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FRG Newsletter - March 2011


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     FRG President's Message:  We are now only a few weeks away from the FRG’s annual state convention.  With all of the activities that have been arranged, I’m hoping that this convention shall be a record setter.  With a mere $30 for your early registration fee in the food department alone, you receive, a pizza party on Thursday evening, Snacks and refreshments at the horse shoe games on Friday morning, dinner dance Friday evening, lunch snacks after the business meeting on Saturday afternoon, and the grand finale Instillation Banquet on Saturday evening.  And don’t let us forget the hospitality refreshments and snacks before and after the banquet.  Alene Tarter, Director of the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs FDVA) Benefits and Service Office in St. Petersburg will be our Guest Speaker for the Banquet.  The FDVA coordinates service to veterans through the FDVA Benefits Service Officers at the VA Medical Centers and the County and City Veterans Counselors.


I only have two more items that I would like to cover before I conclude my final president’s message.  First of all I would like to enumerate just a few of the amazing devices that have been made available to our veterans in order to make their lives just a little bit more satisfying.  Here are just a few that I consider to be outstanding. 1, talking thermostats for the house heating and air conditioning .  2, Victor Stream reader for reading talking books while setting in the doctor’s office waiting to be called, and or  traveling on a plane, car, or bus.  3, the various stand alone reading machine that can read your mail or other printed material.  4, The GPS devices that have come a long way, but are really not quite perfect yet, and I am referring to the size.  5, The summit for identifying bar codes on can goods  and all other items sold by various stores, including hardware items.  6, the talking rulers, levelers, and a device for indemnifying colors   and of course the Talking Compass.  7, for the most important device of all, the computer with all of its peripheral devices, witch I consider to be the greatest innovation for the blind since the white cane.  It has made the blind population a lot more competitive in the sited world.  Don’t forget only request a particular device if you feel that you are going to use and benefit from the device.  Also remember that the VIST Coordinator will have to determine your eligibility and in some cases the BROS must evaluate and determine if you are able to use the device and benefit from it.

     Now for the final item in the Presidents message.  I have made the decision after having served   7 years as president of the FRG, I am stepping aside, and let some one else lead the FRG onward and into the future.  I must say that after having served over 40 years in various other organizations, my time serving the BVA, FRG has been by far the most satisfying.  I have made many friends, and unfortunately have made a few enemies due to I am sorry to say political differences of opinions.  For those losses I am deeply saddened, but I have learned over the years, that if you are going to accept a leadership positions, you are not going to satisfy all the people all the time.  As I have always said, if you are going to be involved in organizations, then criticism comes with the territory.

Even though I shall be stepping down as president, whenever there is a veteran that is in need of assistance or needs an advocate, I shall always be available.  Now let me leave you all with what I consider to be the three most important issues, for the continued survival of the FRG.  1, Strong leadership:  That means Officers and district Directors that have the capability, time, and most of all the energy, Desire,  and enthusiasm.  2, a continuing strong financial base for the FRG to insure the on going subsidizing of the luncheons around the state, thereby allowing the veterans to meet and exchange ideas, and also for the most important, disseminating very important information monthly throughout the year to all of our veterans. 3, increased membership:  This is paramount, for per posed legislation for veterans. Whereas politicians understand only one attribute and that is numbers for voting purposes.  As I have been saying all year, it’s not so much about more innovating legislation, but holding on to what we have obtained over the years in services and benefits.  This goes double for our non service connected BV's.

A final note, don’t forget our guest speaker.  I am looking forward to seeing you all at the upcoming state convention, and let’s make it an all time record attendance.  Terry King, FRG President


