BLINDED VETERANS ASSOCIATION
Chartered by the United States Congress
FLORIDA REGIONAL GROUP
3801 Coco Grove Avenue
Miami, Florida 33133
FRG Web Site: www.bvafrg.org
FRG Newsletter January 2012
Important Editor's Note: The recorded version of this FRG Newsletter has been distributed by the Florida Talking Book Library in Daytona Beach for over
30 years. During that time, it has been recorded on a cassette at the standard cassette speed. In that way, BV's who did not have a Library of Congress -
National Library Service (NLS) cassette player could listen to it on a standard tape recorder. Recently, the NLS has switched to recording material in a
digital format . Many BV's who use the NLS Talking Book program have switched to the digital player and have returned their NLS cassette player. Even more
BV's have begun using other equipment for their personal recording needs and no longer have a standard tape recorder. There has been a concern about the
future of recorded Newsletters and magazines distributed through the Talking Book Program. Each cassette, which have been used for many years, is only 50
cents each. The digital disc costs from $5 to $7 each. Initially it was not possible to rerecord material on those discs. Consequently the cost of
recording Newsletters and magazines in that format would be prohibitive. Recent technology has permitted the reuse of the digital discs. The Talking Book
Library in Daytona Beach has been chosen to conduct a pilot project to record Newsletters and magazines in the new format. The BVA-FRG Newsletter has been
chosen as one of the Newsletters to be distributed in the digital format. Beginning in March 2012, our FRG Newsletter will be recorded in that digital
format. It will be imperative for BV's who receive the digital FRG Newsletter to use it and return it to the TB Library as soon as possible, so it can be
reused. If you do not have a NLS digital player, call the TB Library at 1 (800) 226-6075. There is no cost for this service. Veterans have a priority and will
be supplied with a digital player promptly. If you have previously requested to have the cassette version of your FRG Newsletter stopped because you no longer
have a tape player. If you now wish to have your Newsletter sent in this new digital format please contact the FRG. To do so, send an email to
firstname.lastname@example.org or call (305)446-8008 to receive the Newsletter in the digital format. If you wish you may clip off the address label on the print
copy of this Newsletter, print "resume digital Newsletter" and mail it to the address at the top of the Newsletter. If you wish to have your recorded version
stopped, contact the FRG as indicated above and say "cancel recorded Newsletter". The quality of material recorded in the digital format is superior
to that of the cassette version. This will be the first change in the format of the recorded version of the FRG Newsletter since it was first distributed in
recorded form in the early 1980's. We will be interested in your opinion of this new version. Remember when you receive the digital version in March to
read it quickly and return the digital Newsletter to the Talking Book Library as soon as possible.
President's Message: Greetings to the FRG-BVA. I have not been able to address the FRG membership. While traveling home from the Orlando meeting, I
received a phone call from the Chief of the Biloxi Mississippi BRC. I was informed that I was selected to be one of the first student in the new facility.
Having attended Hinds and the west palm BRC's twice and have visited the Birmingham and Puerto Rico BRC's. I considered this as an honor to be one of 3
blind vets in the new 26 bed facility. I had no idea that the BRC would not have televisions, or computer access, this went on for the first month. The BRC
has taken shape and I believe that it is equal to any that I know of. There are 3 kitchens available for training and a kitchen for the students to use to cook
their own food. The computer training was state of the art . Not only did we have the windows format but now they are also training in he apple system even
the Ipad. There are classes in copper tooling, wood working small engine repair, plumbing fixtures repair, and leather working. We also learned how to
tie fishing flies. If you complete mobility, you are able to go to the fishing pier and check out fishing poles and receive a bag of shrimp for bait.
