BLINDED VETERANS ASSOCIATION
Chartered by the United States Congress
FLORIDA REGIONAL GROUP
3801 Coco Grove Avenue
Miami, Florida 33133
BVA-FRG web site: www.bvafrg.org
FRG Newsletter - September 2011
FRG President's Message: It’s been a fast month. It seems like I was just addressing the membership just last week. As this is being written, the bags are coming out of the closet. My ticket has been bought and I have my room reserved. I can’t wait until I leave for the 66 annual convention in Las Vegas. Oh, I better not forget my guide dogs shoes, as the pavement in Las Vegas is very hot. I burned the feet of the last guide dog that I took to Las Vegas. The scuba dive team in Pensacola is gaining force and has been received well in the area. The disabled dive locker is a great thing and any of you can get involved. My picture was featured on the front page of the Pensacola news journal. Check it out at Pensacola news journal.com and input blind divers. Looking forward to attending the Jacksonville meeting. See you there. I will end this letter now and I ask you all; What did you do this month to promote the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA)? It is up to all of us.!! The FRG List Serve is growing, and is allowing our veterans to receive information much more quickly. To sign up just contact Bill Stockslager at: (941) 743-8364 or email email@example.com. Darryl Goldsmith , FRG President.
The American Legion Auxiliary was founded in 1919. It has almost 1 million members from all walks of life. The Auxiliary administers hundreds of volunteer programs, gives tens of thousands of hours to its communities and to veterans, and raises millions of dollars to support its own programs, as well as other worthwhile charities familiar to Americans. It is all accomplished with volunteers. The American Legion Auxiliary is the world’s largest women’s patriotic service organization with nearly 10,500 units located in every state and some foreign countries. The Ladies Auxiliary to the VFW has 550,000 members. It was established in 1914. The members of the Ladies Auxiliary to the Veterans of Foreign Wars live by the motto, “Honor the dead by helping the living.” They assist veterans as they return from active duty or from the hospital
as they try to return to civilian life. They help veterans and their families with transportation, childcare, and other services and volunteer at VA hospitals or outpatient clinics. In contrast, the BVA Auxiliary is a newcomer, having been established in 1978. Our membership is fewer than 300 so we have quite a bit of catching up to do. Note that our membership is not limited to women. All friends and relatives of blinded veterans may join. Our mission is threefold: To aid the BVA in whatever fashion we are able; to develop a deeper interest in the Blinded Veterans Association by family members and friends; and to preserve and strengthen a spirit of fellowship
among auxiliary members so that they may give mutual aid and assistance to one another. At present, there are a number of BVA National Auxiliary members who are not members of the FRG Auxiliary. Wouldn’t it be great to get our Florida Auxiliary membership into triple digits? Fran Thomas FRG Auxiliary President (239) 283-1708, email PghFran9@aol.com
FRG Meeting Notice: The next luncheon meeting of the Florida Regional Group will be held on Saturday, October 1 at the Quality Inn - Commonwealth, 6802 Commonwealth Avenue in Jacksonville. This is the same hotel where our Jacksonville meeting has been held for many years, it has just changed from a Holiday Inn to a Quality Inn. It will begin at 11:30 AM with a period of socializing, followed by lunch at noon. For lunch you may have either: Beef Stew with Potato, Carrot, Onion, with Southern Gravy, or Baked Breast of Chicken each served with Salad, Rice, Southern Style Green Beans, Rolls & Butter, Iced Tea or Coffee, and Dessert. The price of the lunch will be $5 per person including tax & tip.
Darryl Goldsmith, FRG President, will preside at the informational 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 including information about the FRG Auxiliary Scholarships.
To get to the hotel, take I 10 East or Highway 301 North to I 295. Continue East on I 295 to exit 22, which is Commonwealth Avenue. Exit there, the hotel is a short distance on your right. From the South take US 17, US 21, or I 95 north to I 295 and continue as above. From the North, take I 95 South and merge with I 295 at exit 360 B then to exit 22. Keep left at fork in ramp, turn left on Commonwealth Avenue and the hotel will be on your right. Free parking is available at the hotel.
