BLINDED VETERANS ASSOCIATION
Chartered by the United States Congress
FLORIDA REGIONAL GROUP
3801 Coco Grove Avenue
Miami, Florida 33133
FRG Newsletter - January 2010
FRG President's Message: There are a couple of significant mile stones currently being reached by your Board of Directors, that have been keeping them busy over the last several months. Prior to Paul Mimms retiring from the VA and moving out of state, he had proposed that the FRG Board of Directors attempt to contact the West Palm Beach Blind Rehab Center (BRC) to establish some constructive communications for the purpose of enhancing the service of the facility. After Paul Mimms moved to Missouri and was no longer the President of the FRG, it was decided that the FRG Board would continue with the WPB BRC evaluation. On Tuesday, December 8, 2009, the Board sent a delegation of 4 members (Terry King - President, Bill Stockslager - Vice President, Chuck Kays - District Director and Mike Nagelberg - Assistant Director)to the West Palm Beach BRC. The final written report on that tour has not yet been completed. It shall be included in the next FRG Newsletter
The computer list serve that you have been hearing about at some of our luncheon meetings, has finally come to fruition. Bill Stockslager has been given the responsibility of establishing this list serve. It is only for FRG Members and Associate Members in good standing. Unlike our FRG Distribution list, the list serve is set up so all can send email and respond to other emails that FRG members send out. The purpose and rules that govern the list serve are: Purpose: To provide a means for two way communications of information for BVA-FRG members and their support needs. The goal is to limit group messages to those that are meaningful to all BVA-FRG members. Too many messages dilute the effectiveness of the group to support its members. Road rules for the site: Participation is limited to BVA-FRG members who are in good standing, that is membership dues must be currently paid. Topics are to be limited to BVA-FRG and VA related information. In this way individual BV's need for support may be shared. Absolutely no political comments and no religious agendas. No jokes - none at all. When possible, avoid entering into controversial topics with other veterans. Opinions about the performance of certain visual aids are examples where differing opinions are appropriate. Absolutely no chain messages. Use of this site: Any member may post a message to all members of this site. How to join: If not already a member of yahoo groups, join - membership is free. Search in yahoo groups for "FRG-BVA" and join as a new member. You may also send an email to email@example.com with your full name and email address. This will go to Bill Stockslager, the moderator of the list serve. After it has been determined that you are a Member or Associate Member of the FRG, you will receive an email that you have been approved. Then, all you have to do is to add this email address to your address book: firstname.lastname@example.org. To post a message to all group members, send an e-mail to email@example.com. If you have any question, you may send an e-mail to Bill Stockslager firstname.lastname@example.org. A lot of thought and work has gone into this list serve project, therefore, I urge you all to sign up and exchange valuable information concerning any and all aspects of our Blinded Veterans in Florida. For information about the BVA-FRG contact one of the following FRG Board of Directors: President Terry King (941) 505-7747 email email@example.com; Vice President Bill Stockslager Punta gorda (941) 743-8364 email firstname.lastname@example.org; Secretary-Treasurer George Stocking (305) 446-8008 email email@example.com; Northwest District Darryl Goldsmith - Pensacola (850) 554-7819, email dandv5@cox. net; 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 (Orlando) (407) 385-7732, email firstname.lastname@example.org ; Southwest District Don Werth Ft. Myers (239) 267-9494 email email@example.com; Southeast District - Chuck Kays (West Palm Beach) (407)873-7993 email firstname.lastname@example.org. Terry King, FRG President. ;
FRG Auxiliary President's Message: It is that time again. Below, you will find the announcement for the FRG Auxiliary Scholarships for the 2010-2011 academic year. Please contact our Scholarship Committee Chairperson, Trudy Rothenberg, for an application.
FRG Auxiliary Scholarship Program: The FRG Auxiliary is once again offering two $1000 Scholarships for the 2010-2011 academic year, for use by the spouse or child of a Florida Blinded Veteran. The child may be a minor child or adult child while the spouse may also be the widow of a Florida BV. Membership in the BVA is not a criterion. Grandchildren are not eligible at this time. The purpose of the FRG Auxiliary Scholarship Program, which is both need and merit based, is to award scholarship grants by the recipient either at a college or university, a trade or vocational school, or any other pursuit that leads to the enrichment of vocational life. The money is sent directly to the school where the recipient has already been accepted and may be used by the awardees for tuition, books, and fees. Applications may be requested by emailing email@example.com or by calling (727) 823-4595. Completed applications must be postmarked no later than April 15, 2010. The selection will be made by the FRGA Scholarship Committee. Trudy Rothenberg, FRGA Scholarship Chairperson. .
