BLINDED VETERANS ASSOCIATION
Chartered by the United States Congress
FLORIDA REGIONAL GROUP
3801 Coco Grove Avenue
Miami, Florida 33133
FRG Newsletter - DECEMBER 2009
FRG President's Message: "Seasons Greetings" I hope that you all have a wonderful Holiday Season. Beginning after the first of the year, I will include in this President's Message, information about the total number of paid up members in Florida. This way I am hoping to establish a goal for all of us to attain. We have a very good start this year to reach our long standing goal of 1500 paid up members. Let's all of us make it happen, by signing up at least some of the over 1000 BV's, to whom we are currently sending our FRG Newsletter, but are not presently members. We need to have the support of these BV's to have a stronger voice in getting the services and benefits BV's need and deserve. The Southwest District of the FRG, just concluded its 2009 Vision awareness Walk-A-Thon. This Walk-A-Thon had participants from 6 organizations and agencies serving the blind. The proceeds from this Walk-A-Thon are shared equally among the six groups. This year, even though the economy is struggling, the Walk-A-Thon managed to realize more than $1300 for each group. Now, the FRG Southwest District has over $1300 toward the renting of a bus for our BV's to go to the FRG State Convention in Daytona Beach April 30-May 2. The Vision Awareness Program that we set up several years ago, now has its own IRS 501 C-3 non profit status. It is hoped that in the future, the proceeds from this event will be sufficient to fund the total expense for the bus rental for the Southwest District trip to the FRG State Convention, each year.
From time to time, I plan to review some new devices which might be of interest to BV's in Florida. This month, I will describe the Victor Stream Reader, which is available through your VIST Coordinator for qualified BV's. It is small in size and so easy to use! What is the Victor Stream Library Edition? It is a new package that includes a Victor Stream Reader and a National Library Service (NLS) book cartridge holder, and SD card pack with information and headphones. Will the standard Stream still play NLS cartridges? Yes, the "standard" will continued to be packaged with a short USD cable to attach to the NLS cartridge to play or copy it to the Stream. This is a convenient way to read NLS book cartridges any where or any time! Over the next few years, the NLS for the Blind and Physically disabled will replace old cassette books by switching to digital cartridges. These cartridges are about the same size as a single cassette but the entire book fits on only one cartridge. There is no need to manage multiple cassettes or change sides any more. The digital books on cartridges are high quality, professionally recorded audio without the hiss of cassette tapes. NLS will provide free digital book cartridge players over the coming years to all patrons. The library edition is a new model of the popular pocket size Victor Stream Reader from Human Ware and is capable of playing both download digital books and the new book cartridges. If you do not have a computer for downloading books, the Victor Stream Reader library edition can play the book cartridges directly using its convenient book cartridge holder that attaches to the back of the Stream Reader to hold the cartridge. Simply insert a book cartridge into the holder and the book begins to play automatically. Your favorite NLS book in your pocket. These NLS digital books for the Stream Reader are encrypted and you must apply to the NLS Braille and Audio Download (BARD) web site to get an authorization file, that when loaded in the Stream Reader will provide the necessary digital decryption key to play both the download books and book cartridges. This does not apply to the digital Talking Book player and books distributed by the Talking Book Library. To apply for BARD service and request the authorization to play the books on the Stream Reader, visit the BARD web site at: https://nlsbard.loc.gov. You may also get information about the BARD program from the Talking Book Library in Daytona Beach at: (800) 226-6075. For information about the BVA-FRG contact one of the following FRG Board of 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 - Claremont (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. Terry King, FRG President.
FRG Auxiliary President's Message: This is the time for Holiday wishes and the time to remind everyone that this is also a season for giving. No matter how things can seem unfixable, I always say get upset over the things that you can change and accept the things you can't. Life is too short to ponder over the unfixables. All I want for Christmas is not my two front teeth, but for each of our Auxiliary members to bring one person to join our FRG Auxiliary. I would also like to write my messages about the Auxiliary to be more interesting. If anyone has a special event in their community, of which a veteran and spouse is involved, please send the information to me for the Newsletter. For instant, do you have Support Groups or socials? We are very active here in Southwest Florida and our state is very large. Are you getting together with couples and going out to a special Christmas party? We are. The BVA Support Group in Port Charlotte is having a special Christmas luncheon. I know that Ft. Myers will be doing the same. Acquaintances make for friends. Friends means social activities. Isn't that what most of us enjoy? Have a wonderful Holiday. For your husbands who are BV's, don't have him drink and drive. You may reach me at 24243 Pirate Harbor Blvd., Punta Gorda, FL 33955 (941) 505-7747 email email@example.com Joanne King, FRG Auxiliary President. (941) 505-7747 or email:
FRG Meeting Notice: The next meeting of the Florida Regional Group will be held on Saturday, January 16, 2010 at the Hilton Hotel 3600 S.W. 36 Avenue 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: London Broil with Sherry Mushroom Sauce and Roasted Potatoes or Breast of Chicken & Herbal Champagne Cream Sauce with Rice Pilaf and Garden Salad, Green Beans Almandine, Rolls & Butter, Iced Tea or Coffee and Dessert. The price of the lunch will be $5 per person including tax & tip.
