BLINDED VETERANS ASSOCIATION
Dr. George E. Stocking
Director, District 5
3801 Coco Grove Avenue
Miami, Florida 33133
Director's Report September 2013
Fellow Blinded Veteran:
The BVA National convention was held in Spokane, Washington, August 20-24, with the Spokane-Inland Entire Regional Group as host. Dale Stamper was Chairman of the Convention and was ably assisted by his wife Cora. The BVA Board of Directors met on Sunday and Monday and with the Blind Rehabilitation Service leadership on Tuesday morning. Prior to the convention, those who came early had the opportunity to take tours of the Spokane and surrounding area. An introduction meeting was held on Tuesday Afternoon to provide information about the BVA and its operations. The President's Reception was held Tuesday evening. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki was the Key Note Speaker at the opening Business Meeting on Wednesday. At that meeting, the membership accepted the Annual Report of the Board of Directors including the budget for the 2013-2014 BVA fiscal year. That afternoon, the By-Laws and Resolutions Committee met to consider a number of resolutions and a proposed By-Law amendment. In the evening, transportation was provided to those Conventioneers who were interested in gambling and entertainment. A number of informational meetings were held on Thursday morning followed by the Father Thomas Carroll Memorial Luncheon at noon. Joe Jackson a World War Two, Korea, and Vietnam Blinded Veterans was the Guest speaker. Colonel Jackson received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroism in Vietnam. Following the Luncheon, the candidates for BVA National Office were given the opportunity to speak to the membership. Subsequently, the six District Directors held caucuses to give the members in the various Districts the opportunity to discuss the resolutions, By-Law Amendment, and other items to be considered at the final Business meeting. Thursday evening, the Convention Committee held an auction to raise funds for the Convention. A-number of items were auctioned off with heated bidding among those who attended. At the Business Meeting on Friday morning, the membership passed 14 resolutions for the coming year. The By-Law Amendment regarding a change in membership did not pass. The membership voted to hold the 2014 BVA National Convention in Reno, Nevada. The following Officers were elected to serve the BVA for 2013-2014:
President Mark Cornell: Mark was born in Buffalo, New York and entered the Air Force after high school. Initially, he was assigned as an Air Force Police Security Specialist. Subsequently, he was transferred to duty as an audio visual production specialist and later as an aerial photographer. While serving as a ground and aerial combat photographer, during the Gulf War, he earned the Bronze Star and Air Medal. While on active duty, he attended Syracuse University where he pursued a program in electronic journalism. While on active duty, Mark incurred a visual impairment, which resulted in his being medically retired due to legal blindness, after 18 years of active duty. Following his retirement in 1994, he went to the Blind Rehabilitation Center (BRC) at the Tucson VA Medical Center. Then, he r urned to San Antonio where he became involved in the South Texas Regional Group, serving as its secretary and President for a number of years. Through his contact with the BVA, he began working as a volunteer with the VIST Coordinator at the Audie Murphy VA Medical Center. As a result of his work with the BVA and his volunteer work with the VIST Coordinator, he has been chosen to serve on the Medical Center Director's Veteran Advisory Board. In 2000, Mark went to the BRC in Waco, Texas where he took additional training in computer access. In 1999, Mark was elected to the BVA National Board of Directors as Director from District 6 a position he held until 2008. Since then, he has served as Treasurer, Secretary, and Vice President until his election as BVA National President this August. Mark and his wife Chong of 35 years live in San Antonio and have two grown daughters.