Assistance was available. The Nursing Service was very thorough. The BRC's opening was delayed due to problems receiving equipment. I could go on about
the quality of the whole experience. It was second to none. I recommend the Biloxi BRC. When I returned home I found out that the Northwest district
director, who has had health problems along with transportation issues, had to resign. This is your opportunity to step up and help fill the void. I traveled
14 hours by bus to attend a very nice meeting in Seminole. Vice President Gigi Mathis informed the group of the progress that she has made to have a FRG
presence in the Tampa VAMC and Lakeland VA Out Patient Clinic. Those facilities will permit the FRG to set up information tables twice a month. We have been
promised space in the new Orlando VAMC, when it comes on line later in 2012. We received an enthusiastic speech from Shawn Britt, the new Bay Pines VIST
coordinator. She stated that her door was always open to the blinded vets and encourage you all to put her to work. Remember we are all in this together. If
you have any helpful suggestions, please contact your BVA-FRG board, listed below. The meal was very tasty and the service was grand. There were 51 in
attendance. I am looking forward to another long bus ride to the Tampa meeting. I was informed that the scuba diving with the veterans dive locker may have
saved a young disabled veteran from killing himself, stating that if the blind guy can do it then he could also do it. We must get out and show the world that
life is not over just because you become blind or disabled. Remember, we are blinded veterans helping blinded veterans. Following is contact information for
the FRG Officers and Directors. President Darryl Goldsmith - Pensacola (850) 554-7819 email email@example.com; Vice President Gigi Mathis - Lakeland
(863-255-9275 email gigimathistampabay.rr.com; Secretary-Treasurer George Stocking - Miami (305) 446-8008 email firstname.lastname@example.org; Past President
Terry King - Punta Gorda (941) 505-7747 email email@example.com; Northeast District Joe Brick - Glen St Mary (904) 259-1404 email firstname.lastname@example.org; Central West District Aaron Cornelius - Bradenton (912) 695-3171 email
email@example.com; Central East District Charles Brooks - Kissimmee (407) 847-0761 email firstname.lastname@example.org; Southwest District Bob Walczak - Port Charlotte (941) 875-9876 email email@example.com; Southeast District Jerry
Abney - Miami (305) 270-1739 email abneyj @bellsouth.net. Well thats all for now. Darryl Goldsmith, FRG President
FRG Auxiliary President's Message: According to the College Board, in 2011-2012, the average annual tuition at a public four-year college is $8,244
for in-state students and $12,526 for out-of-state students. Private colleges cost on the average $28,500. Even public two-year colleges cost $2,963 per
year. These costs dont include room and board, food, books, and other miscellaneous expenses. To further complicate the issue, the Department of
Education reported recently that 13% of college students currently enrolled are single parents. With costs so high, the opportunity to receive a
scholarship should be very attractive. The FRG BVA Auxiliary has offered this opportunity to the spouses and children of Florida blinded veterans for more
than 15 years. The funds come from donations and those fifty/fifty raffle tickets sold at the FRG luncheons all around Florida plus the annual state
convention. On behalf of those who have been awarded scholarships in the past and those who will receive them in the future, thanks to everyone for buying
those tickets. Thanks also to FRG BVAA members who have served on the Scholarship Committee over the years. Please help us to get the word out that
this money is available for furthering education at colleges or technical schools. For information about the FRG Auxiliary Scholarship Program, contact
me at the address below. May 2012 prove to be a better year economically for us all. Fran Thomas FRG Auxiliary President 4928 Mullette Lane, St. James City,
FL 33956 email PghFran9@aol.com(239) 283-1708.
FRG Meeting Notice: The next meeting of the Florida Regional Group will be held on Saturday February 4th, at the Landers Steakhouse 4744 North Dale Mabry Blvd. in Tampa. The meeting will begin with a period of socializing at 11:30 AM, followed by lunch at noon. For lunch, you may have either Prime Rib of
Beef or Breast of Chicken Marcella with garden Salad, Baked Potato, Vegetables, Rolls & Butter, Iced Tea or Coffee, and Cheese Cake with Chocolate Sauce. The price of the lunch 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 meeting following lunch. A national legislative up-date will be provided. VA Representatives
will be on hand to provide information about services and benefits of interest to BV's and their families. FRG activities for the remainder of the year 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 February 1st. Please make
your reservations prior to that date by writing to Vice President Gigi Mathis at: 2852 Chapsworth Lane , Lakeland, FL 33813 or by calling Gigi at: (863)
255-9275, email firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition, you may call Jessica Buccollo Tampa VAMC VIST Coordinator, at: (813) 972-2000 ex 2225 or Shawn Britt, Bay Pines VIST Coordinator, at (727) 398-6661 ex 4516. The restaurant
needs the reservation information in order to prepare properly for our meeting. To get to the restaurant in Tampa, take Dale Mabry Highway which is a North to
South main artery. From the south take I 75 north to I 275 West to the Raymond James Stadium exit. Go north on Dale Mabry approximately a half mile passed the Stadium. Sam Seltzer's will be on your left, west side of Dale Mabry. Those coming from the St. Petersburg or Clearwater areas take State Road 60 across the Veterans Causeway on I 275 east to the Raymond James Stadium exit, then continue as above. From the North, (Ocala etc.) I 75 or from the East (Orlando, etc.) on I 4, continue until they merge with I 275, then continue as above. Parking is available adjacent to the restaurant. Begin planning now and bring another Blinded Veteran with you and join us at the Landers Steakhouse on Saturday, February 4th. Although you only pay $5 for the luncheon, the FRG will pay $17
for each meal guaranteed. If you make a reservation and can't come, please contact one of those listed above and cancel your reservation by February 1st.
