Blinded Veterans Association
Charter by the United States Congress
Florida Regional Group
3801 Coco Grove Avenue
Miami, Florida 33133
e mail firstname.lastname@example.org
BVA-FRG Web site: www.bvafrg.org
NEWSLETTER - November 2012
FRG President's Message: Hello and greetings to the FRG BVA. Time is moving fast the holidays are here already. I hope that all is well with everyone. I hope that you don't let all of the good food weigh you down and you forget or just let your exercise go by the waist side. I want all of the spouses and care givers to insist that the blinded vet that they care for, attend blind rehab. It is not fair to them if you have not taken the steps to gain your independence. If you have not attended Blind rehab you are being a burden to the ones that we care for and that care for us. It is not fair to them. We can learn to do our own laundry, some cooking and housekeeping. If you don't make the attempt to learn to be independent, let's face it you are not doing your part. The VIST program is there to help us help ourselves and to try to not put on others every day things that we can easily do ourselves. These people that care for us are entitled to have a break. I blame them as well as you for not insisting that you learn the things that you can. Our spouses can do just fine for a little while without us working them to death. You can do it, there is no excuse. I hope that you are thinking of volunteering at your local veteran's medical facility. You are needed. Contact your district director to find out what you can do to help. Keep sending in those suggestions to help the Regional Group. Call BVA national and order a BVA cap so that you can represent your BVA. Darryl goldsmith, FRG President 850 554-7819
FRG Meeting Notice: The next meeting of the Florida Regional Group will be held on Saturday, December 1st, at the Freedom Square 7800 Liberty Lane 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 with Romaine Goat Cheese Mandarin Orange Sections, Almonds, Salad with Honey Dijon Dressing and Garlic Parmesan Potatoes, Glazed Carrots, Rolls & Butter, Iced Tea or Coffee and French Silk Chocolate Pie. The registration for the luncheon will be $5 per person. An Informational meeting will be held following lunch. VA Representatives will be on hand to provide information about services and benefits for BV's and their families. A National Legislative Up-Date will be presented. Future FRG activities will be discussed.
The restaurant has asked us to notify them as to the number who will be attending and the type of luncheon desired before November 28th. Please make your reservations prior to that date by writing to Central West Director Earl Bessent 4526 Woodmere Road, Tampa, FL 33609 or call (813)286-1708. In Lakeland call Gigi Mathis at (863) 255-9275. In St. Petersburg, You may call Rebecca Munjak, Bay Pines VAMC BROS at (727) 398-6661 ex 4393. In Tampa, call VIST Coordinator Jessica Buccolo at (813) 972-2000 ex 2225. The restaurant needs the number who will be attending and the type of lunch desired in order to prepare properly for our meeting. To get to the restaurant from Sarasota-take I-75 north to exit 228,merge onto I-275 north, travel 28 miles to exit 28,merge onto Gandy/Park Blvd, travel 7.3 miles turn right onto Seminole Blvd (Alt US 19),travel 0.5 mile),turn left onto Johnson Blvd, travel 0.2 mile, turn right onto Liberty Lane, travel 0.2 mile-7800 Liberty Lane on the right-most of the parking space is on the left (west) side of Liberty Lane at the Freedom Square Mall. FROM LEVY, CITRUS, WEST PASCO COUNTIES, Take US 19 to Park Blvd, turn right onto Park, travel 6.2 miles to Seminole Blvd(US 19 alt),turn right onto Seminole Blvd, travel 0.5 mile, turn left onto Johnson Blvd, travel 0.2 mile, turn right onto Liberty Lane, travel 0.2 mile to 7800 Liberty Lane. From West St Petersburg, Largo, Clearwater Travel on alt US 19 to Johnson Blvd., then turn right (west) onto Johnson, travel 0.2 mile, then turn right onto Liberty Lane, travel 0.2 mile to 7800 Liberty Lane. FROM LAKELAND-EAST TAMPA: take I-4 to I-275, travel 17 miles on I-275 South to exit 28, merge right onto to Gandy/Park Blvd, travel 7.3 miles On Gandy/Park Blvd to Seminole Blvd (US 19 alt), turn right onto Seminole Blvd, travel 0.5 mile to Johnson Blvd, turn left onto Johnson, travel 0.2 mile to Liberty Lane, travel 0.2 mile to 7800 Liberty Lane on the right.