       FRG AUXILIARY PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE:  The FRG state convention is always a happy weekend. What’s not to like  about an ocean view room and someone else to do the cooking? Last year, the FRG Auxiliary held our first coffee hour on Friday morning while the horseshoe tournament was going on.  Again this year, we will meet in the Hospitality Room at 10 AM.  We invite all family members and friends of the BVA to join us, whether you are an Auxiliary  member or not.  On Saturday morning, the auxiliary has  its annual business meeting.  Recently, I participated in the first ever telephone conference for BVA Auxiliary national and  regional officers. I learned that the situation in Florida is very different  from other regions. Our auxiliary covers the whole state. Some other auxiliaries are  much more local. For example, one person on the call represented only  southeastern Massachusetts. This means that the activities other auxiliaries do  are things such as visit a nearby veterans’ nursing home or decorate for a BVA  Christmas party.  Being so far flung as we are in Florida makes it difficult to have  an auxiliary-wide project. In spite of this obstacle, we have been very  successful with our annual scholarships. It doesn’t appear that any of the other 

auxiliaries has such an ambitious goal. Besides us, only the national auxiliary offers scholarships. The national officers were interested in how we raise money  to do this. Kudos to the raffle chairs at each of the BVA luncheons around the  state who pitch in and make this happen.  One  fundraising project the national auxiliary has come up with is to produce a  cookbook to be sold at the next annual convention. If you have a favorite  recipe, you may send it to Karen Teachout by April 20.  Her telephone number is  (989) 473-2446 or cell phone  989-493-5794. Her email is _sagelakesadie_2000@yahoo.com_ (.  The FRG Auxiliary is planning some interesting and enjoyable activities at the FRG Convention.  Please join us at the Pizza Party, Thursday evening, our coffee on Friday morning, and particularly our Business Meeting on Saturday morning.  Fran Thomas FRG Auxiliary President (239) 283-1708 email


     National Legislative Up-Date:       As previously reported the BVA and PVA worked to get PL 111-163 passed in May 2010.  Included in that legislation was a provision to eliminate co-payments for catastrophically disabled veterans for in and out patient medical treatment including pharmacy co-payments.  Blinded Veterans and Paralyzed Veterans are considered catastrophically disabled and thus eligible.  VIST Coordinators are responsible for having BV's in their catchment area listed as catastrophically disabled.  In most cases this has been accomplished.  NSC BV's are placed in Priority 4.  SC veterans with 30 or 40% SC ratings are in Priority 2 and 10% or 20% SC veterans are in Priority 3.  In some VAMC, there has been confusion about Priority 2 & 3.  BV's in those Priorities will remain in those classifications but should have an note added to their records that they are catastrophically disabled.  If you are still getting pharmacy bills contact your VIST Coordinator.  If that does not work contact Terry King at (941) 505-7747 or George Stocking at (305) 446-8008.          


     FRG State Convention Reminder:  This is a reminder that The FRG State Convention will be held at the Plaza Ocean Club Hotel , 640 North Atlantic Avenue, Daytona Beach, FL 32118 April 29-May 1.  Your Convention Committee secured the low guaranteed group rates of only  $79 per day, for 1 to 4 persons per room.  In the Plaza Ocean Club Hotel, all rooms are equipped with refrigerators and microwaves and All rooms have ocean view balconies. These  low convention rates will be in effect 3 days before and/or 3 days after the Convention.  You may come early or stay late for an extended vacation.  The low Convention rates are guaranteed for reservations made on or before April 13th.  Reservations made after April 13th, will be at the low Convention rate but only on a space available basis.  We encourage you to make your reservations immediately to insure your accommodations as another group is at the hotel that weekend.  You may cancel your reservation and  receive a full refund of your deposit, if you cancel 24 hours before noon on the day you were scheduled to arrive.  Send your reservation to the Hotel along with your check for one night's room rate and 12.5% tax or you may use your credit card number to guarantee your reservation.  Other than your deposit,  the hotel will not accept checks for your remaining charges.  You must have a credit card or cash.  Better yet, as time is short, you should make your reservation by C    Rickard, Vincent calling the toll free reservation number  at: (800) 874-7420.  There are 22 hotels using that reservation number. Be sure to specify the Plaza Ocean Club Hotel and that you want the guaranteed group rate for the Florida Regional Group Blinded Veterans Association Convention.  If you have any problem , call George Stocking at (305) 446-8008.


     Convention Registration Fee:  The Convention Registration Fee will be $35 per person (for each BV, family member, or friend attending).  However, an early registration fee of only $30 per person will be in effect for registration received on or before April 13th.  The registration fee will cover general Convention activities, including the dinner-dance on Friday night, Hospitality Room, and the Banquet on Saturday night.  Please make your check payable to the BVA and send it to:  3801 Coco Grove Avenue, Miami, FL 33133.  Please include the first and last name of each person registering, so that we will be able to make name tags prior to the start of the Convention.  It will be helpful if you will send your registration fee in advance to speed up the registration at the Convention. 


