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Miami, Florida 33133


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NEWSLETTER - November 2011


     FRG Meeting Notice:  The next meeting of the Florida Regional Group will be held on Saturday, December 3rd, at the Lake Seminole Square 8333 Seminole Blvd. in Seminole.  The meeting will begin with a period of socializing at 11:30 AM, followed by lunch at noon.  For lunch, you may have Grilled Breast of Chicken Picatta  or Sliced Tenderloin of beef  with Natural Mushroom Aus Jus each and Romaine Goat Cheese Mandarin OrangeSections, Almonds, Salad with Honey Dijon Dressing and   Garlic Parmesan Potatoes, Glazed Carrots, Rolls & Butter, Iced Tea or Coffee and French Silk Chocolate Pie.   A complementary glass of wine is available upon request.    The registration for the luncheon will be $5 per person.  The Informational meeting will follow 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 presented.  Future FRG activities will be discussed.  Information about the FRG Auxiliary will be presented.


     The restaurant has asked us to  notify them as to the number who will be attending and the type of luncheon desired before November 30.  Please make your reservations prior to that date by writing to Vice President Gigi Mathis at: 2852 Chapsworth Lane, Lakeland, FL 33813 or call Gigi at (863) 255-9275, email  or in Bradenton call Central District Director Aaron Cornelius at (912) 695-3171.  In St. Petersburg, You may call the new Bay Pines VIST Coordinator Shawn Britt at (727) 398-6661 ex 4516 or in Largo, call Ben Wells at: (727)536-1762. In Tampa, call VIST Coordinator Jessica Buccolo at (813) 972-2000 ex 2225.  The restaurant needs the reservation information in order to prepare properly for our meeting.


     To get to Lake Seminole Square in Pinellas County, take US Highway 19 Alternate north or South until it becomes Seminole Blvd.  Lake Seminole Square will be on the east side of the street.  There are 4 American Flags in front of the building.  From the Tampa area, take I 75 north or south to I 275 south. Go across the Gandy bridge to exit 28 Which is State Road 694, which becomes Park Blvd.  Continue west to Seminole BLVD with is US Highway 19 Alternate.  Turn right and Lake Seminole Square will be on your right less than 1 mile.  Go west to Seminole Blvd.  Go north on Seminole Blvd. less than a mile to Lake Seminole Square on your right.  From the east (Orlando, etc.) take I 4 west to I 275 then continue as above.  If you need directions, call Lake Seminole Square at (727) 392-3932.  Do not call Lake Seminole Square for reservations but one of those listed above.  Free Parking is available . Check  with your fellow Blinded Veterans, family members, and friends and make plans to join us on Saturday,  December 3rd in Seminole.  We look forward to meeting you there.


     National Legislative Up-Date:  At the writing of this Newsletter, Congress is struggling with the appropriations for Fiscal Year 2012.  To keep from having the government close down on October 1st, the beginning of FY 2012, Congress passed a Continuing Resolution to fund the government through November.  The FY 2012 appropriation for the Department of Veterans Affairs was passed as a result  of legislation  sponsored by the Veterans Service Organizations.  This legislation was passed in 2009 which requires Congress to pass Advanced Funding for the Veterans Health Administration a year in advance.  As a result, the VHA has its FY 2012 appropriation.  There may be a need to adjust that appropriation slightly later in the year, but the VHA has additional funding over the FY 2011 FY appropriation.  In this climate, it is difficult to get anything through Congress to increase services for Blinded Veterans.  Tom Zampieri, BVA Director of Governmental Affairs, is working with Senator Jon Tester, from Montana, to introduce a change in Beneficiary Travel for BV's attending a VA Blind Rehabilitation Center.  Presently, BV's above the income threshold are required to pay their own transportation to a BRC.  If passed, this legislation would permit the VA to provide travel for these BV's to a BRC.  Several years ago, the BVA secured the establishment of an Eye Trauma and Research Center of Excellence in the Department of Defense.  It took several years to secure the funding for the Center after it was established.  Now, the House of Representative is recommending a cut from $5 Million to $3  million (a 40% reduction) for FY 2012 in research funding.  This research has already made improvements in the treatment of battlefield eye trauma injuries to stabilize the eye until reaching a military hospital in Germany or the US.  Since Bill Young, Chairman of the House Appropriation Committee, says this is only a realignment of resources it is still a reduction in eye trauma research.  Tom Zampieri has succeeded in getting articles exposing this reduction in the Army Times, Navy Times, and Air Force Times.  A similar article deploring this reduction is scheduled to be published in USA Today.  The BVA will continue to work with Congress to improve services for Blinded Veterans, even in these difficult times of tight budgets.


