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3801 Coco Grove Avenue
Miami, Florida 33133
(305) 446-8008
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FRG Web Site: www.bva

FRG President's Message: We have but only a few more days, until we arrive at that most important time of the year, that's right it's our FRG annual state convention at the Plaza Ocean Club Hotel in Daytona Beach. This year it's shaping up to be a full schedule of events. Aids and devices will be available to examine at any time throughout the several days of the convention. The only time that the aids and devices will not be available is during our business meeting and during our informational seminars. The VA has even allowed our VIST and BROS to attend the convention. Among many other aid and devices here is an item that has just recently come on the market that I feel shall be of great interest to all. It is so unique that we have arranged with one of our vender to do a live demonstration at one of our seminars at the convention. Someone has put together some currant technology and come up with something that is going to be of great interest to low vision and totally blind veterans. The device is called Echo-Sense Network Glasses. What do Echo-Sense Glasses do? Echo-Sense Network Glasses enable a family member, friend, or caregiver to see from the wearer’s point of view. They’ve been described as a “life-changing” product for the blind. Echo-Sense has developed the critical IP that will revolutionize how connectivity and real time networking can be delivered over mobile cellular networks and WiFi access points to provide real time video and audio streaming between the product wearer and a remote computer. All transmissions are stored on the server for later review. From the monitoring computer, a caregiver can see from the wearer’s perspective and provide guidance and response in real time. The wearer can be guided through tasks in greater safety, giving more assurance to the caregiver. He can use vocal prompts to gain access to mapping and location technology that will allow him to travel more safely to just about anywhere he wants to go, and back again. In short, it's like having a sited person walking along with you and saying turn right or turn left or lookout there is a step coming up in front of you. By using one of our veterans in the audience, it will be truly an authentic demonstration. This is a new aid for the blind and visually impaired, therefore it most likely has not been approved by the Department Of veterans Affairs. More information will be available at the Convention concerning this new aid for the blind.

Recently, the FRG mailed a survey to all BV's on the FRG mailing list, requesting that it be completed and returned. As of the first of March we have received over 275 returns. The FRG district directors will call BV's who have not completed the survey in an attempt to get them to complete it. This is a very important survey for all BV's in Florida. Your cooperation will be greatly appreciated. It is for your benefit in the future. The responses are being placed in a data base. It will take several months to accomplish this process. I believe the results will prove invaluable. We are hoping to see a record turnout at the upcoming FRG state convention this year.
Over the past several months a group has been coming together, and calling themselves Family members and friends of blinded veterans. They have been helping us with the raffles and door prizes at the FRG Informational meetings around the state. This is greatly appreciated. They will be assisting us with the hospitality room at the FRG convention, along with other duties. This year the FRG is sponsoring the Pizza party and the friends and family members of Blinded Veterans will help with that party. Along with pizza they will be serving beer, soda, and water. I was asked by the group to post something to explain what the group is all about. At this convention of the FRG-BVA, we will be introducing a very exciting idea, a group for the "Family members and Friends of the FRG-BVA". We will be passing out questionnaires to our friends to gather ideas. This group is not interested in having officers, by-laws, elections, or dues within FRG. There for this support group will be a gathering of friends. We are interested in your ideas for events. Whether you are a family member or friend, we have always been supportive of our blinded vets. We sell the raffle tickets, gather door prizes and assist in anyway needed. Therefore in that way nothing will change except We will be a group of friends socializing, and who knows what other activities we may pursue. Introduction will be held on Friday at 10 AM At the Convention in the Hospitality Room with a coffee cloctch, then more on Saturday at 10AM with games and contests, celebrating the Kentucky Derby. Bring your suggestions and a Happy Face. PRIZES FOR THE BEST KY Derby hat and games. We look forward to meeting you at the FRG State Convention in May. Terry King, FRG President (941) 505-7747 e mail

National Legislative Up-Date: On March 5th, BVA National President Mark Cornell presented an outline of the BVA's 2014 Legislative Program at a joint session of the US Senate and House of Representatives Veterans Affairs Committees. Although the BVA legislative package covers many issues, Mark emphasized 3 of those issues. First, the BVA-PVA proposal contained in S 633 and HR 1284. If passed, beneficiary travel may be provided to eligible veterans whose income is above the income threshold to attend special rehabilitation programs such as Blind Rehab Centers and Spinal Cord Injury Centers. Second, The lack of staffing support by the VA for the Vision Research Center of Excellence. Three, the problem with too many vacancies at some of the Blind Rehab Centers and VIST and BROS positions.