     For those who get to Daytona Beach on Thursday, April 28, the BVA Hospitality Room will be open from 6 to 10 PM. Lesa Kretschmer from Florida Reading and Vision Technology will host a Pizza Party from 6-8.  If you plan to take part in the Pizza Party add that information to your early registration information so that we can plan properly and have enough pizza.  AT 9 AM on Friday, the fifth annual horseshoe pitching contest will be held on the beach behind the hotel.  If you wish to participate call Contest  coordinator Paul Kaminsky (904) 291-0576 or email  Last year there was a good turnout and competition in the two categories was heated(totally blind and partially blind).  John Palmer from Magnify America will provide snacks at the Horseshoe Pitching Contest on the beach.

     The Convention Late Registration Desk will open at 1 PM on Friday, April 30, in the hotel lobby.  If you have not pre-registered, you may pay your late Registration at that time.  If you have pre-registered, please pick up your name tags and Convention Program.  We need everyone to check in so that we can give the chef the proper count for the dinner dance and Banquet.  The opening session will be held in the second floor Ball room at 3 PM on Friday, April 29.  The Informational Seminar will be open with a presentation on Prosthetics and Sensory Aids for the Blind  by VISN 8 Prosthetics Representative.  That will be followed by  presentations presenting information about specific low vision and sensory aid devices for the blind.  The Dinner dance will begin with dinner at 7 PM followed by dancing.  Again, this year, Marsha Summers will provide the music, both during the dinner and for dancing afterwards.  A cash bar will be available for liquid refreshment.


     Saturday, April 30, The Annual Florida Regional Group Business Meeting will be held at 9 AM in the 2nd floor Ball Room.  In addition to reports on the past year and planning the FRG Program for the coming year, you will have the opportunity to share your thoughts and comments on future FRG activities.  Elections for FRG Officers and District Directors, for the coming year, will be held.  According to the BVA guidelines and the FRG By laws, The election and instruction of a Delegate and Alternate Delegates to the 66 BVA National Convention  in Las Vegas, Nevada in August, will also be held.  Possible Amendments to the BVA and/or FRG By-Laws may be considered.  The FRG Auxiliary will also hold its Annual Meeting at 9 AM on Saturday in the Osprey Room. 


     Following the FRG Business meeting, John Palmer of Magnify America will display Low vision and sensory  aids and provide refreshments in the Board Room adjacent to the Ball Room.


     At 2 PM on Saturday, the second Informational Seminar will be held,  starting with a presentation by Susan Roberts, the new Chief of the Bureau of Brail and Talking Book Services, who will bring us up to date on Talking Book Program.  Michael Healer the VA Regional Office Liaison for the Florida VIST Program will provide information on veterans benefits.  Then, Douglas Brooks, the new BVA Southeast Field Representative (FSP) from Atlanta will describe the BVA FSP Program.    

     The Hospitality Room will be open from 5 to 7 PM.  At 7 PM, the Installation Banquet will be held in the Ball Room.  Terry King, BVA President will be Master of Ceremonies.  Alene Tarter, Director of the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs (FDVA) Benefits and Service Office, will be Guest Speaker.    The Banquet will close with the Installation of FRG Officers and District Directors and FRG Auxiliary Officers for the coming year.  Join us in the hospitality Room, after the Banquet, for more socializing and refreshments.


     VIST and BROS Training:  For many years the FRG has shared its Convention facilities and speakers with the VIST Coordinators and BROS in Florida for their in-service training.  This year, that in-service training will begin at 8 AM on Friday and continue until the opening session at 3 PM that afternoon.  This will give you the opportunity to meet your VIST and BROS in an informal setting.  


     Since time is short, call (800) 874-7420 to make your reservations at the Plaza Ocean Club Hotel.  Please send your registration fee to the BVA-FRG in Miami.  We look forward to meeting you in Daytona Beach for an informative and enjoyable weekend.