     FRG Auxiliary President's Message: The website of the Department of Veteran’s Affairs includes a history of Veteran's Day.  Here are some excerpts.  World War I – known at the time as “The Great War” - officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919.  however, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.  For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”  In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day.  The original concept for the celebration was for  a day observed with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11 am.  The Uniform Holiday Bill (Public Law 90-363, was signed  on June 28, 1968, and was intended to ensure three-day weekends for Federal employees by celebrating four national holidays on Mondays: Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day.  The first Veterans Day under the new law was observed with much confusion on October 25, 1971.  It was quite apparent that the commemoration of  this day was a matter of historic and patriotic significance to a great number  of our citizens, and so on September 20th, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed  Public Law 94-97 , which returned the annual observance of Veterans Day to its original date of November 11, beginning in 1978.  This

action  supported the desires of the overwhelming majority of state legislatures, all  major veterans service organizations and the American  people.  Veterans Day continues to be observed on November 11, regardless of what day of the week on which it falls.  The restoration of the observance of Veterans  Day to November 11 not only preserves the historical significance of the date,  but helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day:  A  celebration to honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country,  and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common  good.  Fran Thomas FRG Auxiliary President 239-283-1708


Blinded Veterans Interested in Teaching Computers to Other BV's Update:  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 that 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 to teach our veterans on his or her computer.  There is a school on line that teaches one how to teach others, and also goes over all of the various key strokes, and many other items are also covered.  The school is recognized both by the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Division of Blind services.  There are 11 separate courses for a total cost of $11,000 if you were to take all of the courses.  The courses are expensive, but the cost can be born by the VA in some cases under the VA 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.  Another words it’s just like sitting 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 dun 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; 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, or email me your phone number, if you do not have unlimited long distance phone .   .  Here is an opportunity for some of our blinded veterans to supplement their fixed incomes, and most importantly give our fellow veterans professional training and by the same token the VA shall be getting their moneys worth.  Because our veterans would be certified by a recognized school, with the appropriate certificates.  Terry King 941 5505-7747 email  


     New Bay Pines VIST Coordinator:  In recent years, Jodi Teper has served as VIST Coordinator at the Bay Pines VAMC.  Recently, she was promoted to a supervisory position in the Social Work Service.  We wish her good luck in her new position.   Most fortunately for Blinded Veterans, she worked with the management at the Bay Pines VAMC to fill her VIST position.  Jodi transferred to her new position on September 26 and Shawn Britt was transferred to the VIST position on the Same day.  We thank Jodi for such a smooth transition.  Shawn Britt was born at the Westover Air Force base in Massachusetts where her father was stationed.  She calls herself an Air Force brat traveling with her family around the world while her father served 26 years in the AF.  She spent 2 years in high school in England and graduated from high school in Rantoul, Illinois where her father was stationed at Scott AFB.  Following high school she was married to a Vietnam veteran.  During the next 16 years they had 3 children.  Following a divorce, she entered Cleveland State University where she earned a bachelor's degree in Social Work.  Following graduation, she entered graduate school at Florida State University.  As part of the  Master's Degree in Social Work, she interned at a VAMC in Tennessee.  Upon earning her MSW, she was employed at the VAMC in Coatesville, Pennsylvania where she worked 12 years in various Social Work positions. In 2003, she moved to the St. Petersburg area to take care of her ailing mother.  At that time, she transferred to a Social Work position at the Bay Pines  VAMC.  She continues to live in the St. Petersburg area.  Her son has recently been discharged from the Marine Corps after serving a tour of duty in Afghanistan.  He is attending college where he is majoring in Substance Abuse Counseling.  He lives in an apartment behind his mother's home.  Shawn is an avid gardener and raises her own vegetables.  She is also an enthusiastic crocheter.  On behalf of Blinded Veterans in Florida, particularly those in the Bay Pines VAMC catchment area, we welcome her to her new VIST Coordinator position.  We look forward to meeting her at the FRG meeting in Seminole on December 3rd and to working cooperatively with her in the coming years.


