the New Year; Therefore, "Have a Happy and Great New Year," is the appropriate greeting. Thus far, since the BVA National Convention, we have held five great get togethers FRG VIST luncheons around Florida. It has been a pleasure getting to meet you all. With this New Year, I would like for you all to make and keep at least the following resolution. I would like for all Florida Blinded Veterans to call their VIST Coordinators, tell them your birthday and ask them if they would schedule you for an annual VIST review somewhere close to that date. Remember the old axiom, "use it or lose it." Well, that is a very truthful statement. The BVA, over its history, has played a major factor in establishing the VIST Program and Blind Rehabilitation Centers. At least once a year, we need to set up an appointment with our VIST Coordinator, sit and talk with them and find out what benefits and entitlements for which you are eligible. At that time, you can set up appointments or verify that your names is still active in the VA data base. Back to the old axiom, if we fail to establish the number of Blinded Veterans in the state, we won't have the appropriate number of VIST Coordinators and BROS to minister to our needs. Even if you are a retired vet, with full access to TriCare for Life, or have civilian health care eligibility, and can use non VA health care, I urge you to still take the time to set up an annual VIST Review. Let the VIST Program know that you exist and be counted. Many VIST Coordinators have VIST Support Groups meetings. Ask if you can participate in them. Get out of the house, find transportation, and attend these meetings. Good information is passed out at these meetings and you might find a new friend who is in the same boat and find out how others have dealt with the frustration of the loss of their eyesight. Through these group meetings, you might be able to be shown new avenues or show other ways of supporting an enjoyable new adventure. If your VIST Coordinator doesn't hold VIST Support Meetings, then ask if they might consider starting or restarting one. People may have to volunteer to help the VIST Coordinator copy, fold, and put address labels on the meeting notice flyers. Few BV's are aware of the large amount of work it takes to get the word out to everyone. Another item you might want to put on your calendar is the FRG State Convention that will be held in Daytona Beach, May 1-3, at the lovely Plaza Ocean Club Hotel. You really can't imagine how relaxed you will be after spending three or four days listening to the rolling surf and visiting with friends. Many people called me and asked; why doesn't the FRG do this or do that? Well, unless the members approve things at the State Convention, the elected officers can't just take it upon themselves. So, join us in Daytona Beach. If you want to bring up any topic at the Convention for the members to resolve the issue, try to have it written down. Talking topics really get confusing. If you need help formalizing a motion, just give me a call and I'll see if I can lend a hand. 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 (863-255-9275 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; 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
FRG Auxiliary President's Message: I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of the FRG Auxiliary members a Happy New Year. Each year, I look forward to the New Year, hoping that new and better things will be happening. Having a positive attitude will make the difference. I hope that our membership increases and that all of us will keep our good health. We all make New Year's Resolutions to try and change things, but we can only change ourselves. Our FRG State Convention will be coming up again in May. Even though it seems far away, it will be here before we know it. I would like the Auxiliary members to start thinking about who they would like to have as their new officers, in particular, the President. I have served as President for the past three years and have thoroughly enjoyed it. However, I think it is time to step aside to make room for someone who might have new ideas and can provide the leadership the FRG Auxiliary needs. So, think about it. I'm sure there is someone out there who would enjoy becoming the 2009-2010 FRG Auxiliary President. In the meantime, once again, have a Happy New year and I am looking forward to seeing you at one of our District Luncheon Meetings. Joyce Thornton, FRG Auxiliary President.
FRG Meeting Notice:
The next meeting of the Florida Regional Group will be held on Saturday January 31, at the Enlisted Club at the MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa. The meeting will begin with a period of socializing at 11:30 AM, followed by lunch at noon. For lunch, you may have either Marinated Breast of Chicken or Sliced Roast Beef and Salad, Potatoes, Vegetables, Rolls & 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 for an additional charge. FRG President Paul Kaminsky will preside at the meeting following lunch. VA Representatives will be on hand to provide information about services and benefits of interest to BV's and their families. FRG activities for the remainder of the year will be discussed. Information about the FRG Auxiliary will be presented.
