BLINDED VETERANS ASSOCIATION
Chartered by the United States Congress
FLORIDA REGIONAL GROUP
3801 Coco Grove Avenue
Miami, Florida 33133
FRG web site: bvafrg.org
FRG NEWSLETTER - DECEMBER 2011
On behalf of the Officers, Directors, and members of the Florida Regional Group, let me take this opportunity to wish you and your families, a Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, and Joyous, Happy, and Prosperous New Year. Let us be thankful for our blessings and work together in the New Year.
FRG Meeting Notice: The next meeting of the Florida Regional Group will be held on Saturday, January 7th, 2012 at the Hilton Hotel 3600 S.W. 36 Avenue in Ocala. Bruce Davis, VIST Coordinator at the Gainesville VAMC, has assisted in making the arrangements for this meeting. The meeting will begin at 11:30 AM with a period of socializing, followed by lunch at noon. For lunch, you may select between: London Broil Marinated Flank Steak Sliced Thin with Sherry Mushroom Sauce Served with Roasted Potatoes or Chicken Cordon Bleu Chicken Breast Stuffed with Ham and Swiss Cheese Served with Wild Rice, All Above Served Lunches Include: Fresh Garden Salad, Green Bean Almandine, rolls & butter, Freshly Brewed Colombian Coffee, Iced Tea, and Chocolate Cake. The price of the lunch will be $5 per person including tax & tip.
An FRG Informational Meeting will follow 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 and the 2 Scholarships they offer to the spouse or children of Florida Blinded Veterans.
The hotel has asked us to notify them as to the number who will be attending and the choice of lunch desired by January 13. Please make your reservations prior to that date by writing to Bruce Davis, VIST Coordinator, VAMC, 1601 S.W. Archer Road, Gainesville, FL 32608, or call Bruce at (800) 324-8387 ex. 5560. You may also call Central East District Director Charles Brooks at: (407) 847-0461, email firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also make your reservations by calling Louise DiGennaro, VIST Coordinator at the Jacksonville VA Outpatient Clinic at: (904) 232-2751 ex 3015 or Judy Hayes, VIST Coordinator at the Lake City VAMC, at (386) 755-3016 ex. 2088. Judy is working on securing a van to go from Lake City to the FRG Luncheon meeting in Ocala. If you need transportation from Lake City, contact Judy. Although the cost of the meal to you is only $5, each meal guaranteed will cost your Regional Group $15. So if you make a reservation and can't come please call Bruce Davis before January 3 and cancel. In that way we won't have to pay for meals not used.
To get to the hotel, take I 75 North or South to exit 350. Go East off of I 75 on State road 200 to the first traffic Light and turn right on S.W. 36 Avenue. The Hilton hotel will be on your right. Free parking is available at the hotel. If you need directions call the Hilton at (352) 854-1400. Do not call the hotel to make or cancel reservations, call one of those listed above.
National Legislative Up-Date: According to the Federal Government, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) has increased 3.6 % during the past year. As a result, there will be a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) increase in Service Connected disability Compensation, Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), VA Non Service Connected Pension, and Social Security benefits. These COLA will be effective December 1st and will appear in your January checks. There has been a great deal of information regarding a new way to determine the CPI. Congress has established a Super Committee of 12 members to make recommendations to reduce the deficit. This Super Committee is composed of 3 Democrats and 3 Republicans in each the Senate and House of Representatives. Rumors have surfaced that the Super Committee will, among many other things, recommend a new method of determining the CPI. According to the rumors, if this recommendation comes to fruition, and is implemented by Congress, it would have reduce this year's COLA from 3.6% to 3.2%. Many rumors have surfaced regarding this Super Committee but, to date, no final report has been made. It is probable that some significant reductions in programs, services, and benefits may be sent to Congress from the Super Committee for implementation. This is why, we as Blinded Veterans, must join together so that the services and benefits we have fought so hard to acquire will not wither away.