Pension Scam: Some organizations and attorneys have been contacting disabled veterans offering them assistance with benefits counseling and financial management. If you are contacted by one of these organizations or attorneys, be very careful in providing any personal information. They are not affiliated with the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Senate committee on Veterans Affairs and Committee on Aging requested the Government Accountability Office (GAO) conduct an investigation of these organizations. The GAO reported that its investigation revealed these organizations and attorneys are targeting older non service disabled veterans offering their services. They imply that they can assist these veterans in obtaining the NSC Pension with aid and attendance allowance. A veteran with visual acuity of 5/200 or a 5 degree field or less would have sufficient disability to qualify for the NSC pension with A & A. However that program is needs based and has significant income and cash asset limitations. A veteran whose disability qualifies them for the Pension with A & A, if single could receive up to $1703 monthly or $2019 with one dependent. However, a veteran whose cash assets exceed $80,000 is not eligible. There is still a significant income limitation. The above listed amounts are reduced dollar for dollar by any incomes, what-so-ever, the veteran or his/her household receives, including salary, Social Security, dividends, interest, etc. The GAO identified over 200 organizations that market financial and estate planning services to help pension claimants with excess assets and/or income to qualify for pension benefits. These organizations consist primarily of financial planners and attorneys who offer products such as Annuities and trusts. The organizations the GAO investigative staff contacted said a claimant can qualify for pension benefits by offsetting their income by out of pocket medical expenses and their cash assets by transferring those assets before applying, which is presently permitted under the program. Some products and services provided, such as deferred annuities, may not be suitable for the elderly because they may not have access to their funds within their expected lifetime without facing high withdrawal fees. Also, such assets transfers may result in ineligibility for Medicaid coverage for long-term care for a period of time. The majority of the organizations contacted charged fees, ranging from a few hundred dollars for benefits counseling to $10,000 for Establishment of a trust. In its report, the GAO asked Congress to consider establishing a look-back and penalty period for pension claimants who transfer assets prior to applying for pension benefits; similar to other federally supported means-tested programs, such as Medicaid. The GAO testimony presented information to qualify for VA pension benefits, a claimant must have limited income and assets. Recently, concerns have been raised that some organizations are marketing financial products and other services to help individuals whose income and/or assets exceed the program's financial eligibility thresholds to qualify for these benefits. These organizations may charge substantial fees for products and services that may not always be in the claimants' best long-term interests. The GAO's testimony was based on its report and focused on what is known about organizations that are marketing financial products and services to veterans and survivors to enable them to qualify for VA pension benefits. some Independent Living and Assistive Living facilities have implied that the cost of living in those facilities may be deducted from the veterans other income and thus provide the $1703 monthly to a single eligible veteran. Only medical expenses directly paid for by the veteran may be used. Room and board and incidental services may not be used to reduce the veteran's income. If you are contacted by an organization similar to those mentioned in this article, be very careful about providing any personal information and particularly careful before paying for the services.
New Bay Pines VIST: Shawn Britt the VIST Coordinator at the Bay Pines VAMC has decided to retire after over 20 years with the VA. She plans to spend time traveling and visiting her children and grand children. We wish her good luck and an enjoyable retirement. Fortunately for Blinded Veterans in the Bay Pines catchment area, Shawn and her supervisor were able to get her replacement aboard before she left on October 31. Delva Freeman began working at Bay Pines on October 22nd. This gave her about 10 days to work with Shawn before Shawn retired. Delva Freeman was born in Jamaica. At the age of 16 she moved to New York City where she finished high school. After some time at Hunter College, she entered the Army where she was assigned duty as an eye technician. During her 5 years in the Army, she earned a bachelor's degree in Health Care Administration from Southern Illinois University. Upon leaving the Army, she returned to New York City where she worked for the Department of Child Services. After 8 years in that job, she moved to Atlanta where she worked for an insurance company supervising disability claims. After 8 years in Atlanta, she moved to Orlando where she worked 10 years in a similar position for another insurance company. While in that position, she earned a Master's Degree in Education from Nova Southeastern University. She continued her education at Nova and has completed all but her dissertation for a PhD. In December 2010, she was placed in a VIST internship at the Augusta VAMC in Georgia. Through her work experience, she has gained significant experience in working with people with disabilities. During the past 2 years, she has worked directly with Blinded Veterans. Since there is also a Blind Rehabilitation Center (BRC) at Augusta, she has learned about the training available at a VA BRC. She plans to find living arrangements near the Bay Pines VAMC for convenience purposes. An avid reader, Delva also enjoys people watching and crocheting. We welcome Delva Freeman as the new VIST at the Bay Pines VAMC and look forward to many years of cooperation between her and the BVA-FRG.
