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FRG Newsletter - August 2009


     National Legislative Up-Date:  In only 3 of the past 22 years has the appropriations for the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) been passed prior to the start of the Fiscal Year on October 1.  This means that the VHA has had to operate on the previous FY funds for several up to 6 months on reduced funding.  In recent years, the BVA and other service organizations have worked to get Advanced Funding passed by Congress.  This year, S 423 and HR 1016 have been passed by the Senate and House of Representatives.  This means that starting in FY 2009, Congress must pass the appropriation for FY 2010 and projected funding for FY 2011 before October 1.  By July  FY 2010, Congress will review the projected funding for 2011 and make any necessary corrections and pass the funding for FY 2012.  This will permit the VHA to plan its operations with the knowledge that the funding will be available to operate the programs planned.  This is a significant improvement in the provision of health care for America's veterans.  In addition to S 423 and HR 1016, Tom Zampiere, BVA Director of Government Affairs, has been working on a number of other BVA proposals.  S 407 the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) Act of 2009 has passed the Senate and House.  Beginning on December 1, 2009 and for each year thereafter, there will be an automatic increase in the COLA equivalent to the increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI).  This COLA will appear in your January checks.  Due to the poor economy, there may be a decrease in the CPI this year.  In that event, S 406 will continue Service Connected Disability Compensation, Dependency Indemnity Compensation, and other veterans benefits at the 2009 level.HR 1293 the Home Improvement and Structural Alteration (HISA) Act of 2009 has been introduced into the House with bi-partisan support.  HR 1293 would increase the HISA grant for veterans rated at 50% or more from $4100 to $6800 and veterans rated less than 50% and those with non service connected disabilities from $1200 to $2000.  This HISA grant is administered by the VA Medical Centers and is designed to provide home alterations to meet the limitations in the home to be more accessible to the veteran and permit the veteran to be more independent in his/her home.  Two other bills proposed by the BVA have been merged into S 801.  One would provide VA scholarships to individuals taking graduate training in Orientation and Mobility and Blind Rehab Teaching to increase the number of trained individuals for BROS positions.  Those receiving scholarships would have to guarantee that they would work in VA Blind Rehab for at least 3 years.  The other part of S 801 would waive the co-payments for Blinded and Paralyzed Veterans taking training in the VA Blind Rehab Centers and Spinal Cord Injury Centers.   


     FRG Auxiliary President's Message:  I am thrilled to announce that one of our FRG Auxiliary Scholarship winners for the last two years has used her scholarships very successfully.  She is a web designer.  I approached her with the idea of creating a web site for our FRG Auxiliary.  She agreed and on top of it, she is so grateful for our Scholarship Program that she has created it in appreciation for giving her a new secure life.  The FRG Auxiliary Board have worked with Peggy McCloud since the day I got back home from the FRG State Convention.  Today, June 19, 2009, our FRG Auxiliary web site has been launched.  The web address is:  Check it out and if you have any comments, good or bad, please email me at  I hope that you are as excited as I am.  I also have some very exciting information about this year's Scholarships.  Please read below for Trudy's report. Perhaps you will be our next years winner.  Joanne King, FRG Auxiliary President.


     Scholarships Awarded:  Two $1000 Scholarships have been awarded by the FRG Auxiliary for the 2009-2010 school year.  The first recipient is Lillian Bean from Ft. Myers who spent last semester at Auckland University in New Zealand and this year will return to Boston University to complete her degree.  Upon graduation, she hopes to be accepted into the Naval Flight School in Pensacola and become a helicopter pilot.  After serving in the Navy for 4 to 8 years, she would like to attend law school and become an attorney.  She was in the National Honor Society, volunteer in the Relay for Life Cancer Walk and has worked in retail.  This is just a small sample of her education, volunteer, and work experience. 


     Our Next recipient is Donna Cohrs , from Deland, who is working toward a degree in Science Information Technology at Phoenix University in Orlando.  She wants to work for an engineering firm or company that employs Information Technology in its business philosophy.  She is currently working as a Para-professional for the Volusia County School System and has served as a volunteer Area Coordinator for the Council of Parents, Teachers, and Students.  She was a regional and district winner of the Florida Department of Education Parents Involvement Award for 2008 and 2009.  Trudy Rothenberg, FRG Auxiliary Scholarship Program Chairperson.                


     FRG Meeting Notice:  The first Informational Meeting of the Florida Regional Group, for this year, will be held on Saturday, September 12, at the Rosen Plaza Hotel  9700 International Drive in Orlando.  Central East District Director Kirk Harmon has made the arrangements for this luncheon.  The meeting will begin with a period of socializing at 11:30 AM, followed by lunch at noon.  For lunch, you may have either Sliced Sirloin of Beef in mushroom sauce with Potato or Breast of Chicken Picatta with Angel Hair Pasta and House Salad, 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.


