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FRG Newsletter January 2014

FRG President's Message: A number of years ago, I wrote about a device that can be of great benefit to BV's. The subject item is a talking thermostat for the visually impaired. I realize that many of you have the talking thermostat installed in your homes, but I am continually running into BV's who have never heard of the device. Therefore I am once again bringing up the most useful device for the blind, that is, in my opinion, a must for those that cannot see the numbers on their current thermostats. The device is 100 percent verbal, and is very easy to install. Only three wires to hook up after you have removed your current thermostat. It is fully functional for being preset for one week, and I believe it can be set up for two weeks also. Truly this is one of the greatest devices that I have come across in some time. It is perfect for the blind and visually impaired. For further information contact your VIST, and remember in some cases the BROS may require an evaluation. It may be possible that a new VIST or BROS may not be familiar with this device. If you have a problem, call me at the number below. Now I'm glad to report that our FRG BVA Web Master along with his assistant and that of a few others, our list serve has been upgraded to provide a mechanism whereby the amount of unnecessary chatter between some of our members shall no longer be sent out over the list serve for everyone to see. Previously members have been requesting to be removed from the list serve because they were tired of all the chatter; in other words, some of our veterans were caring on a conversation that was not relevant to the rest of the group. That problem has been solved, and we are hoping that those that had asked to be removed will now ask to be put back on. The veterans can still carry on a conversation with someone else, but it shall not show up on the list serve, that is unless you send it out to all. The new instructions shall be presented on the road rules that are published once each month. We have also established a new web site for the Florida Regional Group, and it is still being constructed. It contains information and useful links to other web sites that are useful to us. Please visit our web site and review its contents. Your feedback and comments on how well you were able to navigate the site and on the content will be greatly appreciated. As part of the site you will find the FRG newsletters we have received this year. In developing our web site we have set aside more pages for each of the Regional Group's Districts. Also there are useful links to the Department of Veterans Affairs and links to other regional group web sites. Please visit and provide your comments back to me with your suggestions for making the site better. Please call or email Bill Stockslager for any comments. Email address:, Phone Number: 941 276 1561. Before I close this President's Message, I would like to reiterate once again, that we still do not have a district director for the Northeastern area of Florida. I am still in hopes that a veteran will step forward and fill this position. We also are in need of some assistant directors in the same area. If anyone would like some more information concerning the responsibilities of the positions mentioned above, please just give me a call, and I'll be glad to fill you in. I hope that you all had a Happy and Joyous Holiday season. Terry King, FRG President. (941) 505-7747 email FRG Meeting Notice: The next meeting of the Florida Regional Group
will be held on Saturday February 1,2014 at the Columbia Restaurant, 2117 East 7 Avenue 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 1. Roasted I Round of Beef stuffed with Chorizoin flavorable gravy, black beans & rice &platatos. 2. Arroz Chicken baked with yellow rice, green peppers, Spanish onions on top, each with Spanish Bean Soup, ice tea, coffee and Flam for dessert. 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 Terry King will preside at the Informational Meeting following lunch. A national legislative up-date will be provided. Representatives from the VA will provide information about services and
benefits of interest to BV's and their families. Future FRG activities, including the FRG State Convention at the Plaza Ocean Club Hotel in Daytona Beach in May 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 by January 28th. Please make your reservations prior to that date by writing to Central West director Earl Bessent at: 4526 Woodmere Road, Tampa, FL 33609 or call (813) 286-1708 e mail:, or call Willie Menendez at (352) 382-2314 or Charles Poff at (727) 372-3720. In Lakeland call Gigi Mathis at: (863) 255-9275. In addition, in Tampa call VIST Coordinators Kathy Rodgers at: (813)272-2000 ex 2225 or Bill Wilson at: 813) 903-2442 or Bay Pines VIST Coordinator Delva Freeman at (727) 398-6661 ex 1-4516. The restaurant needs the reservation information in order to prepare properly for our meeting. To get to the restaurant, from the south, take I-75 to exit 261,then take I-4 west (to Tampa) ramp, merge onto I-4 and travel 9 miles to exit 1 ramp, take 21 Street South, travel 0.4 mile to 7th Ave, turn left onto 7th Ave-the Columbia Restaurant is on the right. Parking is across the street from the restaurant. From Pinellas County Start traveling on south I-275 to exit 45B (toward Orlando), merge straight onto I'4 and travel 0.7 mile to exit 1 ramp, travel ramp road o.5 mile to 21st Street turn right onto 21st St and travel 0.3 mile to 7th Ave., turn left on 7th Ave. the Restaurant is on the right. FROM: LEVY, CITRUS, WEST PASCO COUNTIES travel on the Sun coast
Parkway (toll road) to the end, then merge onto the Veterans Highway to the end, then merge onto SR 60 East, keep in the lane marked Tampa/I-275 North, take I-275 N ramp and travel 6.0 miles to Exit 45B straight onto I'4 and travel 0.7 mile to exit 1 ramp, travel on the ramp road 0.5 mile to 21st St. ( turn right onto 21st St. and travel 0.3 mile to 7th Avenue turn left onto 7th Ave. the Restaurant is on the right. FROM: LARGO, Clearwater AND North PINELLAS COUNTY: Travel on SR 60 East to the Tampa International Airport Area, be careful to keep in the lane marked Tampa/I-275 North ramp, after entering the I-275 N ramp, travel 6.0 miles on N I-275 to exit 45B , merge straight onto I-4 and travel 0.7 mile to exit 1 ramp,travel 0.5 mile on the ramp road to 21st St. turn right onto 21st and travel 0.3 mile to 7th Ave., turn left onto 7th Ave.,the Restaurant is on the right, parking is across the street. Although you only pay $5 for the luncheon, the FRG will pay $22.50 for each meal guaranteed. If you make a reservation and can't come, please contact one of those listed above and cancel your reservation before January 28th. In that way the FRG will not pay for unused meals.

