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FRG Newsletter - August 2011


     FRG President's Message:  I hope that all is well with everyone.  I am glad to report that all 6 districts have district directors in place.  Since the FRG Convention, 2 Directors have been added, Ken Breakey Northwest District and Aaron Cornelius the Central West District.  Feel  free to  do anything that you can to  make their heavy load easier.  All suggestions are welcome.  Remember you are all needed to help with the work of the BVA-FRG.  I have asked all directors to  do the best they  can to try to acquire space in the local VA Medical Centers or Clinics for a FRG office.  We are still awaiting responses.  I was glad to hear from a couple of members who felt that my message of blinded vets getting more physically fit has been taken to heart.  Paul Kaufman who is a certified diver has spoken with his dive instructors about teaching his VIST Support Group how to scuba.  The Scuba Shack will teach the vets and their spouses or care givers for free. Susan Roberts the Chief of the Florida Talking Book Library reports that the TB Library will soon start a pilot project to record locally produced newsletters and magazines in the digital format.  She has asked the FRG permission to join that pilot project by having our FRG Newsletter recorded in that format.  For the immediate future, it will be still recorded on cassette.  I urge everyone to request a digital player.  Veterans have priority and can get a digital player quickly.  You can call the TB Library at 1-(800) 226-6075 to get your digital player.  If you need assistance, call one of the officers listed at the end of this article.  I am awaiting the National convention in Las Vegas in August.  I am looking forward to attending the Orlando Luncheon on September 3rd.  Hope that you can make it, and help The FRG Auxiliary by buying plenty of raffle tickets  to fund their Scholarship Program.  I am asking everyone with a computer, to send to all the contacts in their address book, no matter if they are a veteran or not, a BVA history  information attachment, and ask them to send it to everyone in their address book also.  If everyone does this, we may just reach someone’s family that may not know of the BVA and the VIST program.  Following is contact information for the FRG Officers and Directors.  President Darryl Goldsmith - Pensacola (850) 554-7819 email dandv5@cox. net; Vice President Gigi Mathis - Lakeland (863-255-9275 email; Secretary-Treasurer George Stocking - Miami (305) 446-8008 email; Past President Terry King – Punta Gorda (941) 505-7747 email; Northwest District Ken Breakey - Milton (850) 623-1886 email; Northeast District Joe Brack - Glen St Mary (904) 259-1404 email; Central West District Aaron Cornelius - Bradenton (912) 695-3171 email; Central East District Charles Brooks - Kissimmee (407) 847-0761 email; Southwest District Bob Walczak - Port Charlotte (941) 875-9876 email; Southeast District Jerry Abney - Miami (305) 270-1739 email abneyj  Well that’s all for now.  Darryl Goldsmith, FRG President

     FRG Auxiliary President's Message:  I recently received some valuable information from FRG Northeast District Director Joe Brack.  Below is a link to a 71 page document put  out by VIST. This Spouses' Guide has been compiled from numerous  sources. It includes a list of acronyms used in veterans' programs and services, definitions, and  benefit information available from Veterans Affairs,  Department of Defense, Social Security; information about healthcare and  education benefits and links to various other websites for even more  information. Whew! Government bureaucracy is complicated but it's nice to have a  starting point.  If you learn information that may be of use to our members, please  contact me so that we can share it in this newsletter. Remember, the National BVA Auxiliary has its own website as do we in Florida. We are also on Facebook and Twitter.  Here are more links:  Our FRG Auxiliary web site is:!/pages/Florida-Regional-Group-Blinded-Veterans-Association-Auxiliary/123288861019136;!/FRGBVAAuxiliary.  Fran Thomas , FRG Auxiliary President email PghFran9@aol.com_ (239) 283-1708.


     FRG Meeting Notice:  The first Informational Meeting for the Florida Regional Group this fall , will be held on Saturday, September 3, at the Rosen Plaza Hotel  9700 International Drive in Orlando.  Central East Director Charles Brooks has made the arrangements for this luncheon.  The meeting will begin with a period of socializing at 11:30 AM, followed by lunch at noon.  For lunch, you may have either breast of chicken picatta with herb roasted potatoes, or sliced roast sirloin with wild mushroom sauce and cheddar mashed potatoes each with garden salad, Mixed Vegetables, rolls and butter, ice tea or coffee, and carrot cake with cream cheese icing  or no sugar added cake.   The price of the lunch will be $5 per person, including tax and tip.


