BLINDED VETERANS ASSOCIATION
Chartered by the United States Congress
FLORIDA REGIONAL GROUP
3801 Coco Grove Avenue
Miami, Florida 33133
BVA/FRG web site ††www.bvafrg.org
FRG NEWSLETTER - DECEMBER 2012
†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 President's Message:† Hello and greetings to the members.† The year is moving fast and the holidays are among us.† I hope that you will have a Happy Holiday Season.† The luncheons have been a lot of fun gathering together in fellowship.† The hurricane season is over and it seems like we had an uneventful season.† I hope that any relatives of yours faired well with the storm up north.† I hope that you have been doing your exercises.† I was glad to hear that some of you have taken up bowling and that some have started walking.† Have you gone to your local national service officer to find out if you are eligible for a raise in your benefits?† The blind rehab center in West Palm Beach is waiting for you to apply for Ipad training.† Check with your VIST coordinator to see if you can receive an I phone.† Have you ordered your BVA cap so that people know who you belong to?† Your district directors need assistance to help call other Blinded Veterans who may have let their membership expire.† You need to check to make sure that you are an active member.† Just because you receive this newsletter doesn't mean that you are a member in good standing.† The numbers are down at the annual luncheons.† If you can attend I believe that you will have a good time as well as a good meal for only 5 dollars.† Give your care givers and spouses a break and sign up for blind rehab.† If we don't take advantage of the services that are available we stand the chance of loosing them due to lack of students, let's keep those beds filled.† Take care of yourselves and may god bless you.† Again Have a Happy Holiday Season.† Darryl Goldsmith, FRG President
†††† FRG Meeting Notice:† The next meeting of the Florida Regional Group will be held on Saturday, January 5th, 2013 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.† Take this opportunity to come to Ocala and meet with your fellow Blinded Veterans and have an informative and enjoyable afternoon.††† ††
†††† The hotel has asked us to notify them as to the number who will be attending and the choice of lunch desired by January 2nd. †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 over $17.† So if you make a reservation and can't come please call Bruce Davis before January 2 and cancel.† In that way we won't have to pay for meals not used.
†††† To get to the hotel, take I75 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.†
†††† FRG Newsletter Recorded Version:† Since 1982, the FRG Newsletter has been recorded and distributed to BV's in Florida by the Florida Talking Book (TB) Library in Daytona Beach.† Up until this year, that version of the FRG Newsletter was recorded on cassettes.† It was recorded at the standard cassette speed so that BV's who did not have Talking Book cassette players could listen to the Newsletter on a standard tape recorder.† Approximately 2 years ago, the Library of Congress' National Library Service for the Blind and physically handicapped changed from a cassette format to a digital format.† The new digital format is an excellent process and those who have used it are very happy with the new format.† Since the general public, as well as, the TB service are no longer using cassettes to record material, the last company to produce cassettes has gone out of business.† Consequently, the TB Library has had to switch to the digital format.†† In March the FRG Newsletter was the first Newsletter produced in the digital format by the TB Library in Daytona Beach.† The cost of a cassette was about 45 cents, whereas, the cost of a digital disc runs from $5 to $7 depending on the quantity ordered.† Since the FRG Newsletter has been distributed in the digital format, only about half of the discs have been returned to the TB Library.† If this continues, the TB Library will have to stop sending the recorded Newsletter to those who do not return the digital disc.† We urge all BV's to read the Newsletter when they receive it and return it to the TB Library as soon as possible.† If you do not have a TB digital player and are interested in Talking Book services, ask your VIST Coordinator to refer you to the TB Library for this service.† If you have any difficulty in getting the service, call George Stocking at (305) 446-8008 email email@example.com.† †††††††††††††
†National Legislative Up-Date:† As this Newsletter is being written, the 2012 National Election is over.† The increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the past fiscal year was 1.7%.† The House of Representatives passed a 1.7% Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) in July .† The senate passed a 1.7 % COLA on November 13th. As a result, the COLA will go to the White House where it is anticipated the President will sign it.† As a result, a 1.7%† ††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. †Congress is in the process of rearranging the various Committees according to the small changes the election has made in the makeup of Congress.† The Senate remains in the control of the Democrat Party and the House of Representatives in the control of the Republican Party.† It is probable that Rep. Jeff Miller of Pensacola will remain as the Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.† The minority leader in the House Veterans Affairs Committee†† is up in the air.† Rep.Bob Filner, the minority leader in the House last session has retired and was elected Mayor of San Diego.† So, that position is open.†
Senator Patty Murray was Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee but may elect to accept
the Chairmanship of the Senate Finance Committee which is a more powerful committee in the Senate.†
It appears that the makeup of the various committees will not be completed until about the time you receive this Newsletter.† In December, there will be a lame duck session of Congress to deal with the appropriations for most of the government.† Only the appropriations for the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs have been completed.† Congress must also make some decisions regarding the tax cuts which expire on December 31, 2012.† There are also some mandated reductions in funding which will also take effect, at that time, if the tax cuts are not extended.† It appears that Congress may have more work to complete by December 31st, than have been accomplished in many months.† ††††††††††