FRG Meeting Notice: The next meeting of the Florida Regional Group will be held on Saturday February 6, at the Sam Seltzer's Steak House 4744 North Dale Mabry Blvd. 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 Prime Rib or Chicken Picatta
and Salad, Baked Potato, Rolls & Butter, Iced Tea, Coffee, or Soda, 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 Terry King 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.
The restaurant has asked us to notify them as to the number who will be attending and the type of luncheon desired before February 3. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition, you may call Richard Brown, Tampa VAMC VIST Coordinator, at: (813) 903-2442 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. Dale Mabry Highway is a North to South main artery which may be accessed by taking I 75 north to I 275 West to the Raymond James Stadium exit. Go north on Dale Mabry approximately a half mile passed the Stadium. Sam Seltzer's will be on your left, west side of Dale Mabry. Those coming from the St. Petersburg or Clearwater areas take State Road 60 across the Veterans Causeway on I 275 east to the Raymond James Stadium exit. 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. Parking is available adjacent to the restaurant. Begin planning now and bring another Blinded Veteran with you and join us at the Sam Seltzer's Steakhouse on Saturday, February 6. Although you only pay $5 for the luncheon, the FRG will pay $16 for each meal guaranteed. If you make a reservation and can't come, please contact one of those listed above and cancel your reservation by February 3. In that way the FRG will not pay for unused meals.
National Up-Date: Prior to its adjournment for the holidays, the first session of the 111 Congress passed the appropriation for the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) for the 2010 Fiscal Year, which began on October 1.It is ironic that due to the passage of the Advance DVA Funding Act, the FY 2011 appropriation passed Congress first. the FY 2010 appropriation included a $5.4 billion increase in the Veteran Health Administration (VHA) funding for this year. With this funding available, the VHA will use a very complicated formula to distribute these funds to the 21 Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISN). Since the decentralization of funding which was implemented in 1995, the 21 VISN's do the actual distribution to the various VAMC within their areas. With the exception of the panhandle, Florida is in District 8 which includes the VA Health Care facilities in Florida and Puerto Rico. Nevin Weaver is the VISN 8 Director and will coordinate the dissemination of funding and makes the decisions regarding the funding each VAMC receives. This appropriation contained sufficient funds to provide the resources for medical inflation, the existing operations, and authorized new programs. This funding should provide the resources for the various VAMC's to provide the treatment that veterans need and deserve.
In recent Newsletters we have reported on 3 measures the BVA has sponsored for the benefit of BV's. 1. The elimination of the co-payments for BV's above the income threshold for treatment in Blind Rehabilitation Centers (BRC) and Spinal Core Injury Rehabilitation Centers; 2. An increase in the Home Improvement and Structural Alterations (HISA) grant; and 3. Provide funding for individuals taking graduate level training in Blind Rehabilitation. This measure would require recipients of these scholarships to work at lease 3 years for the VA in that field. These measures along with 12 other proposals were lumped into Senate 801, which was passed by the Senate. Unfortunately, the Senate and House bills contained different provisions, thus requiring the bills go to a Conference Committee. Just prior to the adjournment, that committee came to a verbal agreement. With the inclusion of several other issues, they lumped all proposals into S 1963, upon which agreement was reached. However, there was insufficient time to get the Senate and House to vote on S 1963. Now that Congress has reconvened, , Tom Zampieri, BVA Director of Government Operations has learned from Senate and House staff, that S 1963 should be voted upon in late January. .
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 $25211 in 2009. FS 196.101 has a provision which provides an annual increase in the income limitation equal to the increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). It is probable that there will not be an increase for 2010, since the Consumer Price Index did not increase in 2009. To qualify, obtain a statement from two Florida licensed Ophthalmologists stating that you are legally blind. Take those statements to your County Tax Appraiser's Office before March 1. You will be required to certify your income annually to maintain this Total Homestead Tax Exemption available under FS 196.101.
Remember to make your reservation for the February 6 FRG meeting at Sam Seltzer's Steakhouse , by contacting one of those listed above before February 3. We look forward to meeting you there.
FRG-BVA Meeting Schedule
February 6 FRG Meeting at Sam Seltzer's Steakhouse in Tampa
February 27 FRG Meeting at the Tropical Acres in Ft. Lauderdale .
April 30-May 2 FRG State Convention Plaza Ocean Club Hotel in Daytona
August 24-29 BVA National Convention in Washington, D.C.
Terry King FRG President
Joanne King FRG Auxiliary President
Trudy Rothenberg FRG Auxiliary Scholarship Committee Chairperson
George Stocking Editor