     FRG President Darryl Goldsmith will preside at the informational 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 provided.  A report will be presented regarding the BVA National Convention in Las Vegas.  Future FRG activities will be discussed.  Information about the FRG Auxiliary will be presented.  Charles Brooks has made Arrangements with the reservation office at the hotel, at $89 per night for Friday and/or Saturday nights.  If you are coming from out of town and wish to stay over night call the hotel reservation office at (407) 996-1703 and make a reservation giving the BVA-FRG as the organization which made the arrangements.  Cut off date for reservations is August 10. 


     The hotel has asked us to  notify them as to the number who will be attending and the type of lunch desired before August 31.  Please make your reservations prior to that date by writing to Charles Brooks at 3500 Linnet, Kissimmee, FL 34746 or  call at (407) 847-0761 email  You may also make your reservation by calling Rick Cassidy (407)877-8448.  Please give the name of each person who will attend and the choice of meal desired.  The restaurant needs the reservation information in order to prepare properly for our meeting.


          To get to the Rosen Plaza Hotel from Tampa and the Gulf Coast, take I 4 East to exit 72, take 528 East (Bee line Expressway) to exit no. 1 - International Drive.  Turn right on International Drive, the Rosen Plaza will be on your left after the Convention Center.  From Daytona or the East Coast, take I 4 and continue as above.  From the North or South on the Turnpike, go to exit 259.  Take I 4 West to exit 72 and continue as above.  Note:  The Orlando Convention Center is between the Rosen Plaza Hotel and the Rosen Center Hotel.  Our meeting is in the Rosen Plaza, so be sure you have the correct hotel.  Free Parking is available behind the hotel.  Check with your fellow Blinded veterans, family members, and friends and make plans to join us in Orlando on Saturday,  September 3.


     National Legislative Up-Date:  At the writing of this Newsletter, the President and Congress are bogged down on discussions about raising the national debt limit, reducing spending and raising taxes.  Several bills to improve services for veterans, including a bill to provide beneficiary travel for Blinded Veterans above the income limit to attend a Blind Rehab Center, introduced into the Senate are being held up by the Chairman of the Senate Veterans affairs committee due to the impact on the deficit.  Otherwise, little in the way of legislation for veterans is being considered.  The VA Central Office (VACO) has proposed regulations to govern the issuance of service animals to veterans, including guide dogs.  Some of the provisions of these regulations are appropriate, i.e. requiring accreditation for the schools training service animals.  The present Guide Dog Schools have long been accredited and the regulation would keep fly-by-night schools from trying to get VA funding for dogs that are not properly trained.  However, a provision to refuse a guide dog to a BV who have good cane travel skills is not appropriate.  Further, there is a provision to stop funding veterinarian services for BV's guide dogs.  The BVA will oppose those sections of the proposed regulations.  In addition the VACO has slipped a proposal in the Service Dog regulation to eliminate the provision of mechanical and electronic devices to non service connected veterans.  During the 107 Congress (2001-2003) the BVA secured passage of PL 107-135 which included a section to provide mechanical and electronic devices to improve the independence of Blinded Veterans who are non service connected on an in or outpatient basis.  the VA Central Office has slipped in a provision to change that law and return to the period when NSC BV's could not be issued such equipment on an out patient basis.  PL 107-135 clearly provides that benefit to NSC BV's.  Generally, a VA Regulation cannot change a Public Law.  However if the regulation is approved, it might take several years to get it reversed.  The BVA will work with the VA Central Office to eliminate that section in a Regulation which is related to the issuance of service animals.  It should not include a provision not related to service animals and clearly targets only Blinded Veterans.  The BVA will also alert Congress that the VACO is attempting to change a Public Law by VA regulation.  The BVA will continue to advocate for Blinded Veterans to help us maintain the services and benefits that were so difficult to acquire.  Watch for additional information in future BVA Bulletins and FRG Newsletters.           


