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
NEWSLETTER - October 2011
†††† FRG President's Message:Hello to all BVA Members and Friends.† I returned home from the 66th National BVA convention in Las Vegas.† I Flew out to Las Vegas and road the Grey hound bus home.
It was an interesting trip.† The Greyhound staff was very courteous and helpful.† There was someone to escort me between buses.† I was able to get a hot meal and to relieve my guide dog.† I felt safe the whole trip and I had to change busses 4 times.† It took 3 days.† I am proud to inform you that the Florida regional group has done it again.† Yes, I was proud to accept the Golden gavel award† on your behalf.† This award is given to the regional group that has the† largest numerical increase in membership for the year. †The FRG gain 33 new members.† Keep up the good work. †It is all of us finding the blinded vets in our community and signing them up and getting them the help that they need.† The disable dive locker is a success. If any of you want to learn the sport of scuba, I encourage you to contact Dan Anderson at Phone number 850 261-1177.† Paul Kaufman took his open water test.
He completed his 4 dives and is now certified as a rescue and A, B, C and Nitrox.† I should have my SCUBA certification for disable divers by the time this is published.† On September 14, I traveled to Biloxi, Mississippi where I am one of the first 5 BV's attending the new VA Blind rehab center.† I††††† am taking refresher training on my GPS unit and will receive note taker training.
†††† The District Informational Luncheons are a great time to renew old friendships and to†††† raise funds for the FRG Auxiliary raffle †for their Scholarship Program. †Letís try and donate.† The main reason for the luncheon is to provide information to BV's about the services and benefits the BVA and FRG have worked to secure for them.† If there is any problem† that you as a blinded veteran may be having or if there is something that you want brought to the membership during the state convention, this is the time to bring it to the forefront.† The Officers and District Directors of the Regional Group welcome any and all suggestions. †Letís have a fun luncheon in Ft. Myers on November 5.† Darryl Goldsmith, FRG President.††††
†††† FRG Auxiliary President's Message:† White Cane Safety Day has been celebrated in the U.S. on† Oct. 15 since 1964. The first proclamation was signed by President Lyndon B.† Johnson within hours after Congress had passed a joint resolution. The slogan† this year is Growing Toward Independence.† In Fort Myers, the Vision Awareness† Foundation, Inc. is holding its 8th annual Walk-A-Thon on October 15.† Along with the BVA, a number of† other organizations working with the blind benefit from the proceeds of the Walk-A-Thon.† For the past several years, the BVA† has used the proceeds to provide transportation to the FRG State Convention in† Daytona Beach.† I am particularly excited about the Walk-A-Thon this year since I will be† performing with the Calendar Girls dance team. We raise money for Paws for† Patriots and help provide guide and service dogs for† veterans.† White cane laws vary from state to state, but† in all cases, the white cane affords the user the right of way when crossing the† road. Unfortunately, †many drivers in Florida do not seem acquainted with the White† Cane Law.† Through events like this Walk-A-Thon, we can help to educate the general† public and protect blind and visually impaired people from injury.† As always, I welcome any suggestions on how we may make our organization even more effective.† Fran Thomas, FRG Auxiliary President (239) 283-1708 email PghFran9@aol.com
†††† FRG Meeting Notice: †The next meeting of the Florida Regional Group will be held on Saturday, November 5th, at the Palms Restaurant at the Sabal Springs Golf and Racket Club, 17540 Old Tamiami Trail, North Ft. Myers.† The meeting will begin with a period of socializing at 11:30 AM, followed by lunch at noon.† For lunch, you may have Roast Beef, or Grilled Chicken with Ham and Swiss Cheese each† †with Garden Salad, Red Bliss Potatoes, Vegetable, Rolls & Butter, Iced Tea, Coffee, or soda and dessert.† The cost of the luncheon will be $5 per person, including tax and tip.† Beer, wine, and mixed drinks will be available for an additional charge.
†††† FRG President Darryl Goldsmith will preside at the informational meeting following lunch.† A National Legislative up-date will be presented.† Representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs will be on hand to provide information of interest to BV's and their families.† FRG activities for the coming months will be described.† This is your opportunity to make suggestions and recommendations regarding the FRG activities.† Information about the FRG Auxiliary will be presented, including the FRG Auxiliary Scholarship Program.
