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  FRG Web Site:
FRG Newsletter January 2011


     FRG President's Message:  Here is a special message primarily for the Southwest District.

Joyce Thornton Gilbert VIST Coordinator will retire at the end of December, 2010.  her immediate supervisor is also retiring at the same time.  Past experience from other areas indicates  it could be quite a lengthy period before a new VIST coordinator is in place.  During the interim, Carol Garber, A Social Worker at the Ft. Myers Clinic will function as a part time VIST Coordinator.  You may reach her at (239) 393-9393 ex 6181.  I would like to urge the veterans in the southwest District to show some restraint in requests, as there is only so much that Carol Garber can do, as she will continue to handle her regular Social Work load.  The FRG shall continue to keep the pressure on the VA to fill the VIST positions as quickly as possible.


     Here we are once again embarking upon a new year.  Hopefully it will be another productive year for FRG as it was in 2010.  Florida not only brought back the golden gavel, from the BVA National Convention, for the largest increase in membership from the previous year, but reached an all time high in the history of the BVA. 

     Now if we can all work as diligently as we did previously, we shall at least be able to maintain our current membership.  Also don’t forget, when attempting to recruit a member, try an talk them into joining up as a life time member as the interest that is derived from the life membership fund comes back to Florida based on our current life members, and that money is what pays for our subsidized luncheons around the state, our convention cost at Daytona Beach, and for the many newsletters that are sent out during the year.  For every life member we recruit is just like fund razing.  For example, for each life member you recruit, it means that you raised around $8 based on our current life membership roles.


     Due to a large number of telephone calls, I am repeating  the information about the Solo-LV Reader listed below.

We have also identified several veterans that had been approved for the Solo Reader going back to June of this year, who had not received there Solo Readers.  This was later quickly corrected by Prosthetics.  Please only request the item if you feel that you are going to use and benefit from the device.  Also remember your VIST Coordinator must determine your eligibility for the device and in some cases the BROS must evaluate and determine if you are able to use the device and benefit from it.  The Solo Reader is a simple device for both auto-reading and magnification.  Read mail, books and newspapers without headaches and getting dizzy.  Easily accomplish everyday tasks that require both reading and magnification, like filling out a form or writing a check.  Easy to use, compact design, and needs no computer.  The Auto-reader is fast and Accurate with No tedious scanning and Magnifies to 12X.  Solo-LV IS a "self-contained auto reader that also magnifies. It allows low vision people to use as much of the remaining vision they have and eliminates unnecessary stress for their eyes by using a unique combination of Voice, and the right magnification.  It can also be used in speech only mode with no display, or magnification.  Reading and magnification are two very different tasks.  Simple magnification may not be the best solution for reading.  For those whose sight is deteriorating, Solo-LV is the perfect Solution because they can choose larger font sizes as required and transition to comprehending their printed material through listening rather than viewing.  Solo-LV is not only great for reading, but also for everyday tasks.  For instance, use Solo-LV to read the text on a form, then with the push of a button fill out the form under magnification up to 12X.  Instantly reads from any book or printed material.  Hand-motion activated and Light weight.  For further information, contact your VIST Coordinator.

 Now in closing, I wish you all a happy, productive, and healthy New Year.  Terry King FRG President


     FRG Auxiliary President's Message:  The idea of making New Year’s resolutions is said to go back to 153 BC.  Janus, from whom we get the  name January, was the mythological Roman god of

beginnings and endings since he  had two heads.  One looked forward to the future while the other looked back to  the past.  So on January 1, some of us still look back to the previous year and  make plans for improvements in the year to come.  According to,  the most popular New Year’s resolutions include drinking less alcohol, getting a  better education or a better job, getting fit,

losing weight, managing debt,  saving money, managing stress, quitting smoking, taking a trip, and volunteering  to help others.  Research shows that a little more than half of those who make  resolutions are confident that they will keep them, but only about 12% actually  do.  Men seem to succeed better when they set measurable goals.  Women do better  by making their goals public and getting support from friends.  Writing goals down is said to be helpful.  So are proverbial baby 

steps-breaking the goal into smaller increments and rewarding oneself for  achieving them.  It’s good to make only one resolution at a time. Trying to  change one’s

entire life in one fell swoop is doomed for  failure.  Here’s a great tip from Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project.  Distill your  resolution into just one word or short phrase.  Hers for next

year is “Bigger.”  That could encompass quite a lot of territory, couldn't it?  I’m  leaning toward “Stretch” for mine.  What’s yours?  Fran Thomas, FRG Auxiliary Pres. 239- 283-1708


     FRG Meeting Notice:  The next meeting of the Florida Regional Group will be held on Saturday February 5, at the Enlisted Club at the MacDill Air Force Base 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 Marinated  Breast of Chicken or Sliced Roast Beef and Salad, Potatoes, Vegetables, Rolls & Butter, Iced Tea or Coffee, 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.  A national legislative update will be provided.   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.