As indicated in the November FRG Newsletter, Tom Zampieri, BVA Director of Governmental Affairs, has been working on legislation to change Beneficiary Travel for BV's attending a VA Blind Rehabilitation Center whose income is above the income threshold. Presently, BV's above that 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. Since then, Senator Jon Tester, from Montana, has introduced S 1755 which would accomplish that goal. Tom is having difficulty getting someone in the House of Representatives to introduce a companion bill in the House. Unfortunately, due to the significant increase in Beneficiary Travel costs recently, resulting from the large increase in mileage allowances now available due to the increase cost in gasoline it is difficult to get Members of congress to sign on as co-sponsors of this legislation. The VA spends hundreds of millions of dollars for Beneficiary travel each year. If this change was implemented, it would probably only cost the VA about $250,000 annually.
In previous FRG Newsletters, we reported the passage of Public Law PL 110-163 on May 6, 2010. This Public Law had a provision included at the request of the BVA and PVA to exempt Catastrophically Disabled Veterans from co-payments for regular in and out patient medical treatment and pharmacy services. This message is being included because we are still hearing about Blinded Veterans who are still being billed for these services. We have been able to correct these cases when we receive the information. Veterans, whose vision are within the legal description of blindness, are considered catastrophically disabled. It is your VIST Coordinator's responsibility to insure that all veterans on their case load who meet the legal description of blindness are listed as catastrophically disabled. If you are still receiving bills from the VA for co-payments for treatment and pharmacy services after May 6, 2010, do not ignore the bills but contact your VIST Coordinator, then the Business Office at your VA medical facility. If you cannot get the situation resolved, please contact Terry King at (941) 505-7747, email email@example.com, on the west side of Florida or George Stocking at (305) 446-8008 email firstname.lastname@example.org on the east side of Florida. We will do our best to help you get this problem resolved.
FRG Auxiliary President's Message: Do you remember the Christmas specials that were on every year featuring Bob Hope in whatever the current war zone was? The latest pretty young starlet was usually with him. The audiences were full of fresh-faced young soldiers, laughing and whistling. Those shows had a long tradition behind them. The United Service Organizations or USO was formed in 1941 to provide morale and recreation services to the US military. During WWII the tradition of entertaining troops began that continues to this day. From 1941 to 1947, the USO presented more than 400,000 Camp Shows. The USO was briefly disbanded in 1947 but started up again in 1950 during the Korean War. Bob Hope was probably the best known of the Hollywood stars who performed. Others included Bing Crosby, Judy Garland, Danny Kaye, Bette Davis, Bogie and Bacall, the Marx Brothers, the Andrews Sisters, and the list goes on and on. During the Korean War, a younger generation of performers came aboard: Debbie Reynolds, Jayne Mansfield, Donald O’Connor and others. The USO was in Vietnam before the first combat troops arrived. The Saigon club opened in April 1963. The USO had more than 5,000 performances during that war with stars like Ann-Margaret, Wayne Newton, and Nancy Sinatra. Even the Duke, John Wayne, appeared. such as Gary Sinise, Carrie Underwood, and Trace Adkins have visited both Iraq and Afghanistan. In 1966, Congress honored Bob Hope by naming him the first and only honorary veteran of the US Armed Forces. His performances continued until Operation Desert Shield in 1991. May all of you who have served our country so well, and those who love you, have a Merry Christmas. Fran Thomas (239) 283-1708 email PghFran9@aol.com
Fran Thomas, FRG Auxiliary President.
