BLINDED VETERANS ASSOCIATION
Chartered by the United States Congress
FLORIDA REGIONAL GROUP
3801 Coco Grove Avenue
Miami, Florida 33133
FRG Newsletter - November 2009
FRG President's Message: This message, in part, is going to be about the VA Health Care System. I had the opportunity to spend some 10 days in the hospital, of course, not by choice. It did give me the opportunity to take a good look at the services that our hospitals are providing to our veterans. I arrived at the Ft. Myers Outpatient Clinic Emergency Care Unit at about 9 AM, suffering from chest pains. Within less than one hour, I was transferred to the Gulf Coast Hospital, a civilian facility in the Ft. Myers area. Test were run and I was considered to be stable. For the next two days I was treated at that hospital, while the VA was contacted to determine whether or not to transfer me to the Bay Pines VAMC. Now, the point here is that I do not carry health insurance, as I am service connected and therefore, I have always used the VA Health Care System. During my two day stay, I can report that the staff and services were good to mostly adequate. The one thing that stood out clearly was that you could tell, beyond any doubt, that it was a business run operation. Everything from aspirin to towels was closely monitored. There was no doubt that profit was a very high priority. After two days in that facility, the VA made a decision to transfer me to Bay Pines VAMC, late on a Thursday night. Unfortunately, this delayed some of the testing that had to be done before they could decide what procedures to perform. After some extensive testing, over the next 4 days and consultation with other doctors, it was determined that I had a blockage in the blood supply to my heart. Now, here is the primary reason I am telling you this story, that is, beyond any doubt, the services I received at Bay Pines was absolutely superb. The civilian hospital services were good but VA's were absolutely excellent. Now, for the second part of the scenario. I had plenty of time to talk to many of the staff employed at Bay Pines. One, of their concerns, was the fear that the VA facilities throughout the country, might be used to fill the gap of the civilian hospitals and clinics, with the uncertainty of the government changing the overall health care system in the country. If this were to happen, this might mean that civilians might be served by the VA also. Some may say that this could never happen, but just take a look about what is happening around the country right now that we thought could never happen. The real strength of the VA is the many veterans service organizations that are continuously monitoring and lobbying for services for veterans. This is the reason why every veteran should be a member of a veterans service organization. All veterans need to stay in contact with what is happening and be ready to support their organization when required by their respective leaders who are hard at work in Washington. I think that most of us are aware decisions made by our elected officials in congress and the Senate, are not always determined by what is most practical, but by the number of votes that may be gained or lost by what they decide. Therefore, if you are not currently a member, I urge you to make haste and join the BVA for the future safe guards of all of the services that have been made available to us. The following is a list of FRG Officers and District Directors: President Terry King (941) 505-7747 email firstname.lastname@example.org; Vice President Bill Stockslager Punta gorda (941) 743-8364 email email@example.com; Secretary-Treasurer George Stocking (305) 446-8008 email firstname.lastname@example.org; Northwest District Darryl Goldsmith - Pensacola (850) 554-7819, email email@example.com; Northeast District Bill Burgess -Palm Coast (386) 445-4987 email firstname.lastname@example.org; Central West District Gigi Mathis - Lakeland (863-255-9275 email email@example.com; Central East District Robert Earnshaw (352) 253-3969 email firstname.lastname@example.org ; Southwest District Don Werth Ft. Myers (239) 267-9494 email email@example.com; Southeast District - Chuck Kays (407)873-7993 email firstname.lastname@example.org. You may use these contacts for getting information about services for BV's and activities of the BVA and FRG. Terry King FRG President