†††† The restaurant has asked us to† notify them as to the number who will be attending and the type of luncheon desired by November 2nd.† Please make your reservations prior to that date by writing to Southwest district Director† Bob Walczak at 24263 Riverfront Drive, Port Charlotte, FL 33980 (941) 875-9876 email firstname.lastname@example.org; You may also call in Punta Gorda Terry King (941) 505-7747 email email@example.com; John Thomas, St. James City, at (239) 283-1708.† In Naples, call Don McCarten at 239) 732-5399. †In Venice call Frank Drab at (941) 485-1019, in Punta Gorda call Bill Stockslager at (941) 743-8364. †The restaurant needs the reservation information in order to prepare properly for our meeting.†
†††† To get to the Palms Restaurant, †go North on I 75† to Exit 143, then†† Go West on† Bayshore (State Road 78) 6.3 miles to "Old" US 41.† Turn right (North) 2.2 miles to the "Shell Factory" and continue on US 41 another 1.3 miles to Sabal Springs Golf and Racket Club (a total of 3.5 miles North of† SR 78). Turn right or East and continue about 3/4 mile past the guard house.† Tell the guard you are going to the BVA meeting at the Palms Restaurant.† Going South on I 75, take Exit 158 and go West on Tucker's Grade a short distance to US 41. Turn left (South) and go about 11 miles to the Del Prado Extension, continue 0.5 miles past that traffic light.† Sabal Springs will be on your left or East side of the highway.† Free Parking is available next to the restaurant. Check† with your fellow Blinded veterans, family members, and friends and make plans to join us on Saturday,† November 5th in North Ft. Myers.† We look forward to meeting you there. †
†††† Last year, a number of BV's made† reservations† but did not attend or cancel.† Consequently the FRG had to pay $15 for each reservation under our guarantee.† Although you only pay $5 for the lunch, the FRG subsidizes it with an additional $10.† If you make a reservation and can't come, please †cancel, so the FRG won't have to pay the $15 for each reservation we guarantee.† If you can't come, please call and cancel it before November 2.
†††† BVA National convention:† The BVA National Convention was held in Las Vegas, Nevada August 16-21.† The September FRG Newsletter was sent to the printer prior to the Convention so a report about Convention activities was not included.† Prior to the start of the Convention, the Board of Directors met to finalize the Annual Report to the Convention including a proposed budget for BVA fiscal year 2011-2012.† The Board also withdrew two of the 4 By-Law Amendments previously proposed by the Board.† On Monday morning Operation Peer Support (OPS) began at which a number of newly Blinded Veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan participated.† There were 10 US Blinded Veterans and 2 from the British Isles .† The new BV', along with their family member took part in a week long series of activities to assist in their return to civilian life.† In addition, several previous OPS participant joined their fellow Blinded Veterans in the week long OPS activities.† one of the previous OPs participants was also †a Blinded Veteran from the British Isles.† Beginning on Tuesday and running through Thursday, 42 exhibitors displayed a variety of adaptive equipment and sensory aids to those in attendance.† The Convention opened wit the President's Reception on Tuesday evening honoring out going BVA President Dr. Roy Kekahuna.† The Opening Business session was held on Wednesday morning at which Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki was our key note speaker.† A letter was read from President Obama congratulating the BVA on its 66 years of service to America's Blinded Veterans and wishing us good luck in our Convention.† US Representatives Shelley Berkley and Joe Heck both† from the Las Vegas area and US Senator Dean Heller from Nevada welcomed us to Las Vegas and congratulated the BVA on its service to our nations Blinded Veterans.† The membership accepted the BVA Annual Report and approved the 2011-2012 BVA Budget.† Informational Seminars were held on Wednesday Afternoon.† Later that afternoon the By-Laws and Resolutions Committee met.† The Committee review the two remaining By-Law Amendments regarding increases in dues and recommended passage to the membership.† The Committee also recommended, positively, 17 resolutions to the membership.† Those in attendance had Thursday off to enjoy activities in Las Vegas and its surroundings.† On Friday morning four topics were presented to those in attendance. Dr. James Weiland described advances in retinal research.† Dr. Glenn Cockerham, director of the Palo Alto VAMC Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Program† presented an update on TBI treatment and functional blindness which can result from TBI.† Gail Watson, Director of the Blind Rehabilitation Service (BRS) in the VA Central Office reported on the status of the BRS.† Selva Pressman from the US Treasury, Bureau of Engraving described various types of tactual currency.† During the week, representatives from the Bureau of Engraving had Blinded Veterans sample the various types of tactual currency being considered. †The Father Thomas Carroll Memorial Luncheon was held at noon.† Dr. Greg Goodrich, Director of the BRS Research Unit at the Palo Alto VAMC was Guest Speaker.† The Palo Alto Blind Rehab Center BRC has a bust of Father carroll in the lobby and the BRC is named after him.† On Friday afternoon, the six BVA Districts held caucuses.