Blinded Veterans Association
Charter 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 2012
FRG President's Message: Greetings to the membership of the Florida regional group. We still have a vacant district director positions in Northwest Florida. I am pleading with the members of northwest Florida to step up and give of their talents and volunteer. If you have computer skills and want to help your fellow Blinded Vets get the information that is available contact me at numbers below. I hope that you all have been exercising by doing something as easy as walking every day. Don't sit still and turn to stone. Don't be left behind Due to advances in technology. The VA has contracted with the Apple Corporation. This has helped to open the world for the blind to help to bring us on a more equal footing with the sited world. I encourage you all to seek out I phone and Ipad training. I phone and I pad training is available at the Biloxi and Birmingham VA Blind rehab Centers. You will be surprised to find out all the neat things that these devises can do. How long has it been since you have had your claim checked over by a national service officer? You may be due and increase in your benefits because of a worsening in your condition. I hope that you have gotten a BVA cap to show others that you belong to a national veteran's service organization, the BVA. Please keep sending your ideas to your officers. All ideas for helping the Regional Group obtain the younger Blinded Vets and to have fun and help to make BVA a household name, are needed. Darryl Goldsmith, FRG President, (850)554-7819 e mail email@example.com
FRG List Serve: The List Serve provides Blinded Veterans (BV's), who have access to a computer, the opportunity to receive current information about legislation, services, benefits, and other items of interest to BV's. The FRG List Serve is growing, and is allowing our BV's to receive information much more quickly. To sign up just contact Bill Stockslager at: (941) 276-1561 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
FRG Auxiliary President's Message: What is the FRG Auxiliary? This Auxiliary is made up of spouses, family members, and friends of the Blinded Veteran. Like our By-Laws states our purpose is to help one another to cope with the unexpected loss of vision of one who many of us expect to lean on and secure our home and family. Now the burden has been placed on the spouse, mother, homemaker, and sometimes the other bread winner of the family. What a load that is in itself. Now other new jobs are placed on those shoulders. The Auxiliary with our comradery can help each other by exchanging ideas, new schedules, or maybe just relaxation in order to sit and think, I can do this. Just give yourself time to reorganize. You would be surprised how time can really conquer all. Give yourself time to adjust, give your spouse time to adjust and give your family time to adjust. Don't expect things to fall into place over night. We need each other. Join the Auxiliary for support and to exchange those valuable ideas, tips and tricks. Give your spouse a chance to adapt to doing the same things just as good as done before losing vision. Give your BV a chance to put into play what was learned from the rehab school. Believe me, it will get better. Joanne King, FRG Auxiliary President
FRG Meeting Notice: The next luncheon meeting of the Florida Regional Group will be held on Saturday, October 6th 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 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.
For those who wish to stay at the Hotel: $59. SLEEP RATE FOR EXTERIOR ROOMS, $69 SLEEP RATE FOR INTERIOR ROOMS. To get this rate, individuals will need to call: Laura Rhoden, senior sales associate, at 904-394-7001.
To get to the hotel, take I-10 to I-295 North (Georgia bound). Continue on I-295 to exit 22, which is Commonwealth Avenue. Exit there, the hotel is on your right. From the South take US 301, US 17, US 21 to I10, or I-95 north to I-295 and continue as above on I-295. 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 October 1st. 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 email@example.com or Paul Kaminsky (904) 291-0576, email - firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 October 1st. Otherwise the FRG will have to pay $16 for each meal guaranteed, including those unused.
US Legislative Up-Date: On August 5th the US House of Representatives passed HR 1627 an omni bus veterans legislation bill which included the proposal sponsored by the BVA regarding the 2101 B VA Adaptive Housing Grant. A Companion bill had previously passed the Senate. The President signed that bill on August 6th. The original 2101 B grant was passed in 1981 when the grant was for $5000 and available to service connected double hand amputees and Blinded Veterans. The VA interpreted that original bill as requiring that a Blinded Veteran must have visual acuity of 5/200 or a visual field of 5 degrees or less to qualify. Over the years the amount of that grant has increased slowly to its present level of $12,750. For the past two years BVA's Director of Governmental Affairs, Dr. Tom Zampieri, has been working on a provision to lower the requirement for that grant to 20/200 or 20 degree field to qualify. The generally accepted description of blindness is 20/200 acuity or a 20 degree field. Two years ago, Dr. Zampieri succeeded in getting Congress to pass legislation to other VA regulations to accept that description of blindness. Passage of HR 1627 brings the Adaptive Housing Grant in line with other VA regulations. For further information about the 2101 B grant, contact Dennis Thompson coordinator of the St. Petersburg VA Regional Office Adaptive Housing Grant Program at (727) 319-7602 or Jamie Ortiz at (727) 319-7264.