FRG State Convention Reminder: This is a reminder that The FRG State Convention will be held at the Plaza Ocean Club Hotel, 640 North Atlantic Avenue, Daytona Beach, FL 32118 May 1-4. Your Convention Committee secured the low guaranteed group rates of only $80 per day, for 1 to 4 persons per room. In the Plaza Ocean Club Hotel, many rooms are equipped with refrigerators and microwaves and all rooms have ocean view balconies. These low convention rates will be in effect 3 days before and/or 3 days after the Convention. You may come early or stay late for an extended vacation. The low Convention rates are guaranteed for reservations made on or before April 17th. Reservations made after April 17th, will be at the low Convention rate but only on a space available basis. We encourage you to make your reservations immediately to insure your accommodations as another group is at the hotel that weekend. You may cancel your reservation and receive a full refund of your deposit, if you cancel 24 hours before noon on the day you were scheduled to arrive. Send your reservation to the Hotel along with your check for one night's room rate and 12.5% tax or you may use your credit card number to guarantee your reservation. Other than your deposit, the hotel will not accept checks for your remaining charges. You must have a credit card or cash. Better yet, as time is short, you should make your reservation by calling the toll free reservation number at: (855) 212-3224. This is a new toll free number as the hotel is handling its own reservations now. Be sure to specify that you want the guaranteed group rate for the Florida Regional Group Blinded Veterans Association Convention. If you have any problem, call George Stocking at (305) 446-8008.

Convention Registration Fee: The Convention Registration Fee will be $35 per person (for each BV, family member, or friend attending). However, an early registration fee of only $30 per person will be in effect for registration received on or before April 17th. The registration fee will cover general Convention activities, including the Pizza Party on Thursday evening, the dinner-dance on Friday night, Hospitality Room, and the Banquet on Saturday night. Please make your check payable to the FRG-BVA and send it to: 3801 Coco Grove Avenue, Miami, FL 33133. Please include the first and last name of each person registering, so that we will be able to make name tags prior to the start of the Convention. It is important for you to send your registration fee in advance to speed up the registration at the Convention.

For those who get to Daytona Beach on Thursday, May 1st, the FRG Hospitality Room will be open from 6 to 10 PM. The FRG will host a Pizza Party from 6-8. If you plan to take part in the Pizza Party add that information to your early registration information so that we can plan properly and have enough pizza for everyone.

The Convention Late Registration Desk will open at 1 PM on Friday, May 2nd, in the hotel lobby. If you have not pre-registered, you may pay your late Registration at that time. If you have pre-registered, please pick up your name tags and Convention Program. We need everyone to check in so that we can give the chef the proper count for the dinner dance on Friday evening and Banquet on Saturday evening. The opening session will be held in the second floor Ball room at 3 PM on Friday, May 2nd. The Informational Seminar will be open with a presentation on Prosthetics and Sensory Aids for the Blind by VISN 8 Prosthetics Representative. That will be followed by presentations presenting information about specific low vision and sensory aid devices for the blind. The Dinner dance will begin with dinner at 7 PM followed by dancing. Again, this year, Marsha Summers will provide the music, both during the dinner and for dancing afterwards. A cash bar will be available for liquid refreshment.