The hotel has asked us to notify them as to the number who will be attending by September 28. Please make your reservations by that date by writing to Northeast District Director Joe Brack at: 7729 West Ridge Estates Drive, Glen St. Mary, FL 32049 , or call (904) 259-1404 email firstname.lastname@example.org or Paul Kaminsky (904) 291-0576, email - email@example.com. You may also make your reservations by calling: Bruce Davis, VIST Coordinator, Gainesville VAMC, at (800) 324-8387 ex. 5560, Louise DiGennaro, VIST Coordinator Jacksonville VA Outpatient Clinic, at: (904) 232-2751 ex 3015, or Judy Hayes, VIST Coordinator Lake City VAMC at: (386) 755-3016 ex. 2088. Judy Hayes is attempting to secure a van to take BV's from the Lake City area. Contact her if you need a ride. Although the cost of the meal to you is only $5, each meal guaranteed will cost the FRG $15.54. If you make a reservation and can't come, please call Paul Kaminsky and cancel it before September 28. Otherwise the FRG will have to pay $15.54 for each meal guaranteed, including those unused.
US Legislative Up-Date: As all of you know, most of the month of July was taken up in Congress over the disagreement to extend the Debt Limit. It was not finally passed until August 2nd the deadline for the increase. As a result little has been done on veterans issues. In the August FRG Newsletter, it was reported that included in the new Service Animal regulations, the VA Central Office added a proposed regulation to eliminate the provision of mechanical and electronic devices to non service connected Blinded veterans. The BVA went to the VA General Counsel and pointed out that such a provision did not belong in the proposal to regulate Service Animals. Further the VA was attempting to change ,by regulation, PL 107-135 which specifically provided mechanical and electronic devices for the rehabilitation of NSC BV's. The General Counsel agreed that a regulation cannot change a Public Law so that provision in the Service Dog regulations was removed. For some time, the BVA has attempted to secure legislation to change the regulations regarding the provision of beneficiary travel for BV's to attend the Blind Rehabilitation Centers. Presently, BV's who are above the income limit cannot be provided such travel by the VA. It is anticipated that a bill will be introduced into Congress ,in the near future, to extend beneficiary travel by airline, train, or bus to Blind Rehab Centers for Catastrophically Disabled Veterans. The BVA was able to get the co-payments for regular in and out patient treatment and pharmacy service for catastrophically disabled Veterans in PL 110-163 in the past Congress. As you know, all veterans whose vision is within the legal description of blindness are considered catastrophically disabled. By limiting beneficiary travel to catastrophically disabled veterans, it is hoped that the Congressional Budget Office will give Congress a realistically low cost for such legislation. It is hoped that this proposal might be considered after Congress returns from its Labor Day recess about September 8th. With the climate of dissension in Congress, it will be difficult to secure passage of legislation to improve services for Blinded Veterans. The BVA will continue to work to insure that the services and benefits we presently enjoy will continue and to secure when possible, additional needed services and benefits. The present mood in Congress is not conducive to getting new programs, regardless of the cost. However, the BVA will continue to work for you.