Vice President Robert Dale Stamper: A native of Turlock, California, Dale enlisted in the Army after graduating from high school. Following the completion of basic training, he received combat engineer training at Fort Leonardwood, Missouri. In 1967, while waiting for a transfer to his next duty station in Germany, his orders were changed and he was shipped to Vietnam. In 1968, while his unit was replacing a bridge destroyed by the North Vietnamese Army, he tripped a land mine. As a result of that explosion, he had both eyes enucleated and had numerous surgeries to repair broken bones and other injuries, received in that explosion. Following his medical rehabilitation, Dale completed training at the VA Blind Rehabilitation Center in Palo Alto, California. Subsequently, he used his eligibility through the VA Vocational Rehabilitation Training Program to pursue a program in psychology at San Jose State University and Fresno State University. Then he transferred to the Evangelical Christian College in Fresno, where he received a degree in theology with an emphasis in counseling. Dale has been in the ministry for 40 years, in small and large congregations, with His duties including preaching, teaching, and counseling. From 1994 to 1996, he served as a missionary in the Philippines. He also volunteers as a mentor to many clergy and is sought out regularly for his wisdom and ability to guide others. Although he writes his notes in Braille, he is quite proficient with his third voice output computer. Dale is presently on the staff of Real Life Ministries in Post Falls, Idaho. Dale has become active in his BVA Regional Group, serving as its Convention Chairman for the recent Convention. In 2004, Dale received the Major General Melvin J. Maas Achievement Award for his personal vocational rehabilitation. Dale served on the BVA National Board as Director of District 4 from 2008-2011 and has served as National Secretary for the past 2 years. Dale and his wife Cora live in Hayden, Idaho.
Secretary Joe Parker: In 1959, after graduating from high school in his native North Carolina, Joe entered the Navy where he served as an electrician's mate. During the 1960's, he served two combat tours as a senior construction electrician in the northern part of South Vietnam Through his service in Vietnam, he incurred a medical condition which ultimately led to his blindness. In 1989, Joe retired as a Chief Petty Officer, after 30 years of service in the Navy. Following his retirement, Joe returned to North Carolina where he worked 12 years for the Department of Labor. Through his extensive construction experience, he was hired by the DOL as an accident investigator, retiring as a GS 12. Since his retirement, he has held several positions with the North Carolina Regional Group. In 2010, he was elected to the BVA National Board as Director from District 3. Joe also serves as a BVA Volunteer Service Officer at the Ashville VA Medical Center. Joe received the Major general Melvin J. Maas Achievement Award for his personal vocational achievement at the 2013 BVA Convention
Treasurer Paul Mimms: A native of Iowa, Paul attended school there until 1960, when he moved to Kansas City. There, he was active in varsity sports and graduated 9th in his class in 1964. During the next 2 years, he attended college while working in an auto assembly plant. In 1966, he enlisted in the Navy. While serving on a LST in the Macon delta, Paul incurred an eye injury which left him blind in his left eye. In 1969, he was medically discharged and returned to Kansas City. . Initially, he returned to work in the auto plant before working in the restaurant business, where he worked his way up to assistant manager. In 1984, he had to leave the work force due to deteriorating vision. Following blind rehab training in Kansas City, he went to the Blind Rehabilitation Center at the Hines VAMC where he became a Life Member of the BVA. Returning to college in 1986, under the VA Vocational Rehabilitation Program in 1986, he earned a bachelor's degree in sociology from the University of Missouri in 1989. Subsequently, he earned a Master's degree in Social Work from the University of Kansas in 1991. While in school, he started a computer users group to assist blind individuals to use adaptive tools on the computer. That group is still in existence. In 1992, Paul began working as a Counselor at the VA Vet Center in Kansas City, a job he held until February 2000. Then, he accepted a position to establish the CATS Program at the new Blind Rehabilitation Center (BRC) at the West Palm Beach VAMC. In 2004, he was selected as the VIST Coordinator at the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center. In 2009, Paul retired from the VA due to family reasons and later returned to Kansas City. While in Florida, Paul became active in the Florida Regional Group of the BVA, serving as Southeast District Director, Vice President, and President. While FRG President, Paul set up a post discharge outcome study for Blinded Veterans leaving the BRC, which was completed by 3 other FRG members. This study provided valuable information for improvements in the BRC. Upon arriving in Kansas City, Paul became active in the Missouri Regional Group (MRG), serving as its Secretary and President. He used procedures he learned in Florida to increase the membership of the MRG, resulting in the MRG receiving the Gold Gavel Award for the largest increase in membership in 2012.
In addition to his work with the VA and his activities with the BVA, Paul has worked with other groups. He served on the Board of Guide Dog Users of America when it won its law suit against the State of Hawaii to permit guide dogs to enter Hawaii without spending months in quarantine.