     The informational meeting will open 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.  Cut off date for reservations is August 14.           


          The hotel has asked us to  notify them as to the number who will be attending and the type of lunch desired before September 9.  Please make your reservations prior to that date by writing to Kirk Harmon at 1031 Lenore Court, Orlando, FL 32812, email or call (407) 380-3371, cell (407) 404-0001.  You may also make your reservation by calling Rick Cassidy (407)877-8448.  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 12.


     FRG Southwest District Walk-A-Thon:  Attention FRG Southwest District members!  The annual Walk-A-Thon will be held in Ft. Myers on October 3, 2009 from 9 AM to 2 PM.  We urge all veterans to participate in this fund raising venture.  The entire share amount of the funds received by the BVA-FRG shall be used toward the cost of bus transportation to the FRG Convention in Daytona Beach next spring.  Last year, we received $1098 from the Walk-A-Thon and hope to receive at least $1500 this year.  Please help us reach this goal.  For information, contact VIST Coordinator Joyce Thornton at (239) 939-3939 ex 6284.                     


     New Florida BROS Positions:  In recent FRG Newsletters, we have reported information about the new Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialist (BROS) positions that the BVA has obtained through its legislative action.  As a result of that legislation, four BROS positions have been established in Florida, in the past 2 years.  The BROS in Ft. Myers was filled by Joyce Dyer who took up her duties last year.  There was a space problem in Jacksonville and that position has not yet been filled.  Recently, the BROS positions at the Broward VA Outpatient Clinic and Miami VAMC have been filled.


     Broward VA Outpatient Clinic:  Joy McGraw took up her duties as the new BROS at the Broward VAPOR on May 26.  Following high school in her native Lebanon, Missouri she earned a bachelor's degree from Bethel College in Tennessee.  Then, she returned to Missouri where she taught business education for several years.  Then, she accepted a significant challenge by going to New Guinea where she worked several years translating the Bible for the natives.  Upon returning to Lebanon, MO, she worked 7 years as a Counselor for the Welfare Reform Program.  At that time, she moved to Florida where she was employed as a Counselor for the Florida Division of Blind Services in Ft. Lauderdale.  While in that position, she earned a MS degree in Visual Impairment from Florida State University and a MS degree in Orientation and Mobility from the University of Massachusetts.  In April 2000, she was employed as a Blind Rehab Specialist at the West Palm Beach Blind Rehab Center, a position she held until taking up he new position as the BROS at the Broward VAPOR.  Her hobbies are quilting and ham radio operating.  As a ham operator, she volunteers with the Emergency Managements officials by providing communications assistance during hurricanes or other emergencies.  At present, Ms. McGraw lives in Martin County.  She uses Tri Rail to commute to and from work at the Broward VAPOR.  


     Miami VAMC:  Stephanie Kilian, a native of Chicago and daughter of a Vietnam Veteran, has been selected as the BROS at the Miami VAMC.  After high school, Ms. Kilian attended the University of Utah, where she earned a BS degree.  Upon graduation, she went to Montana where she taught several years at the Montana School for the Blind.  Through that experience, she decided to attend the Western Michigan University where she earned a MS Degree in Orientation and Mobility.  As a part of that program, she interned at the Hines VA Blind Rehab Center.  Upon graduation, she returned to Montana where she worked several years for the Montana Agency for the Blind.  Then, she moved to Utah where she worked several years as a counselor for the state before moving to Nevada where she worked 5 years as a teacher.  In July 2008, she was employed at the West Palm Beach Blind Rehab Center.  During the last 11 months, she has been living in Palm Beach County.  On July 6, she took up her duties as the BROS at the Miami VAMC where she will be working with VIST Coordinator Roberta Goldstein.  She plans to move to Dade County shortly.  She says that she has given up her snow boots for a bathing suit as she enjoys the beach. 


     On behalf of the Florida Regional Group, we welcome Joy and Stephanie to their new position as BROS at the Broward VAOPC and Miami VAMC.  We look forward to working cooperatively with you in the future.                        


    Remember to mark your calendar for Saturday, September 12, 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 29.  If you make a reservation and can't come, please call and cancel your reservation before that date .  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 12 for an informative, interesting, and enjoyable afternoon. 


FRG Meeting Schedule

September 12                          FRG Meeting Rosen Plaza Hotel in Orlando

October 3                                 FRG Meeting Holiday Inn Commonwealth in Jacksonville

November 7                            FRG Meeting Sam Seltzer's Steakhouse in Clearwater

December 5                                      Proposed FRG Meeting in Cape Coral


Newsletter Staff

Joanne King                                FRG Auxiliary President

Trudy Rothenberg                    FRG Auxiliary Scholarship Chairperson

George Stocking                         Newsletter Editor