Computer Training: Notice to all blinded veterans who may be interested in teaching computers to other Blinded Veterans in Florida. During the last FRG State Convention in Daytona Beach, I had indicated that I was going to be looking into a means of our blinded veterans who are fairly good on either Zoom Text or Screen readers like JAWS or Window Eyes that they could be earning some of the moneys that the VA is currently paying out to our local community REHAB facilities. This notice is just to see if there is any interest by blinded veterans in becoming an instructor for the purpose of teaching our veterans on his or her computer. There is a school on line that teaches one how to teach others, and goes over all of the various key strokes. Many other items are also covered. There are 11 separate courses. If you take all of the courses the total cost would be $11,000. The courses are expensive, but the cost can be born by the VA in some cases under the Vocational Rehabilitation program, or by the Division of Blind Services, if you are a non service connected veteran. The school I am referring to is the Access Technology Institute. The classes are conducted on a special web site and are interactive. In other words, it’s just like setting in a class room. Here are a few items that you would have to establish:
1. Incorporate under self-employment in the state of Florida; 2. Register with Dunn and Bradstreet; 3. You need a credit card terminal; 4. Follow all of the tax laws and the self employment rules; 5. Establish you’re self as a vender with the VA Prosthetics Service; 6. Have all of the necessary programs that you may need in order to train others; 7. Have a means of transportation available, for going to the homes of the veterans that you would be instructing. There are of course more issues to be covered, but I have listed the ones that are some what involved. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at (941) 505-7747. If you do not have unlimited long distance phone capabilities , email me your phone number at firstname.lastname@example.org. Here is an opportunity for some of our BV's to supplement their fixed incomes. Most importantly, give our fellow veterans professional training. By the same token the VA WILL be getting their money's worth because of the fact that our veterans would be PROPERLY TRAINED AND certified by a recognized school, with the appropriate certificates. Terry King FRG Past President.
New Broward VAOPC BROS: Dori Pratt has recently taken up her duties as the new Blind Rehab Outpatient Specialist (BROS) at the Broward VA Outpatient Clinic. A native of Michigan, Dori, upon graduating from high school, entered Eastern Michigan University where she earned a Bachelor's Degree in Visual Education. Subsequently, she secure employment at the Perkins School for the Blind in Massachusetts. While there, she entered the University of Massachusetts where she earned a Master's Degree in Orientation and Mobility. At that time, she returned to Michigan where she worked 7 years as a Visual Disability teacher. During the later part of that time, she entered Western Michigan University where she earned a second Master's Degree in Rehab Teaching. Then, she was employed as the BROS at the VAMC in Saginaw, Michigan. She remained there until she transferred to the Broward VA Outpatient Clinic. She and her husband Brad live in Tamarack with their 2 spoiled cats. She enjoys hunting, fishing, golf and is an avid volleyball player. On behalf of Blinded Veterans in Florida, particularly those in the Broward VAOPC area, we welcome you to Florida. We look forward to working cooperatively with you in the future.
Ft. Myers VIST Position: On December 31, 2010, Joyce Thornton Gilbert retired as the Ft. Myers full time VIST Coordinator. It is understood that after over 7 months without a VIST Coordinator, the Ft. Myers VA Outpatient Clinic has selected a replacement. However, at the writing of this Newsletter, a formal announcement has not been made by the Clinic. The individual selected as the new VIST Coordinator is presently working as a Social Worker in the Mental Health Clinic where she has a full time case load. It is anticipated that she will not take up her duties as VIST Coordinator until a replacement for her position in the Mental Health Clinic is hired. In the meantime, Jodi Teper, Bay Pines VIST Coordinator, will try to be of assistance to BV's in the Ft. Myers VA Outpatient Clinic area.
Remember the next meeting of the Florida Regional Group at the Quality Inn in Jacksonville on Saturday October 1st. Please make your reservations by calling those listed above in this Newsletter before September 28. Join your fellow BV's for an informative afternoon in Jacksonville.
FRG Meeting Schedule
October 1 FRG meeting Quality Inn Commonwealth in Jacksonville
November 5 FRG meeting Palms Restaurant Spring Green Golf Course Ft Myers
December 4 FRG Meeting in Seminole
January 7 FRG meeting Ocala Hilton Hotel
February 4 Proposed FRG meeting in Tampa
March ? Proposed FRG meeting in Ft. Lauderdale
May 3-6 FRG State Convention Plaza Ocean Club Hotel in Daytona
Darryl Goldsmith FRG President
Fran Thomas FRG Auxiliary President
Terry King FRG Past President
George Stocking Newsletter Editor