National Legislative Up-Date: In the December FRG Newsletter, we reported that congress had passed a 1.5% Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) in Compensation, Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), NSC Pension and Social Security benefits effective December 1, 2013. This COLA should
appear in your January checks. Service Connected Disability Compensation is paid for blindness according to the severity of the visual impairment. That is, the loss of central visual acuity or the reduction of field of vision, as follows: 20/200 or a 15 degree field of vision - 70%; 15/200 - 80%; 10/200 - 90%; Veterans whose severe disabilities are considered to warrant more than the 100% rate may receive Special Monthly Compensation (SMC). The types of disabilities and severity of conditions which warrant SMC and the amounts are determined by legislation passed by Congress. The following visual impairments are considered to warrant SMC by Congress: 5/200 or a 5 degree field - Paragraph L; light perception only - Paragraph M; Total Blindness - Paragraph - N. The maximum Compensation paid for blindness alone is Paragraph N. To receive more than Paragraph N, A Blinded Veteran must have additional service connected disabilities, rated separately at 50% or above. Intermediate steps - L 1/2, M 1/2, and N 1/2 are for combinations of disabilities. For example: If a BV has light perception in one eye and 5/200 in the other eye - the intermediate rate of L 1/2 would be paid. Veterans who have other SC disabilities in combination with blindness rated from 50% to 90% would be eligible for a half step increase. BV's whose blindness is in combination with another disability individually rated at 100% would receive a full step increase. For example: a totally blinded veteran rated at Paragraph N for blindness with another SC disability individually rated at 100%, would have the rating increased to Paragraph O, the maximum rate of Compensation. There are several other situations, for example blindness in combination with a hearing loss or loss or loss of use
of an arm or leg may also warrant a maximum rate of Paragraph O. The amounts of R 1 and R 2, mentioned earlier, include the maximum Compensation (Paragraph O) plus the two levels of Aid and Attendance allowances. R 1 is paid to veterans with SC disabilities rated at Paragraph O who are in need of regular Aid and Attendance. R 2 is paid to veterans receiving Paragraph O who have severe disabilities requiring daily medically oriented treatment in order to remain out of the hospital.
Dependents Allowance: In addition to the Compensation listed earlier, Veterans rated at 30% or more are eligible for a monthly allowance for their dependents. A married Veteran would receive $159 for his or her spouse. A monthly allowance of $277 would be paid for a spouse and one child and $79 monthly for each additional child. A Veteran without a spouse would receive $107 for the first child and $79 for each additional child. The indicated Dependant Allowance is based on a veteran receiving Compensation at the 100% rate or higher. Dependant Allowances for Veterans rated from 30% to 90% would be that percentage times the amount listed above.  Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC): DIC is payable to the survivors of individuals killed on active duty, veterans who die as a result of a service connected disability, or veterans rated at 100% at the time of their death. For the survivors of veterans rated at 100% to receive DIC, the veteran must have been rated at 100% for 10 years, 5 years if continually since discharge, prior to his or her death. The basic amount of DIC is $1234 monthly for the surviving spouse. If the eligible veterans was rated at 100% for 8 years prior to death, during which 8 years he or she was married to the surviving spouse, the larger amount of $1495 monthly would be paid in DIC benefits. Each surviving minor dependent child would receive $306 monthly. An additional $306 monthly may be paid to a wife in need of Aid & Attendance.