IMPORTANT! IMPORTANT! Security has been significantly tightened at the MacDill Air Force Base where we will hold the next meeting of the Florida Regional Group. As a result, no one will be admitted to the base who has not previously been cleared. Individuals with valid Military ID cards will be admitted. Otherwise, one of the following information items must be provided in advance, for each person attending, so that BV's and their guests can be admitted to the base: 1. Full name with middle initial, Social Security number and date of birth; 2. Driver's license number, full name, and state issued; 3. Non driver's Identification number with full name and state of issue. This is a tightened security requirement. Below you will find the names and phone numbers of the individuals taking reservations and ID information. Please give one of the above indicated ID information, so we can provide it to the security guards. In addition, the Enlisted Club has asked us to notify them as to the number who will be attending and the type of luncheon desired before January 28. 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 by calling Gigi at: (863) 255-9275, email email@example.com. In addition, you may call Charles Nieberding, Tampa VAMC VIST Coordinator, at: (813) 631-7140 or Jody Teper, Bay Pines VIST Coordinator at (727) 398-6661 ex 4516. The restaurant needs the reservation information in order to prepare properly for our meeting. Please enter the MacDill AFB Main Gate at the South Dale Mabray Highway entrance. Dale Mabray Highway is a North to South main artery which may be accessed from I 275 at exit 23 B. Those coming from the St. Petersburg or Clearwater areas may take the Courtney Campbell Causeway to Eisenhower Blvd., turn South and go to Kennedy Blvd., Then turn left and proceed Eastward to Dale Mabray Highway. Then, turn right and proceed Southward. The Air Force Base is a good 7 to 8 miles from I 275 or Kennedy Blvd. From the North, (Ocala etc.) I 75 or from the East (Orlando, etc.) on I 4, continue until they merge with I 275, then continue as above. You cannot miss MacDill AFB if you are going south on Dale Mabray, as that highway ends at the base. Continue through the Main Gate, bear left on North Boundary Road, follow it by the Exchange and Commissary to the third traffic light. Turn right at the light and the Enlisted Club should be on your immediate right. Parking is available adjacent to the Club. Begin planning now and bring another Blinded Veteran with you and join us at the MacDill AFB Enlisted Club on Saturday, January 31. Please join us there.
National Up-Date: On Wednesday, December 17, Tom Miller, BVA Executive Director and Tom Zampieri, BVA Director of Governmental Operations met with representatives of President Elect Obama's Transition Team. Steve Hilton, on the Whitehouse Transition Team, and Koby Langley, on the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) Transition Team, came to the BVA Headquarters. Tom Miller presented a brief history of the BVA and Tom Zampieri outlined the issues the BVA was working with the Department of Defense (DOD) and DVA to accomplish in the coming year. Tom Z indicated that Senator Obama was one of the co-sponsors of the BVA's bill to establish a Military Eye Trauma Center of Excellence. There was a positive exchange of information and they promised to work with the BVA as the Congressionally Chartered Veterans Service Organization specifically charged with representing Blinded Veterans with Congress, the Administration, and other governmental agencies. Tom M. and Tom Z. felt that they were able to educate the Transition Team Representatives regarding the needs of Blinded Veterans.
President Elect Obama has nominated General Eric K. Shinseki for the position of Secretary of Veterans Affairs in the new administration. General Shinseki served as Chief of Staff of the Army and is now retired. If confirmed by the Senate, he will take up his duties as DVA Secretary in early 2009.
The BVA has learned from Gail Watson, newly appointed Director of the VA Blind Rehabilitation Service, that the location of the 15 Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialist (BROS) position in the FY 2009 appropriation was sent up the chain of command for routine approval. It recommended that those BROS be on the job by May 1. Florida had 2 BROS positions on that list: Broward VA Outpatient Clinic and Miami VAMC.
Florida Total Homestead Tax Exemption Reminder: It's that time of year, when we remind Blinded Veterans of two Total Homestead Tax Exemption Statutes available to qualified individuals in Florida. This may be old information to some of you. However, we have many Blinded Veterans move into Florida each year and with Florida's older population, many veterans lose their vision each year. Consequently, we are including this information. The Florida Regional Group worked many years to obtain and improve these benefits. If you qualify, take your documentation to your local Tax Appraiser before March 1.
FS 196.081 provides a total Homestead Tax Exemption to 100% service connected disabled veterans. The exemption has no income limitation. In the event of the veteran's death, the exemption is continued to the surviving spouse, as long as he or she does not remarry. In the past the spouse would have to remain in the same home to continue the exemption. Several years ago, the FRG secured an amendment to the statute to permit the surviving spouse to keep the exemption on that home or a different home as long as the new home is assessed at the same or a lower amount. To qualify for this exemption, a veteran should obtain a statement from the VA Regional Office certifying that he or she is a 100% service connected disabled veteran. This total Homestead Exemption will be renewed each year. If you have qualified for this Total Exemption in the past and have not received notification of the renewal by the end of January, contact your County Tax Appraiser's Office.
FS 196.101 provides a Total Homestead Tax Exemption to certain individuals who are restricted to a wheelchair for mobility or who are legally blind. This total Exemption has a total household income limitation of $24289 in 2008. FS 196.101 has a provision which provides an annual increase in the income limitation equal to the increase in the Consumer Price Index. It is possible that there will be a small increase for 2009. To qualify, obtain a statement from two Florida licensed Ophthalmologists stating that you are legally blind. You will be required to certify your income annually to maintain the Total Homestead Tax Exemption under FS 196.101.
Remember to make your reservation for the January 31 FRG meeting at the MacDill AFB Enlisted Club before January 28 and provide the necessary identification information to those listed above. Due to the War on Terrorism, security at the base is tight and we must provide the necessary information to security at the gate for individuals to be admitted
FRG-BVA Meeting Schedule
January 31 FRG Meeting at the MacDill AFB Enlisted Club in Tampa
February 28 FRG Meeting at the Flaming Pit Restaurant in Pompano Beach.
April 4 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