National Legislative Up-Date: At the writing of this Newsletter, Congress is on recess campaigning for the November 6th election. Be sure to vote.
Florida Regional Group Auxiliary (FRGA): Most BV's in the FRG have had little contact with the FRG Auxiliary. The BVA National Auxiliary was chartered in 1977 by the BVA, similar to the affiliate status of the various BVA Regional Groups. The FRGA was formed in 1983 as one of the first Auxiliary Regional Groups. In its By Laws it states that the "Purpose of the FRGA is to assist the FRG in any way it can". The FRGA has functioned relatively well for the past 29 years, being of assistance to the FRG. This has been a cooperative effort. Some problems arose at the FRG State Convention in the FRGA and continued since then. Some charges were made to the BVA Auxiliary National Board of Directors. The BVA Auxiliary Board made some decisions with little real knowledge about the activities of the BVA in Florida. The controversy continued and the BVA Auxiliary Board, on October 1, 2012, revoked the charter of the FRG Auxiliary. The BVA Auxiliary National Board stated that all funds of the FRG Auxiliary be turned over to the BVA National Auxiliary. The BVA Auxiliary also attempted to require the FRG to transfer funds donated to the FRG by FRG members to the National Auxiliary. The BVA Auxiliary Board also authorized the raising of funds by some of the remaining Auxiliary members in Florida. The BVA Auxiliary has no authority to authorize anyone to raise funds in Florida and turn those funds over to the BVA National auxiliary. The BVA By Laws require approval from the Blinded Veterans Association National Board of Directors before the BVA Auxiliary or any of the Auxiliary /Regional Groups can raise funds. Consequently any fund raising programs in Florida will be operated by the Florida Regional Group neither the BVA National Auxiliary nor the remnants of the FRG Auxiliary. It is unfortunate that this situation has occurred. The FRG and FRG Auxiliary operated cooperatively for 29 years, only since May has this controversy arisen. Let's put this behind us and work to provide service to our fellow Blinded veterans in Florida.
A Message from Jim McCoy: When you are confronted with blindness, the attitude with which you approach reality is most important. So, lets Talk Attitude. I had a good attitude that saved me from Depression, "I'm not Blind, I just can't see very good". That was a good attitude, up until I went into Blind Rehab. Then it became a Bad Attitude. Once I entered Blind Rehab, it became an Anchor Dragging me down. I didn't really participate in the setting of the Goals. Wasted at least a week before the "Attitude Adjustment" occurred. I was sitting in the Dining Room waiting for Chow and an old guy said, "Well you may not be totally blind now, but your problem is Progressive, and wouldn't it be better to learn the skills now while you can still have a little sight? That was a Game Changer! Once I shut my mouth and began to participate, I picked up skills that are useful to a Man that "Just can't see very well". Example: Pre-Rehab, My eyes get tired when I try to read a document, and I fall asleep. Post-Rehab, My new computer reads the Document with Inflection and I don't fall asleep. Pre-Rehab, my Skill Saw has set idle on the workbench since my vision began to fail. Post-Rehab, I used my new Click Rule and adapted what I learned in Manual Skills to cut a 1 by 2 Spacer 3 and 7/16 inches long. All I am saying is, if you are transitioning into Blindness, get into Blind Rehab and lose the "Attitude" before you get there. Have a Plan and be able to work with them to set your goals when you get there. Just My Thought. Jim McCoy, FRG Southeast District Director (954) 748-9428
FRG-BVA Meeting Schedule
December 1 FRG Meeting at Liberty Square in Seminole
January 5 FRG meeting Ocala Hilton Hotel
February 2 Proposed FRG meeting in Tampa
March? Proposed FRG meeting in the Ft. Lauderdale area
May 2-5 FRG State Convention Plaza Ocean Club Hotel Daytona
August 19-24 BVA National Convention Spokane, Washington
FRG Newsletter Staff
Darryl Goldsmith FRG President
Jim McCoy FRG Southeast District Director
George Stocking Newsletter Editor