FRG President Terry King 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 January 13. 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. You may also call Central East District Director Robert Earnshaw at: (352) 243-3969, email firstname.lastname@example.org. 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. Although the cost of the meal to you is only $5, each meal guaranteed will cost your Regional Group $15. So if you make a reservation and can't come please call Bruce Davis before January 13 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 350. Go East off of I 75 on State road 200 to the first traffic Light and turn right on S.W. 36 Avenue. The Hilton hotel will be on your right. Free parking is available at the hotel. If you need directions call the Hilton at (352)7 854-1400. Do not call the hotel to make or cancel reservations, call one of those listed above.
National Legislative Up-Date: At the writing of this Newsletter, Congress is tie up with health care legislation. The House has passed the Administrations bill and sent it to the Senate. It will probably take time for the Senate to pass any health care legislation. In the meantime, Much of the work of Congress is not being accomplished. The Advanced Funding for the Veterans Health Administration (VHA)passed both the House and Senate and was signed by the President. As a result an appropriation bill for the VHA for Fiscal Year 2011 has been passed. Although the VHA appropriation for FY 2010 has passed the House, it has not passed the Senate. There was a move to get the Senate to pass it so that the President could sign it on Veterans Day. However the Senate recessed before voting. It is anticipated that the Senate will pass the FY 2010 VHA appropriation before you receive this Newsletter. The three measures the BVA has been pushing Congress to pass for Blinded Veterans have passed the House and has been lumped into S 801 along with 12 other issues in the Senate. Those provisions are: 1. The elimination of co-payments for veterans above the income threshold who attend Blind Rehab Centers and Spinal Cord Injury Rehab Centers; 2. Increase the Home Improvement and Structural Alterations allowance (HISA) from $4100 to $6800 for service connected veterans and from $1200 to $2000 for non service connected veterans. This HISA Grant is available through your VAMC and is for making alterations in your home in relation to your disability to make it more compatible for independence in your home; 3. VHA scholarships for individuals to pursue graduate training in Orientation and Mobility, Blind Rehab Teaching and Vision Rehab Specialist. This measure would require scholarship recipients to work at least 3 years as a Blind Rehab Specialist with the VHA. The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee is attempting to get S 801 brought to the Senate floor by the Unanimous Consent process. This would permit it to be voted upon without discussion. Unfortunately Senator Coburn of Oklahoma is holding it up. He is opposed to one provision in the bill which he feels would cost to much and is not covered by other reduction in expenditures. Senator Akaka, Chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee and the Senate Leadership are bringing pressure on Senator Coburn to rescind his hold and permit S 801 to be voted upon. It is hoped that S 801 will be passed by the time you receive this Newsletter.
Jacksonville VAOPC BROS Position: In 2008, the BVA secured authorization and funding from Congress for 35 additional Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialist (BROS) to be placed in areas around the US where large concentrations of Blinded Veterans are located. Four of those BROS positions were located in Florida. Three of those positions, Ft. Myers, Miami, and Ft. Lauderdale, have been filled. The fourth Bros position was allocated to Jacksonville. Due to a shortage of space, the filling of that position was delayed. We are most happy to report that the BROS position in Jacksonville has finally been filled and the new BROS will be on board shortly. This brings to 10 the number of BROS positions in Florida. We are fortunate to have more full time VIST Coordinator and BROS positions than any other state. The BVA and FRG will continue to work to insure that the services BV's in Florida need and deserve are maintained and when possible extended. We need the support of all BV's to continue this work. .
FRG Auxiliary Scholarship: It is that time of year again. No, not Christmas or Chanukah. It is 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 2010-2011 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 email@example.com. Trudy Rothenberg, FRG Auxiliary Scholarship Program Chairperson.
Remember to make your reservations for the January 16 FRG meeting in Ocala by calling Bruce Davis or one of the others listed above before January 13. 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 Hilton in Ocala on Saturday, January 16.
FRG-BVA Meeting Schedule
January 16 FRG Meeting Hilton Hotel in Ocala
February 6 FRG meeting Sam Seltzer's Steakhouse in Tampa
February 27 Proposed FRG Southeast District Meeting
April 30- May 2 FRG State Convention Plaza Ocean Club Hotel Daytona
August 24-29 BVA National Convention in Washington, D.C.