     Dues Reminder:  At the BVA National Convention in August, the membership voted to increase dues in the BVA for the first time in over 30 years.  The increase will take effect January 1, 2012.  Those joining by December 31 will pay the present rates.  Even with the increase, the BVA will still have the lowest dues of the Veterans Service Organizations.  It is only by joining together that we can make our voices heard by the Nation and Congress.  The strength of your voice is needed by The BVA to make Congress and VA listen to the special needs of Blinded Veterans.  We need your membership to stay strong.  By joining your voice with the BVA, you increase your chance of being heard on the national, state, and local levels of government.  The BVA is for any veteran whose vision meets the legal description of blindness brought on by military service, aging, injury, or illness. You become a part of a very special brotherhood to support you in your time of need with advocacy,advice, encouragement, and information.  Together we can make a grateful country listen.  If the code next to your name on the address label is M or AM, you are an annual member and your dues will expire on December 31.  If the code is FM or FAM you have previously been a member but not presently.  If the code is NM or NAM, you have never been a member of the BVA. If the code is LM or ALM, you are a life member for ever and never need to pay dues again.  If the code is PLM or PALM, you are paying toward a life membership.  If you complete payment, you will be a member for ever.  If the code on the envelope is M, AM, FM, FAM, NM, or NAM, you  will find an application and return envelope enclosed in the print copy of this Newsletter. Please use it  to JOIN THE BVA TODAY.  At present annual dues are only $8.  If you pay annual dues before December 31 your dues will be $8.  After that annual dues will be $15.  Better yet,  consider becoming a Life Member (LM) or Associate Life Member (ALM), then, you won't have to pay dues ever again.  Your life dues go into the Life Membership Fund, t he principal of which is never touched.  The dividends and interest from that fund are apportioned to the Regional Groups according to the number of LM and ALM in the Group.  LM and ALM dues are staggered according to your age.  The enclosed application  form indicates that LM and ALM dues run from $80 for BV's age 44 and under, $70 for BV's 45 to 54, $60 - 55 to 60, $50 - 61-65, and $40 age 66 and over.  Through December 31, You may start a LM or ALM with a down payment of $10 with the balance payable over the next 2 years.  By joining now, you will lock in the present dues rate.  After January 1st, life dues will be $100 for BV's age 44 and under; $88 age 45-54; $75 age 55-60; $63 age 61-65; and $50 age 66 and over.  The down payment for starting a life membership will be $25 after January 1st.  You will still have 2 years to complete payment on your life dues.  Please  use the APPLICATION  AND JOIN THE BVA TODAY!


FRG Meeting Schedule


December 3                                        FRG Meeting at Lake Seminole square in Seminole

January 7                                            FRG meeting Ocala Hilton Hotel

February 4                                         FRG meeting Landers Steakhouse in Tampa

March ?                                             Proposed FRG meeting in the Ft. Lauderdale area

May 3-6                                             FRG State Convention Plaza Ocean Club Hotel Daytona

August 21-26                                      BVA National Convention in Galveston, Texas