Friday afternoon, following the Business meeting, Dr. Tom Zampieri, BVA Director of government Relations provided information on BVA's legislative program with congress. He described efforts to get more support for the BVA and PVA initiative to provide beneficiary Travel for catastrophically disabled veterans, who are above the income threshold, to Blind Rehabilitation Centers and Spinal Cord Injury Centers.
The convention closed with the Awards Banquet Friday night. BVA Executive Director Al Avina was Master of ceremonies. As indicated above, Joe Parker received the Major General Melvin J. Maas Achievement award. The Gold Gavel Award for the largest numerical increase in membership was presented to the Blinded Veterans of Southern California (BVSC) Regional Group. The BVsC used the Florida Regional Group's process to get the VIST Coordinators to send letters to Blinded Veterans offering them the opportunity to get on the BVA and Regional Group's mailing list to increase its membership. The Southwest Texas Rio Grande Regional Group received the Silver Gavel Award for the largest percentage increase in membership. A new award the Bronze Gavel was presented to the Florida Regional Group for the largest numerical increase in new members, joining the BVA for the first time.
Outgoing BVA President Sam Huhn led the new officers (indicated above) and Peter Davis District 3 Director and Bob Mower District 4 director in the BVA Oath of Office. Then, Sam turned over the gavel to new BVA President Mark Cornell who closed the 681 BVA National Convention.
Regional Group News
Alabama Regional Group (ARG): ARG President Mike Lewis presided at a meeting in the conference room at the Birmingham VA Blind Center on September 11 to receive a report from Secretary-Treasurer Willie Kelly, who represented the ARG as Delegate to the BVA National convention. They are planning to participate in a Veterans Day Luncheon in Birmingham in November.
Florida Regional Group: George Stocking Represented the FRG as Delegate to the BVA National Convention and reported the Convention activities to a meeting of the FRG in Orlando on September 7th. The Florida Regional Group is planning District Informational meetings in Jacksonville on October 5; Ft. Meyers on November 2; Seminole on December 7; and Ocala on January 4. Planning is underway for meetings in Tampa in February and Ft. Lauderdale in March. The FRG State Convention will be held at the Plaza Ocean Club Hotel in Daytona Beach May 1-4.
Georgia Regional Group (GRG): The GRG held a meeting at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Atlanta on September 7, to plan the activities for the group in the coming months. Present Joe McNeil as GRG Delegate, gave a report on the activities at the BVA National Convention.
BVA Membership: The BVA was formed 68 years ago by a small number of Blinded Veterans (BV's) who realized that by joining together they had strength in numbers. _Since then, most of the benefits and services we now enjoy were obtained by a small group of dedicated BVA staff and a large number of volunteer BV's dedicated to helping one another. The problems of the Blinded veteran are unique and require individual attention to solve. It is only by joining together that we can make our voices heard by the Nation and Congress. The strength of your voice is needed by The BVA to make Congress and VA listen to the special needs of Blinded Veterans. We need your membership to stay strong. By joining your voice with the BVA, you increase your chance of being heard on the national, state, and local levels of government. The BVA is for any veteran whose legal blindness was brought on by military service, injury, aging, or illness. You become a part of a very special brotherhood to support you in your time of need with advice, encouragement, and information. The BVA's advocacy has made our lives better and acquired the services and benefits to help us remain independent. Shortly, the BVA National Office will send dues notices to many BV's. If you are an annual member for 2013, have previously been an annual member or have never been a member, you will receive this dues notice. If the code next to your name is M, AM, FM, FAM, NM or NAM, you will receive this notice. Annual dues are only $15. Better yet, consider becoming a Life Member (LM) or Associate Life Member (ALM), then, you won't have to pay dues ever again. Your life dues go into the Life Membership Fund, the principal of which is never touched. The dividends and interest from that fund are apportioned to the Regional Groups according to the number of LM and ALM in the Group. LM and ALM dues are staggered according to your age and are: LM and ALM dues run from $100 for BV's age 44 and under, $88 for BV's 45 to 54, $75 - 55 to 60, $63 - 61-65, and $50 age 66 and over. You may start a LM or ALM with a down payment of $25 with the balance payable over the next 2 years. The membership notice will include a return envelope. Please use it to join the BVA. We need the help of all BV's as members of the BVA to maintain the benefits and services we have now. .
Sincerely yours, George E. Stocking Director, District 5