New Ft. Myers VIST Coordinator: Laurie Charles took up her duties as the new Visual Impairment Service Team Coordinator at the Ft. Myers VA Outpatient Clinic on October 11. After graduating from high school in her native Jamestown, New York, she entered Eastern Kentucky University where she earned her Bachelor's degree. Then, she enrolled in the University of Louisville where she earned her Master's Degree in Social Work. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Subsequently, she returned to Jamestown and worked in a number of positions as a Social Worker in hospitals, schools, and mental health facilities. She and her family left Jamestown in 2007 and came to southwest Florida. In 2008, she was employed as a Social Worker in the Mental Health Clinic at the Ft. Myers VA Outpatient Clinic . She and her husband have twin daughters. In addition to her activities with her family and two dogs,, she enjoys reading and gardening. She also enjoys bike riding and exercising. With the exception of the Tampa VAMC VIST program, her case load of Blinded Veterans is probably the largest in Florida. At present, she is sharing an office with another worker. It is understood that when the clinic moves to its new location next year, she and Joyce Dyer the Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialist will each have offices in the Eye Clinic. She is planning VIST Support meetings in 4 areas in the Ft. Myers VA Outpatient Clinic catchment area. These meetings will all be held from 1 to 2 PM. The meetings will be held monthly with the exception of Sebring which will be held the first Monday of every other month beginning on February 6th. The Ft. Myers meetings will be held on the fourth Monday of the month beginning on November 28th, in the Ft. Myers VA Clinic. The meeting in Port Charlotte will be held at the American Legion Post 110 on the 4th Tuesday of the month beginning on November 22nd. The meeting in Naples will be held in the Golden State Community Center, the third Thursday of the month beginning on January 19th. For an appointment or further information call Laurie Charles at (239) 939-3939 ex 6448. Laurie, on behalf of Florida Blinded Veterans, particularly those in the Ft. Myers Clinic catchment area, we welcome you to your new position as VIST Coordinator. We look forward to working cooperatively with you in the future.
FRG Auxiliary Scholarship: It is that time of year again. No, not Christmas or Chanukah. It is Scholarship time! In January, letters will go out to all members of the Florida Regional Group asking for applications for the Florida Regional Group Auxiliary Scholarship Program. This year we will be giving two $1000 Scholarships for the 2012-2013 academic year. We always get questions about grandchildren, but our current guidelines do not include them. Children and spouses of Florida Blinded Veterans are eligible to apply. College, trade, and vocational schools are opportunities to apply for these scholarships. If you have questions or desire an application, contact FRG Auxiliary Scholarship Co-Chairperson Beverly Godfrey at (352) 626-2729 or write to: 16675 N.E. 59th Street, Silver Springs, FL 34488 .
Information for BV's with computer access: Good news for those veterans who reside within the state of Florida and who are unaware of the availability of instant information concerning blinded veterans benefits and other relevant facts that are equally important for the well being of our fellow blinded veterans. Yes, I am talking about our email generated list serve that we had established last year. For those veterans that are unfamiliar with a list serve, let me take this opportunity to explain how it works, and how it can benefit you. It works just like any other email that you may receive over your computer, and like any other email that you may send back, in response to an email that you had received. That is done by adding the email address of our list serve into your address book. Now, by being able to send out a message over the list serve, you can ask for clarification of a message, ask for some information on any question that you may have concerning the VA, or the BVA, and also the FRG. You can also ask computer questions with which you may be having difficulty. In order to get on this valuable list serve, all you need to do is send us your email address and name, so that we can verify that you are indeed a blinded veteran. If you have any questions or would like to sign up, contact either, Terry King: (941) 505 7747, or email email@example.com or Bill Stockslager: phone 941 276 1561 or email at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Note: This List serve does not permit or allow political or religious commentary, jokes or argumentative discussions that may be slanderous or detrimental to any blinded persons. Terry King: immediate FRG Past President
Remember to make your reservations for the January 7 FRG meeting in Ocala by calling Bruce Davis or one of the others listed above before January 4th. Last January, we had a record of 195 BV's, family members, and friends attend. Let's try to break that record this year. Call some of your fellow Blinded Veterans and enjoy an informative and interesting afternoon. Get a group of your fellow BV's and join us in Ocala. We look forward to meeting you at the Hilton in Ocala on Saturday, January 7th.
FRG-BVA Meeting Schedule
January 7 FRG Meeting Hilton Hotel in Ocala
February 4 FRG meeting Landers Steakhouse in Tampa
March 3 Proposed FRG Southeast District Meeting
May 3-6 FRG State Convention Plaza Ocean Club Hotel Daytona
August 22-26 BVA National Convention in Galveston, Texas .
FRG Newsletter Staff
Terry King FRG Immediate Past President
Fran Thomas FRG Auxiliary President
George Stocking Newsletter Editor