Many years ago, Congress passed significant amendments to the Vocational Rehabilitation Act. Included in that legislation was the establishment of Section 508, which required the federal government to make information and job sites accessible to disabled individuals. Some changes were made but most information and work sites remained inaccessible to disabled individuals. For a number of years the BVA, at its National Convention, passed resolutions urging Congress and the VA to implement the necessary regulations to make the information and work sites accessible. Very little action was taken on those resolutions. A similar resolution was passed at the 66th BVA Convention in Las Vegas last year. Subsequently, the Veterans Affairs Committees contacted the VA regarding this matter. This Congressional action resulted in the Department of Veterans Affairs issuing a "Request for Proposals (RFP)," to determine the process to implement the requirements of Section 508. Early this year a large Information Technology Company was chosen. Among other locations visited by that company was the BVA Field Service Office in Washington and the BVA Field Service Representative at the Washington VA Regional Office. Both offices have a need to examine VA Documents and to be of assistance to Blinded Veterans. Although it has taken many years, it appears that the VA is finally getting to improve the accessibility for disabled individuals.
In previous FRG Newsletters, HR 3687 and S 1763 were reviewed. Those measures are joint BVA and PVA bills to provide beneficiary travel to VA Blind Rehab Centers (BRC) and Spinal Cord Injury Centers for non service connected veterans above the income threshold. Previous legislation jointly sponsored by the BVA and PVA resulted in the removal of co-payments for those veterans attending specialized rehab facilities. However, the VA still does not provide beneficiary travel for those veterans. To date, neither the Senate nor House of Representatives have brought these measures to a vote. The BVA and PVA are continuing to work on these measures. However, time is growing short and with the up-coming elections, action may not be taken before Congress adjourns to campaign. In that event, only a lame duck Congress can act. If that does not happen, the BVA and PVA will have to start over with a new Congress in January.
Special notice concerning computers ands computer training: One of our responsibilities as an elected officer member of the BVA-FRG board of directors is to come to the assistants of our blinded veterans when it appears that they are experiencing difficulties in obtaining aids and devices from the Department of Veterans Affairs. George Stocking and I have been doing this for some time now, and will continue to assist veterans as always. We are finding that there is a state wide problem that the veterans are currently experiencing, as a result of the new Windows 7 operating system. This problem primarily occurs when the veterans are changing over their old XP computers to the new Windows 7. We would like to strongly urge that when you are getting rid of your old XP operating system computer that you contact your VIST coordinator and request some training at the West Palm Beach Blind Rehab Center (BRC), unless you are one of those unusual computer users and can manage without additional training. Many Blinded Veterans enjoy getting new equipment. In most cases, getting a new computer often frustrates most of our fellow BV's if they do not first get BRC training. Generally if you are already using a computer it may only take a few weeks to get sufficient training to be comfortable with your new computer. Terry King, FRG Vice President. .
Possible Veteran Scam: A number of Blinded Veterans have received correspondence from non VA companies requesting personal information from veterans. The letter states that there are many benefits and services that may be available to the veteran. Then the letter offers to provide assistance in obtaining these benefits. Then they asks veterans for personal information to assist them in getting additional benefits. Generally the Department of Veterans Affairs does not send letters requesting such information. If you get such a letter, before providing the personal information, contact your VA Regional Office or VA medical facility.
Remember the next meeting of the Florida Regional Group at the Quality Inn in Jacksonville on Saturday October 6th. Please make your reservations by calling one of those listed above in this Newsletter before October 2nd. If you make a reservation andcan't come please call Paul Kaminsky and cancel as soon as possible. Join your fellow BV's for an informative and enjoyable afternoon in Jacksonville.
FRG Meeting Schedule
October 6th FRG meeting Quality Inn Commonwealth in Jacksonville
November 3rd FRG meeting Ft Myers
December 7th FRG Meeting in the St. Petersburg-Clearwater area
January 5 FRG meeting Ocala Hilton Hotel
February 2nd Proposed FRG meeting in Tampa
March ? Proposed FRG meeting in Ft. Lauderdale
May 2-5 FRG State Convention Plaza Ocean Club Hotel in Daytona
Darryl Goldsmith FRG President
Joanne King FRG Auxiliary President
Terry King FRG VICE President
George Stocking Newsletter Editor