† BV's from the various Districts met in the caucuses to review the report from the By-Laws and Resolutions Committee.† In addition the candidates for BVA National office were invited to speak to the various caucuses.† The final Business Meeting was held on Saturday morning.† The By-Laws and Resolutions Committee† report was presented.† The membership voted unanimously to increase annual dues from $8 to $15 and life dues from $40 to $50 for BV's age 66 and over, from $50 to $63 age 61-65, from $60 to $75 age 55-60, $70 to $88 age 45-54, and $80 to $100 age 44 and under. The life dues down payment will increase from$10 to $25.† These increases††† will be effective January 1, 2012.† The membership voted to pass all 17 resolutions.† These resolutions will appear on the BVA web site www.bva.org.† The following Blinded Veterans were† elected to lead the BVA for the coming year:† President - Sam Huhm (Pennsylvania); Vice President - Mark Cornell (South Texas); Secretary - Dale Stamper ( Idaho); and Treasurer Roy Young (Greater Houston).† The Greater Houston Regional Group will host the 2012 BVA Convention in Galveston, Texas.† Although several Regional Groups expressed interest in the 2013 Convention, there were no complete bids presented.† Two informational seminars were held on Saturday afternoon, one on Regional Group leadership and the other on legislation.† The annual Awards Banquet was held on Saturday night.† Dan Standage from Arizona received the Major General Melvin J. Maas Vocational Achievement Award for his personal Rehabilitation.† He is the Project Coordinator for the Disabled Veteran Reintegration and Education Project at the University of
Arizona. †In that capacity, he coordinates programs for veterans at the university and does outreach in the community.† The David Schnair Award was presented to Ron Morales for his work as a Volunteer National Service Officer for the Southern Arizona Regional Group in Tucson.† .† The Gold Gavel for the largest numerical increase in membership was presented to the Florida Regional Group for the third consecutive year.† The Silver Gavel, for the largest percentage increase was presented to the Cape Cod and Island Regional Group.† Tom Miller, who will retire on December 31, 2011,† spoke about his 25 years of service to the BVA as Government Affairs Director and Executive Director.† tom has served as Executive Director longer than any of his predecessors.† After the installation of BVA and BVA Auxiliary Officers, President Kekahuna turned the gavel over to Sam Huhn.† The Reverend Neftali Sanchez, who is retiring after 32 years as BVA Chaplain, gave the benediction. Following Tali's comments, President Huhn closed the 66th BVA National Convention.
†††† US Legislative Up-Date:† This information has appeared in recent FRG Newsletters.† However, we continue to receive calls from BV's that they are still being charged co-payments for in or outpatient medical service and pharmacy prescriptions.† On May 5, 2010, Congress passed PL 111-163 which included a provision sponsored by the BVA and PVA to exempt catastrophically disabled veterans from co-payments on regular in and out patient medical treatment and pharmacy prescriptions.† You still owe co-payments on those services provided before May 5, 2010.† The VA Central Office (VACO) Computer Unit was supposed to prepare a program to accomplish this fix throughout the VA Health Care System.† Unfortunately, although 18 months have passed since the law was passed, the fix has not been passed to all VA medical facilities.† The VACO Business Office has sent the information to VA Health Care facilities but there are still some facilities that have not corrected their records.† A veteran whose vision meets the legal description of blindness is considered catastrophically disabled and thus exempt from those co-payments.† It is the responsibility of the VIST Coordinator to insure that all Blinded Veterans on their VIST roles are listed as catastrophically disabled.† If you are still receiving bills for co-payments, contact your VIST Coordinator to insure that you are listed as catastrophically disabled.† Do not ignore the bills but contact the number on the bill to notify the Business Office that you are exempt.† If you continue to have difficulties with bills for co-payments, contact Terry King (941) 505-7747 email firstname.lastname@example.org on the west side of Florida and George Stocking (305) 446-8008 email email@example.com in east Florida.† The BVA continues to work for all Blinded Veterans to improve their services and benefits.
†††† Remember to make your reservations for the FRG Luncheon meeting at the Palms Restaurant in North Ft. Myers on Saturday, November 5th.† Please call Terry King or the others listed above and make your reservation before November , 2nd.† We look forward to meeting you there† †.†††
FRG-BVA Schedule of Meetings
November 5†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† FRG Meeting Palms Restaurant in North Ft. Myers
December 3 ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† FRG Meeting in Seminole
January 7††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† FRG Meeting Ocala Hilton Hotel
February 4 ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† FRG Meeting in Tampa
March 4††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††† FRG Meeting in Ft. Lauderdale
May 3-6†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† FRG State Convention Plaza Ocean Club Hotel in Daytona
August 21-26††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† BVA National Convention Galveston, Texas