†††† As indicated in the November FRG Newsletter, Tom Zampieri, BVA Director of Governmental Affairs, along with the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) has been working on legislation to change Beneficiary Travel for BV's attending a VA Blind Rehabilitation Center and paralyzed veterans who are attending a Spinal Cord Injury Rehab Center, whose income is above the income threshold.† Presently, BV's and paralyzed veterans above that income threshold are required to pay their own transportation to a BRC.† Unfortunately, some veterans are unable to pay for that transportation and thus are not able to take advantage of that excellent rehabilitation experience.† Unfortunately, that legislation was not passed.† Consequently, the BVA and PVA will have to start over in January when the new Congress convenes. †Since the cost of Beneficiary Travel has almost doubled in the last 4 years, 24 members of the House of Representatives have asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate the handling of Beneficiary Travel in the Veterans Health Care system.† This will make it even harder to get the bill sponsored by the BVA and PVA considered in the next session of Congress.† All of the cost of Beneficiary Travel comes out of the Health Care appropriation and is a drain on the provision of other medical treatment services. †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.†
†††† Great news for the Southwest Florida Veterans: †Finally! After a very long wait the southwest Florida Veterans are going to get there new highly modernized VA outpatient clinic.† On or about the first week of December, there is to be an open house, giving veterans the opportunity to explore the new clinic, and to familiarize themselves with the lay out.† VA will open the clinic to serve Veterans on December 17.† The new 220,000 square foot outpatient facility located on 30 acres will greatly expand the Bay Pines VA Healthcare Systemís ability to provide primary and specialty health care Services to the Veterans of southwest Florida. It will replace the VA Outpatient Clinic currently located in Fort Myers. Despite being more than three times larger than the Fort Myers clinic, the new facility is a very large outpatient care center - not a hospital. There will be no hospital beds or overnight stays when the Facility opens later this year. Last year, the Fort Myers Location provided 225,000 appointments to 31,000 veterans.† It is anticipated that those figures will grow quickly when the new facility opens.† The services currently offered at the Fort Myers Outpatient clinic that will be expanded at the new Outpatient center include: primary care, mental health, audiology, cardiology,
compensation and pension exams, anticoagulation clinic, dermatology, eye care, gastroenterology, and endoscopic procedures, home and community care, x-ray, ultrasound, fluoroscopy, neurology, nuclear imaging, nutrition counseling, orthopedics, pharmacy consultation and medication pick up, podiatry, prosthetics, rheumatology, tobacco cessation, telehealth, telephone call center, social work, spinal cord injury, urology, dental, womenís care, and phlebotomy.† The eye clinic, VIST Coordinator, and the BROS, are to be located on the second floor, and close together.† Special features of the new Lee County VA Healthcare Center include: open floor plan with significant natural lighting; energy efficient Building management equipment; enhanced communication to include video conferencing and telehealth; and a coffee bistro for patients, family, and staff.† The
new facility is located at 2489 Diplomat Parkway East - Cape Coral, FL 33909.† Terry King FRG Vice President
†††† FRG Scholarship Program:† For many years, the FRG Auxiliary has administered a scholarship program for the FRG.† Recent changes in the BVA Auxiliary precludes that continuing.† In January, letters will go out to all Members and Associate Members of the Florida Regional Group asking for applicants for the 2013-2014 Florida Regional Group Scholarship Program.† This year the FRG will be giving two $1000 Scholarships for the 2013-2014 academic year.† These scholarships will be available to the spouses and/or children of Blinded Veterans residing in Florida.† The guidelines will be similar to those of the Kathern Gruber National BVA Scholarship Program.† College, business, trade, and vocational schools are opportunities to apply for these scholarships.† The scholarships will be paid to the school to cover tuition, books, and academic fees.† If you are interested in making application for the 2013-2014 FRG Scholarship,††† contact FRG Secretary-Treasurer George Stocking at 3801 Coco Grove Avenue, Miami, FL 33133, telephone (305) 446-8008 email firstname.lastname@example.org.† The application packet must be completed in its entirety to qualify.
†††† Remember to make your reservations for the January 5 FRG meeting in Ocala by calling Bruce Davis or one of the others listed above before January 2nd.† In January 2010, we had a record of 195 BV's, family members,†† and friends attend the Ocala meeting.† Let's try to break that record this year.† Please get a group of your fellow Blinded Veterans together and join us for an informative and enjoyable afternoon in Ocala on Saturday, January 5th.
FRG-BVA Meeting Schedule
January 5††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† FRG Meeting Hilton Hotel in Ocala
February 2†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Proposed FRG meeting in Tampa††††††††††††††††
March ?†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Proposed FRG Southeast District Meeting
May 2-5 ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† FRG State Convention Plaza Ocean Club Hotel Daytona
August 19-23††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††† BVA National Convention in Spokane, Washington
FRG Newsletter Staff
Darryl Goldsmith††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† FRG President†††††††††††††††
Terry King†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† FRG Vice President
George Stocking††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Newsletter Editor