     IMPORTANT!  IMPORTANT!  Security has been significantly tightened at the MacDill Air Force Base where we will hold the next meeting of the Florida Regional Group.  As a result, no one will be admitted to the base who has not previously been cleared.  Individuals with valid Military ID cards will be admitted.  Otherwise, one of the following information items must be provided in advance, for each person attending, so that BV's and their guests can be admitted to the base:  1.  Full name with middle initial, Social Security number and date of birth;  2.  Driver's license number, full name, and state issued;  3.  Non driver's Identification number with full name and state of issue.  This is a tightened security requirement.  Below you will find the names and phone numbers of the individuals taking reservations and ID information.  Please give one of the above indicated ID information, so we can provide it to the security guards.   In addition, the Enlisted Club has asked us to  notify them as to the number who will be attending and the type of luncheon desired before February 2.  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  In addition, you may call Tampa VAMC VIST Coordinators, at: (813) 631-7140 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. Please enter the MacDill AFB Main Gate at the South Dale Mabry Highway entrance.  Dale Mabry Highway is a North to South main artery which may be accessed from I 275 at exit 23 B.  Those coming from the St. Petersburg or Clearwater areas may take the Courtney Campbell Causeway to Eisenhower Blvd., turn South and go to Kennedy Blvd., Then turn left and proceed Eastward to Dale Mabry Highway.  Then, turn right and proceed Southward.  The Air Force Base is a good 7 to 8 miles from I 275 or Kennedy Blvd.  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.  You cannot miss MacDill AFB if you are going south on Dale Mabry, as that highway ends at the base.  Continue through the Main Gate, bear left on North Boundary Road, follow it by the Exchange and  Commissary to the third traffic light.  Turn right at the light and the Enlisted Club should be on your immediate right.  Parking is available adjacent to the Club.  Begin planning now and bring another Blinded Veteran with you and  join us at the MacDill AFB Enlisted Club on Saturday, February 5.  Please join us there.


     National Legislative Up-Date:  In a recent FRG Newsletter, it was reported that On May 5,2010, Public Law 111-163 was signed by the President.  It provided a number of benefits to eligible veterans.  Included in that Law were increases in the allowances for the Home Improvement and Structural Alterations (HISA) Program. The HISA Program provides funds to adapt an eligible veteran's home to accommodate his or her disability.  The HISA grants for Service Connected bV's were increased from $4100 to $6800 and for Non Service Connected BV's from $1200 to $2000 .  There has been some confusion about this increase.  The Prosthetics Service at your local VAMC coordinates the HISA Grant Program.  Contact with the Prosthetics Service at the VA Central Office gave us the following clarification.  BV's who applied for the HISA Grant before May 5, 2010 would have up to $4100 for SC BV's or $1200 for NSC BV's.  If they used less than either of those amounts, they could apply for the difference for some additional adaption.  They would not be covered by the increased amounts.  BV's who apply for the HISA grant for the first time on or after May 5, 2010 would have the $6800 for SC BV's or $2000 for NSC BV's.       Those BV's could use part or all of those amounts.  If they used less than those amounts for the first adaption, they could apply for the difference for a future adaption.  Some local Prosthetics Services have misread the guidelines.  For example, they have told a NSC BV who applied to use $500 from the HISA Grant after May 5, 2010 would not have the remaining $1500 of the Grant to use in the future.  That is not correct.  You may ask your VIST Coordinator for assistance with the Prosthetics Service.  IF you still have a problem, please contact George Stocking (305)446-8008 email          


     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 2010  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 2011, since the Consumer Price Index did not increase in 2010.  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 5 FRG meeting at the MacDIll AFB Enlisted Club by contacting one of those  listed above before February 2.  We look forward to meeting you.


FRG-BVA Meeting Schedule

February 5                                FRG Meeting at the MacDill AFB Enlisted Club in   Tampa

March 5                          FRG Meeting at the Tropical Acres Steak House in Ft. Lauderdale .

April 29-May 1                FRG State Convention Plaza Ocean Club Hotel in Daytona

August 16-2                     BVA National Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada.  

Newsletter Staff

Terry King                      FRG President

Fran Thomas                  FRG Auxiliary President

George Stocking                       Editor