Saturday, May 3rd, The Annual Florida Regional Group Business Meeting will be held at 9 AM in the first floor Osprey Room. In addition to reports on the past year and planning the FRG Program for the coming year, you will have the opportunity to share your thoughts and comments on future FRG activities. Elections for FRG Officers and District Directors, for the coming year, will be held. According to the BVA and the FRG By laws, the election and instruction of a Delegate and Alternate Delegates to the 69th BVA National Convention in Reno, Nevada in August will also be held. At times, in the past, BV's who were not active Members (M), Associate Members (AM), Life or Associate Life Members (LM) or (ALM) have attended and voted at the FRG Convention Business Meeting. This is contrary to the BVA and FRG By-Laws. Consequently, we are requiring that all BV's who think that they might attend the FRG Business Meeting contact the BVA-FRG in Miami at least 10 days in advance of the Convention, so that their active M, AM, LM, or ALM status can be verified. BV's whose Life (LM) or Associate Life Members (ALM) or who are annual Members or Associate Members for 2014 whose status is verified in advance will be able to participate in the roll call vote. Possible Amendments to the BVA and/or FRG By-Laws may be considered.

At 2 PM on Saturday, the second Informational Seminar will be held, starting with a presentation by Susan Roberts, the Chief of the Bureau of Brail and Talking Book Services, will bring us up to date on Talking Book Program. Michael Healer the VA Regional Office Liaison for the Florida VIST Program will provide information on veteran's benefits. Then, Joe Axt, the BVA Southeast Field Service Officer from Atlanta will describe the BVA Field Service Program and join Mike Healer in answering general questions regarding veteran's benefits.

The Hospitality Room will be open from 5 to 7 PM. At 7 PM, the Installation Banquet will be held in the Ball Room. Al Avina, BVA Executive Director, will be the Guest Speaker at the Installation Banquet. The Banquet will close with the Installation of FRG Officers and District Directors. Join us in the hospitality Room, after the Banquet, for more socializing and refreshments.
You will have a great time renewing old friendships and making new ones. You will have access to new technology, and information of interest to Blinded Veterans.

Since time is short, call (855) 212-3224 to make your reservations at the Plaza Ocean Club Hotel. Please send your BVA Convention registration fee to the BVA-FRG at: 3801 Coco Grove Avenue, Miami, Florida 33133. Also, let us know if you plan to be at the Pizza Party on Thursday evening in the 2nd floor Hospitality Room, so we can have enough pizza for everyone. Come join us in Daytona Beach for a wonderful weekend.

VIST and BROS Training: For many years the FRG has shared its Convention facilities and speakers with the VIST Coordinators and BROS in Florida for their in-service training. Last year, that meeting was not held due to negative publicity from the national media regarding a $2.5 million VA Human Resources spent on a 4 day conference in Orlando. It resulted in the VA curtailing all training meetings. It is understood that the VA facilities will be able to approve this training. A VIST-BROS planning committee has been established and is working on the program for their training. This year, that in-service training is scheduled to begin at 8 AM on Friday and continue until the opening session at 3 PM that afternoon. This will give you the opportunity to meet your VIST and BROS in an informal setting.

VIST and BROS Positions: In recent FRG Newsletters, the vacant BROS position at the Broward VAOPC and VIST position at the Jacksonville VAOPC were reported. We are happy to learn that the BROS position in Broward has closed and interviews are underway. Several very good candidates have been interviewed and it is anticipated that the process will be completed by the end of March. Then the Human Resource Service will process the selected applicant and refer the individual to the VA Central Office Blind Rehab Service (BRS) for boarding. Since several of the applicants are already VA employees and dual certified, the boarding process should be completed quickly. The FRG will work with the VACO BRS regarding this process. In Jacksonville, the application period was closed on February 24th. Interviewing for that position will start when Human Resources gives the list to those doing the interviewing. Hopefully, this will not take as long as it did when the position was originally announced in September 2013. When more information is available, it will be reported in this FRG Newsletter.

BVA-FRG Meeting Schedule
May 1-4 FRG State Convention Plaza Ocean Club Hotel Daytona
August 18-22 BVA National Convention in Reno, Nevada

FRG Newsletter Staff
Terry King FRG President
George Stocking FRG Newsletter Editor