BLINDED VETERANS ASSOCIATION
Chartered by the United States Congress
FLORIDA REGIONAL GROUP
3801 Coco Grove Avenue
Miami, Florida 33133
FRG Newsletter - September 2009
FRG Board of Directors Meeting: The FRG Board of Directors held a meeting, by conference call, on the evening of August 3. FRG President Paul Mimms opened the meeting by indicating that following his retirement from the VIST Coordinator position at the WPB VAMC on April 30, it was his plan to spend more time working for the FRG. He wanted to continue the expansion of FRG activities and membership. In addition, he wanted to assist in improving the services at the WPB VAMC Blind Rehab Center. To accomplish these goals, He wanted to encourage more activity within the six Districts, by giving the District Directors more autonomy. However, during the past 3 months, his family situation has changed and it is necessary for him and his wife to return to his hometown in Kansas City, Missouri where he has an expanded family. Consequently, he submitted his resignation effective on August 3. According to the FRG By-Laws, if a vacancy in the position of President occurs, the Vice President will automatically assume the office of FRG President. At that time, Paul Mimms turned the gavel over to Terry King, who conducted the remainder of the meeting. The FRG By-Laws also provide that in the event of a vacancy in the position of Vice President, Secretary-Treasurer, or District Director, it is the President's responsibility to appoint a successor for the vacant position. Accordingly, President Terry King appointed William (Bill) Stockslager to the position of Vice President and, a quorum being present, the Board approved that appointment. George Stocking Secretary-Treasurer.
FRG President's Message: As indicated by the message above, Paul Mimms had to return to his native Kansas City and has resigned as FRG President. Consistent with FRG By-Laws, I have assumed the office of FRG President. In that regard,, I request the support of the FRG Board and of all Blinded Veterans (BV's) in Florida to continue and expand the activities and services of the FRG. I pledge to be diligent and put in long hours to carry out this goal. Most of all, to advocate for all BV's, particularly for those BV's who are having problems with the VA system. Also, according to the FRG By-Laws it is my responsibility to appoint a new Vice President. I have appointed Bill Stockslager and the Board has approved of that appointment. Bill has served as an Assistant District Director for 8 years in the Southwest District. In that position, he has accepted the responsibility for arranging the transportation to our FRG luncheon meetings. In addition, he has been active with the local BV's in many ways. About Six years ago, Bill was responsible for establishing the original FRG Distribution list. Bill and his wife reside in Charlotte County. I am sure that he shall be an excellent asset to the FRG.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has been providing computers to Blinded Veterans for many years. As a result of this practice, BV's have been able to join the world of communications. One of the innovations that this practice brought forth was the Florida Regional Group Distribution List. This Distribution List was started about 6 years ago. At that time, it was indicated that in the future, we may develop it into a means of allowing BV's to write email to their friends around the state. It would also permit them to discuss various issues of interest to them. Further, it would permit BV's to notify each other of new aids and devices that the VA is issuing to eligible BV's. Right now, the FRG Distribution List is "read only". We are considering turning it into an open list, allowing you, not only, to read information that we are putting out but the BV could send out their comments also. The only requirement on the part of the BV would be for him or her to send their email address to the person that is in charge of the group. It's an idea that has been tossed around for some time. We would like to have some input from BB's who have a computer at their house or at their disposal. Therefore, if you could email me at the email address below or by phone, I would be very grateful. If there is not enough interest, it is felt that it's not worth setting up the list serve. Therefore, please respond if you are interested in the establishment of a list serve. Terry King, FRG President, 24243 Pirate Harbor Blvd., Punta Gorda, FL 33955, email firstname.lastname@example.org (941) 505-7747.
FRG Auxiliary President's Message: I hope everyone had a chance to view our very attractive web site for the FRG Auxiliary - www.frgbvaauxiliary.org. If you have any comment, good or bad, please let me know at email@example.com. At our last meeting at the FRG State Convention, I had asks that membership grow from 50 to 150 members. It doesn't make sense that there are over 1000 BVA members in the FRG and only 50 members in the Auxiliary. With all that is going on in this strange era, we need to stand strong together. We certainly don't want our veterans benefits to be cut. I always say that it is numbers that make the difference. The FRG and FRG Auxiliary needs to add members for support. Remember that friends of BV's can also be a member of the FRG Auxiliary. I wish that each of us can bring in at least one more member each. Just read Maureen's message below and join today. Joanne King, FRG Auxiliary President.
National Auxiliary Purpose
To aid the BVA in whatever fashion we are able: To develop a deeper interest in the Blinded Veterans Association by family members and friends: To preserve and strengthen the spirit of fellowship among members so that they may give mutual aid and assistance to one another: We are lucky in the State of Florida to have a local Auxiliary. It gives us the opportunity, not only to get together at the State Convention, but at the monthly luncheons held around the state. These occasion increase our support and friendship for one another. If you are interested in joining, and we hope that you are, the dues are $15 a year; $10 for the National BVAA and $5 for the FRG Auxiliary. Those who have already joined the National BVA Auxiliary, you need only send the $5 for the FRG Auxiliary dues. The Auxiliary Application is on our web site- frgbvaauxiliary.net or call me, Maureen Kaminsky, FRG Auxiliary Membership Chairperson at (904) 291-0576.