     Message from Kirk Harmon :  I am a Life Member of the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) a former FRG Central East District Director, and now live in Jacksonville.  Recently, I formed Florida Disabled Citizens for Progress Inc. (FDCP), a non profit organization to collect and distribute sensory aids and devices to Florida blind citizens.  The Florida Regional Group (FRG), BVA has joined with other organizations of and for the blind in Florida to support the FDCP to provide equipment to Florida's blind citizens.  Through the advocacy of the BVA, we as Blinded Veterans (BV's), has had access to this equipment issued by the VA for many years.  Many Florida blind citizens do not have the financial resources nor other access to large print and voice output computers, CCTV's, other reading aids, recording equipment, and other aids and devices.  The main priority and objective of the Florida disabled Citizens for Progress, is to enhance the lives of our blind community in Florida by providing the equipment we no longer use nor for which we  no longer have a need, either by a digression in our sight, or, a more serious situation, in which we are all aware, we pass on.  My hope is that we will be able to allow our civilian counterparts the same opportunity of independence at home and gain the mobility tools to utilize while their out.  As we all know, we have been blessed, due to the efforts of our BVA.  We should try to help with our local communities blind counterparts that have no financial ability to access this equipment by our  giving them the wonderful gift of independence that we have all had the privilege and opportunity to enjoy!  If you agree and feel that you would like to participate in this new program by helping us develop a state inventory list, You can join with us by networking with our FRG Districts and help the people in need in your community.  At the recent FRG State Convention, Donald Freyberger, the VA Prosthetics Representative for Florida, indicated that, at present, the VA does not want this equipment returned.  This does not mean that you can request new equipment in order to donate your present usable equipment.  However if you are no longer using that equipment, it would be helpful to donate it so that others can benefit from its use.      I have had an enormous positive input from  all of our State blind leaders, willing to help our less fortunate counterparts. We all will be holding hands together to bring independence to all our blind friends in our communities!  Please give me a call on the Toll Free number at 1-888-955-3327

or write to Kirk Harmon at:  Florida Disabled Citizens For Progress, P.O. Box 61794, Jacksonville, Fl 32236. The FDCP has volunteers in every District and I will give you the contact information for your team leader to arrange pick up for your convenience anywhere in Florida. We need your help for us to ensure success.  I want to thank any or all of you for considering helping these blind seniors and school children less fortunate than ourselves. Just remember , we will also be promoting our BVA-FRG in such a wonderfully positive manner that our efforts will shine to everyone in our State and blind community!  Kirk Harmon BVA-FRG  Life Member.


     FRG Southwest District Walk-A-Thon:  Attention FRG Southwest District members!  The annual Walk-A-Thon will be held in Ft. Myers on Saturday, October 15, 2011 from 9 AM to 2 PM.  We urge all Blinded veterans to participate in this fund raising venture.  The entire share amount of the funds received by the BVA-FRG shall be used toward providing bus transportation for Southwest district Blinded  Veterans  and their families to the FRG State Convention in Daytona Beach next spring.  Last year, we received $1000 from the Walk-A-Thon and hope to receive at least $1500 this year.  Please help us reach this goal.  For information, contact Terry King at (941) 505-7747;  Bob Walczak at (941)  875-9876 or Former VIST Joyce Thornton Gilbert at (239) 995-7722.


     Remember to mark your calendar for Saturday, September 3, so that you, your family members, and friends,  may attend the FRG meeting at the Rosen Plaza Hotel in Orlando.  Be sure to call those listed above and make your reservations, before August31.  If you make a reservation and can't come, please call and cancel your reservation before that date .  The FRG will pay $15 for each meal we guarantee.  We  don't want to pay for meals not used.  Join us at the Rosen Plaza Hotel in Orlando on September 3 for an informative, interesting, and enjoyable afternoon.    


FRG Meeting Schedule

September 3                                                FRG Meeting Rosen Plaza Hotel in Orlando

October 1                                          FRG Meeting Quality Inn Commonwealth  in Jacksonville

November 5                                       FRG Meeting at the Palm's Restaurant in North Ft. Myers

December 4                                        Proposed FRG meeting in the St. Petersburg-Clearwater area

January 7                                            Proposed FRG meeting Hilton Hotel in Ocala.

February 4                                         Proposed FRG meeting in Tampa


                              FRG Newsletter Staff

Darryl  Goldsmith                                        FRG President

Fran Thomas                                      FRG Auxiliary President

George Stocking                                Newsletter Editor