NSC Pension
$ 12,651 year
$1,054 month
1 Dependent:
$16,569 year
$1,380 month

Pension House Bound
$15,461 year
$ 1,288 mo
1 Dependent:
$19,378 year
$1,615 month

Aid & Attendance Veteran
$21,107 year
$1,759 mo
1 Dependent:
$25,021 year
$2,085 month

In addition, an eligible veteran would receive an allowance for each
additional minor dependent child of $2160 a year or $180 monthly.

The above mentioned NSC Pension amounts are the maximum available. The amount an individual veteran would receive in NSC Pension, would be the amount indicated less any income, whatsoever, received in the household. This would include, but not be limited to salary, Social Security, retirement pension, interest, and dividends. The amount an individual veteran would receive would be the appropriate amount above less any income received in the household. Any medical expenses, not reimbursed by Medicare, Insurance, or through other resources, may be deducted from the income amount received in the household, and possibly increase the amount of NSC Pension received by the veteran. However, in no case may the amount provided to the veteran be larger than the amount listed above.

Florida Total Homestead Tax Exemption Reminder: It's that time of year, when we remind BV's of two Total Homestead Tax Exemption Statutes available to qualified individuals in Florida. This may be old news 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. Initially, this statute has an income limitation of $8200 annually. On several occasions, the FRG returned to the Florida Legislature to get that limitation raised due to inflation. Finally, about 20 years ago, the FRG succeeded in getting an annual increase equivalent to the Consumer Price Index (CPI). This total Exemption has a total household income limitation of $26798 in 2013. As a result of the CPI legislation, FS 196.101 will have an increase in the income limitation equal to the increase in the CPI. Since there was a 1.5% increase in the CPI during the Federal Fiscal Year 2013, there should be an increase in the income limitation for FS 196.101 in January. In the past, the state did not get that increase processed until later in January. Contact your County Tax Appraiser's Office in January for the new income limitation. To qualify, obtain a
statement from two Florida licensed Ophthalmologists or Optometrists or from the VA 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.

Reminder: Please get a group of your Blinded veteran friends together and join us at the February 1 FRG Luncheon Meeting at the Columbia Restaurant in Tampa. Be sure to call one of those listed above and make your reservations before January 28. We look forward to meeting you there.

FRG-BVA Meeting Schedule
February 1st FRG Meeting at the Columbia Restaurant in Tampa
March? Proposed FRG Meeting in Ft. Lauderdale .
May 1-4 FRG State Convention Plaza Ocean Club Hotel in Daytona
August 18-22 BVA National Convention in Reno, Nevada

FRG Newsletter Staff
Terry King FRG President
George Stocking Newsletter Editor