Fishing Trip: Willie Menendez of Homosassa County is organizing a deep sea fishing trip, in the near future, and the charter boat will be going out of Hernando Beach. He is inviting any of his fellow Blinded Veterans and friends to come along. If you live in the following counties: Citrus, Hernando, and Pasco, and are interested, please call Willie at: (352) 382-2314. or email webtv.net
FRG Auxiliary President's Message: I had an experience at the Bay Pines VA Hospital that I would like to share. While Terry was an inpatient at the hospital, I became aware that there weren't any volunteers to assist the spouses who may need such assistance. This may sound insignificant until you actually experience a sense of need. For example, the spouse may be physically unable to walk long distances to the cafeteria or like me, unable to see what and where the vending machines have in them. Perhaps the spouse is from a different part of Florida and is not familiar with the hospital or its town. Therefore, assistance is needed for such things as where is the best place to stay or where restaurants are located. They may simply need assistance to the cafeteria or just going down to the vending machines for a cup of coffee or to bring it back upstairs without spilling it on someone if the spouse has difficulty doing it for herself. I was very grateful that Terry had a private room which permitted me to stay in the room. But I must say that I was otherwise stranded. I don't expect the nursing staff to help me but there should have been volunteers to help. Would it be possible for a few of our FRG Auxiliary members to volunteer at the VA hospital in their town to help these spouses? Possibly, the VIST Coordinator could notify someone in the Auxiliary that a Blinded Veteran or possibly that his spouse is at the hospital and could use some help, or at least a friendly greeting. I would like comments on this issue. Please contact me with any suggestions. If this is being done in other areas, I sure would like to know. This would give the FRG Auxiliary our chance to put the Auxiliary's purpose into action. We must give assistance to each other. In times of need, this assistance would be helpful, no matter where the VA hospital is located in Florida. Once a week Auxiliaries of other veterans organizations get together to distribute baskets with razors, toothbrushes, etc for the vets in the hospital. I thought it was helpful and the FRG Auxiliary should take part in that also. Please take this suggestion seriously, as I know first hand this is needed. I want and need your input on this subject. You may contact me at (941) 505-7747 or email email@example.com. Reminder: The FRG Auxiliary will offer two $1000 Scholarships to the spouse or child of Florida Blinded Veterans for the 2010-2011 academic year. Announcements letters, regarding these Scholarships, will be sent to you in January. Joanne King, FRG Auxiliary President.
FRG Meeting Notice: The next meeting of the Florida Regional Group will be held on Saturday, December 5th, at the Palms Restaurant at the Sabal Springs Golf and Racket Club, 17540 Old Tamiami Trail, North Ft. Myers. The meeting will begin with a period of socializing at 11:30 AM, followed by lunch at noon. For lunch, you may have Roast Beef, or Grilled Chicken and Garden Salad, Red Bliss Potatoes, and Vegetable, Rolls & Butter, Iced Tea or Coffee and dessert. The cost of the luncheon will be $5 per person, including tax and tip. Beer, wine, and mixed drinks will be available for an additional charge.
FRG President Terry King will preside at the meeting 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.
The restaurant has asked us to notify them as to the number who will be attending and the type of luncheon desired by December 3rd. Please make your reservations prior to that date by writing to Terry King, in Charlotte County, at: 24243 Pirate Harbor Blvd., Punta Gorda, FL 33955, or call Terry at (941) 505-7747, email firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also make your reservations by calling in Lee County: Joyce Thornton Gilbert, VIST Coordinator, at (888) 513-0045 ex. 6284, or in Ft. Myers contact Don Werth at (239) 267-9494; John Thomas, St. James City, at (239) 283-1708. In Cape Coral, call Edwin Wack at (239) 574-8592. In Naples, call Don McCartney at 239) 732-5399, in Venice call Frank Drab at (941) 497-7044, in Punta Gorda call Bill Stockslager at (941) 743-8364. The restaurant needs the reservation information in order to prepare properly for our meeting.