FRG Meeting Notice: The next luncheon meeting of the Florida Regional Group will be held on Saturday, October 3 at the Holiday Inn - Commonwealth, 6802 Commonwealth Avenue in Jacksonville. Bill Burgess, Northeast District Director, has made the arrangements for this meeting. It will begin at 11:30 AM with a period of socializing, followed by lunch at noon. For lunch you may have either: Beef Stew with Potato, Carrot, Onion, with Southern Gravy, or Baked Breast of Chicken served with Salad, Rice, Southern Style Green Beans, Rolls & Butter, Iced Tea or Coffee, and Chef's Choice of Dessert. The price of the lunch will be $5 per person including tax & tip.
Terry King, FRG President, will preside at the informational 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.
To get to the hotel, take I 10 East or Highway 301 North to I 295. Continue East on I 295 to exit 22, which is Commonwealth Avenue. Exit there, the hotel is a short distance on your right. From the South take US 17, US 21, or I 95 north to I 295 and continue as above. From the North, take I 95 South and merge with I 295 at exit 360 B to exit 22. Keep left at fork in ramp, turn left on Commonwealth Avenue and the hotel will be on your right. Free parking is available at the hotel.
The hotel has asked us to notify them as to the number who will be attending by September 30. Please make your reservations by that date by writing to Bill Burgess at: 186 Beachwood Lane, Palm Coast, FL 32137 or call (386) 445-4987 or email firstname.lastname@example.org; Paul Kaminsky (904) 291-0576, email email@example.com. You may also make your reservations by calling: Bruce Davis, VIST Coordinator, Gainesville VAMC, at (800) 324-8387 ex. 5560, Louise DiGennaro, VIST Coordinator Jacksonville VA Outpatient Clinic, at: (904) 232-2751 ex 3015, or Judy Hayes, VIST Coordinator Lake City VAMC at: (386) 755-3016 ex. 2088. Although the cost of the meal to you is only $5, each meal guaranteed will cost the FRG $15.54. If you make a reservation and can't come, please call Paul Kaminsky and cancel it by September 29. Otherwise the FRG will have to pay $15.54 for each meal guaranteed, including those unused.
US Legislative Up-Date: Just prior to Congress' recess on August 7, the Senate passed the Advance Funding for the Veterans Health Administration. However, at the last minute, two amendments were included in the final bill. One, eliminated Advanced Funding for Informational Technology and the other to eliminate Advance funding for Research. Since the House version of that bill included those measures, it will be necessary for the measure to go to a Conference Committee. It is anticipated that the Conference Committee will meet shortly after Congress reconvenes in September. It is hoped that this will be straightened out and a final bill passed later in September. The bill to eliminate co-payments for veterans attending training at a Blind Rehab Center or Spinal Cord Injury Rehab Center has passed the House. The Senate has included that measure along with several other measures in S 801. It has passed the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and should be voted upon by the full Senate in late September. S 801 also includes the measure to increase the Home Improvement and Structural Alterations (HISA) Grant for eligible service connected veterans from $4100 to $6800 and for non service connected veterans from $1200 to $2000 for alterations relative to their disabilities. The House has also passed a measure to increase the automobile allowance for eligible service connected veterans from $11,000 to $22,400. If passed it will take effect for eligible veterans who apply, for the first time, after October 1. This is a one time grant and is not retroactive. Watch for further information regarding issues of importance to Blinded Veterans and their families in future FRG Newsletters and BVA Bulletins.
FREE CELL PHONE PROGRAM: Attention All Blinded Veterans! The BVA-FRG is promoting a dual purpose Free Cell Phone Program around the state. Not only will this program give our senior BV's the security they deserve when no one else is available to assist them, it will also be a fund raiser for the BVA-FRG. The benefits of this dual program includes providing our Blinded Veterans and their spouses access to a 911 cell phone for their security when taking a walk or simply of having one available to them at all hours at home. The BVA-FRG needs the help of all Blinded Veterans in Florida to collect used mobile phones in your community. Please join this effort by placing boxes at your local area veterans posts, legions, churches, businesses, diners, etc., would have a great impact on this program. We have already raised over $500 from this effort in just 3 areas by just 3 members. I ask all FRG Assistant District Directors to spread the word about this dual purpose program to all Blinded Veterans in their areas. We urge all BV's to assist in contacting your area businesses and veterans organizations to see if you can place a collection box in their organization's establishments to collect used mobile phones. It's that simple to do! If you have any questions about this dual purpose program contact: Kirk Harmon 911 Cell Phone Fund Raiser Coordinator, 1031 Lenmore Court, Orlando, FL 32812, (407) 380-3371 or (407) 473-2176 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you in advance in assisting with this program. Kirk Harmon, FRG Central East District Director.
Remember to make your reservation for the FRG meeting in Jacksonville on Saturday, October 3 by calling the individuals listed above by September 29.
FRG Meeting Schedule
October 3 FRG meeting Holiday Inn Commonwealth in Jacksonville
November 7 FRG meeting Sam Seltzer's Steak House in Clearwater.
December 5 FRG Meeting Palms Restaurant Spring Green CC Ft Myers
FRG Newsletter Staff
Terry King FRG President
Joanne King FRG Auxiliary President
Maureen Kaminsky FRG Auxiliary Membership Chairperson
George Stocking Newsletter Editor