In that way the FRG will not pay for unused meals.
National Legislative Up-Date: In the December FRG Newsletter, it was reported that Senator Jon Tester, from Montana, has introduced S 1755 which
would provide Beneficiary Travel to inpatient Blind Rehab Training for Blinded Veterans whose income is above the income threshold. BVA Director of Government Operations Dr. Tom Zampieri has worked with Representative Mike Micheud from
Maine to introduce a companion to S 1755 in the House of Representatives. It is anticipated that Representative Micheud will introduce that bill when Congress
returns from its Christmas recess in early January. Tom Z. has difficulty getting co-signers on these measures due to the deficit controversy which
presently exists in Congress.
Florida Total Homestead Tax Exemption Reminder: It's that time of year, when we remind Blinded Veterans of two Total Homestead Tax Exemption Statutes
available to qualified individuals in Florida. This may be old information to some of you. However, we have many Blinded Veterans move into Florida each year
and with Florida's older population, many veterans lose their vision each year. Consequently, we are including this information. The Florida Regional Group
worked many years to obtain and improve these benefits. If you qualify, take your documentation to your local Tax Appraiser before March 1.
FS 196.081 provides a total Homestead Tax Exemption to 100% service connected disabled veterans. The exemption has no income limitation. In the
event of the veteran's death, the exemption is continued to the surviving spouse, as long as he or she does not remarry. In the past the spouse would
have to remain in the same home to continue the exemption. Several years ago, the FRG secured an amendment to the statute to permit the surviving spouse to
keep the exemption on that home or a different home as long as the new home is assessed at the same or a lower amount. To qualify for this exemption, a
veteran should obtain a statement from the VA Regional Office certifying that he or she is a 100% service connected disabled veteran. This total Homestead
Exemption will be renewed each year. If you have qualified for this Total Exemption in the past and have not received notification of the renewal by the
end of January, contact your County Tax Appraiser's Office.
FS 196.101 provides a Total Homestead Tax Exemption to certain individuals who are restricted to a wheelchair for mobility or who are legally blind. This
total Exemption has a total household income limitation of $25211 in 2011 FS 196.101 has a provision which provides an annual increase in the income
limitation equal to the increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Since there was no increase in the CPI during the previous 3 years, there was no increase in
the income limitation listed above. According to nationally published information, there has been a 3.6% increase in the CPI during 2011. Hopefully,
the Florida Department of Revenue will make an increase of that amount in the income limitation for 2012. In the past, the state did not get that increase
processed until late January. To qualify, obtain a statement from two Florida licensed Ophthalmologists stating that you are legally blind. Take those
statements to your County Tax Appraiser's Office before March 1. You will be required to certify your income annually to maintain this Total Homestead Tax
Exemption available under FS 196.101.
Remember to make your reservation for the February 4th FRG meeting at the Landers Steakhouse by contacting one of those listed above before February 1.
We look forward to meeting you in Tampa on February 4. Get a group of your fellow BV's and join us.
FRG-BVA Meeting Schedule
February 4th FRG Meeting at the
Landers Steakhouse in Tampa
March ?rd Proposed FRG Meeting in Ft.
May 3-6 FRG State Convention Plaza
Ocean Club Hotel in Daytona
August 22-27 BVA National Convention in
Darryl Goldsmith FRG President
Fran Thomas FRG Auxiliary
George Stocking Editor