To get to the Palms Restaurant, go North on I 75 to Exit 143, then Go West on Bayshore (State Road 78) 6.3 miles to "Old" US 41. Turn right (North) 2.2 miles to the "Shell Factory" and continue on US 41 another 1.3 miles to Sabal Springs Golf and Racket Club (a total of 3.5 miles North of SR 78). Turn right or East and continue about 3/4 mile past the guard house. Tell the guard you are going to the BVA meeting at the Palms Restaurant. Going South on I 75, take Exit 158 and go West on Tucker's Grade a short distance to US 41. Turn left (South) and go about 11 miles to the Del Prado Extension, continue 0.5 miles past that traffic light. Sabal Springs will be on your left or East side of the highway. Free Parking is available next to the restaurant. Check with your fellow Blinded veterans, family members, and friends and make plans to join us on Saturday, December 5th in North Ft. Myers. We look forward to meeting you there.
Last year, a number of BV's made reservations but did not attend or cancel. Consequently the FRG had to pay $15 for each reservation under our guarantee. Although you only pay $5 for the lunch, the FRG subsidizes it with an additional $10. If someone makes a reservation and does not come or cancel, the FRG must pay the total $15 for each reservation we guarantee. If you can't come, please call and cancel it before December 2.
US Legislative Up-Date: In the September FRG Newsletter, it was reported that the US Senate and House of Representatives have passed, in differing forms, the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act of 2009, prior to the summer recess. The bills were
identical with the exception that the Senate bill did not include advanced funding for Information Technology and Research. In September, a Conference Committee was appointed composed of members of the Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees. After considerable deliberation, the Committee accepted the Senate version of the bill. As this Newsletter is being written, the House has passed the Conference Committee bill with a vote of 419 to 1. Since the new bill is the same as previously passed by the Senate, it is anticipated that the Senate will pass it shortly. This historic event is the culmination of years of work to reform the budget process for the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) funding. It will dramatically improve the VHA to manage the delivery of high quality rehabilitative services. Veterans Health Care will no longer be a victim of Congress' failure to pass necessary appropriations on time, as has been the case for 20 out of the past 22 years. The legislation authorizes Congress to approve VA Medical Care appropriations one year in advance of the start of each fiscal year, instead of for the upcoming year only. In practice, it gives the VHA an additional year to plan how to deliver the most efficient and effect care to a larger number of veterans with increasing complex medical conditions. Dr. Tom Zampieri, BVA Director of Governmental Affairs, said predictable and timely funding will most certainly improve the care of America's Blinded Veterans. BVA is one of nine Congressionally Chartered Veterans Service Organizations, comprising the Partnership for Veterans Health Care Budget Reform. The partnership has been united in seeking reform to the current budget process for 20 years has worked for a variety of reforms to insure that veterans receive the health care they have rightly earned as a result of their service.
New WPB VIST Coordinator: On September 28, after a week of training with the VIST Coordinator at the Augusta VAMC, Jacqueline Vanbomel took up her duties as the new full time VIST Coordinator at the West Palm Beach VAMC. Jackie, a native of the Dominican Republic, moved to the Bronx, New York at the age of 4. Following high school, she earned an Associate Degree in business from the Becker Jr. College in Worchester, MA. Upon returning to New York, she worked as a Case Manager and Supervisor for the New York Social Service Dept for 10 years. In 1993, she moved to Palm Beach County where she was employed as a case manager for the Palm Beach County Public Health Dept. While working in that position, she enrolled in Lynn University where she earned dual Bachelor's Degrees in Physical Therapy and Psychology in 1997. Later, she entered Graduate School at Florida Atlantic University. As part of her program for a Master's Degree in Social Work (MSW), she interned at the WPB VAMC, where Carolyn Bryson was her supervisor. Upon completing her MSW Program in 2007, she was employed as a Blind Rehab Specialist at the WPB BRC where she received certification in Low Vision and Living Skills. For hobbies, Jackie enjoys water color painting, photography, and dancing. Jackie, on behalf of Blinded Veterans in Florida, particularly those in the WPB VAMC catchment area, we welcome you to your new position as VIST Coordinator and look forward to working with you in the future.
Remember to mark your calendar for Saturday, December 5th, so that you, your family members, and friends, may attend the FRG meeting at the Palms Restaurant at the Sabal Springs Golf and Racket Club in North Ft. Myers. Be sure to call Terry King or the others listed above and make your reservation before December 2.