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FRG Newsletter June 2014

Fellow Blinded Veteran:

FRG President's Message: The Florida Regional Group (FRG) of the Blinded Veterans Association, (BVA), has now held forty State conventions. FRG Conventions provide a time and a place to focus on the evolving needs of the Blinded Vet's (BV) in the state of Florida. The Blinded Vet's that attended the convention were very vocal in seeing that their needs were met and learned valuable information during our weekend on "The World's Most Beautiful Beach". I want to suggest that you might want to consider attending one of the District Meeting to be held in the coming year or the 2015 FRG Convention next May. The FRG is the largest regional group in the BVA. Demonstrably the FRG has been and continues to be the most effective advocate for BV's anywhere.

One can seldom go wrong by learning from the best. In 1969, the Chief at Hines Central Blind Rehabilitation Center, John Malmasian, told me, "Kid, I don't think you could spend $50 better, than by joining the BVA". I knew that adjusting to a life without vision was going to be difficult. I thought then, and I'm even more convinced now, that talking to someone that had successfully made that adjustment could help. I met BV's that were living productive lives at the 1971 BVA Convention held in Miami Beach. Those veterans proved to me that an adjustment was possible and a much more productive and satisfying life could be the result. This lesson has to be carried on for not only the young guys but also for those aging veterans who are losing their sight. Vision loss is a major adjustment at any age, no matter what the circumstance's; we are here to help each other! Since my earliest days of life without vision I have realized that there are always adjustments to be made. Staying positive about one's ability to meet the challenges that change brings, is vital.
Additionally, having the right tools and a good support system help. Blinded veterans have helped me to stay positive, find tools, and BVA's advocacy has made positive changes in my life. For me, BVA has always been about finding help and when possible giving help to fellow blinded veterans that are attempting to live productive lives. Having the examples of BV's that continue to persevere
Has illuminated and inspired. I can't imagine wanting to go it alone with adjusting to the loss of vision. I've read recently that it was a blind engineer that invented cruise control and automatic transmission for the automobile. Well, here is a blind guy that had ideas that would have never
Occurred to me, but once the improvement was presented, I can recognize their value. I know the value of being an active member of the BVA/FRG from over forty years of being a member. I have made changes based on the examples of other BV's. There have been changes made on behalf of BV's that have benefited me. I hope to continue ways and means of being more
independent and when possible sharing that which I've learned with others. I encourage BV's to attend one or more of our District Meetings and the
2015 FRG Convention.

I have established a BY-Laws Committee to review the FRG By-Laws. Vice President, Gigi Mathis will head up the Committee to study and make recommendations on the FRG's Bi-Laws. Serving on the Committee will be Terry King, Jim McCoy, Russell Pollard, and Dr. George Stockings. Any Committee recommendations will be published in the FRG Newsletter, and presented to the Membership for approval. Mike Taylor, FRG President.

If you have any question about the FRG activities or need information, the following is a list of the 2014-2015 FRG Board of Directors:

President - Mike Taylor Fleming Island (904) 264-0884 email met8@comcast.nett

Vice President Gilda (Gigi) Mathis - Lakeland (863) 255-9275 e mail

Secretary-Treasurer George Stocking - Miami (305) 446-8008 email

Past President Terry King - Punta Gorda (941) 505-7747 email

Northwest District - David Bigoney, Tallahassee (850)554-7819 email

Northeast Curtis Smith - Wellborn (386) 393-3658 e mail

Central West District Earl Bessent- Tampa (813) 286-1708 email

Central East District James Carr - Lady Lake (352) 259-1702 e mail

Southwest District James Duda - Naples (239) 450-6007 e mail

Southeast District Jim McCoy - Sunrise (954) 748-9428 email


The FRG has been working with the Miami VAMC and Broward VAOPC since last August to fill the BROS position at the Broward VA Outpatient Clinic. We are happy to report that Matthew Hogel took up his duties as the new BROS on May 5th. A native of Pennsylvania, he entered the Navy after graduating from high school. During his 3 years in the Navy, he was a plane captain on an aircraft carrier and remained in the Navy Reserve for 5 years following his active duty. Upon returning to Pennsylvania, he entered the University of Pittsburg where he earned a bachelor's degree in Spanish. Following graduation, he moved to Tucson, Arizona where he held several jobs while earning a Master's Degree in Visual Skills. Subsequently, he took additional training and was certified as an orientation and mobility instructor. During the next 6 years he worked as an instructor, both in Visual Skills and O. and M at the Arizona School for the Blind. At that time, he applied for a position at the San Juan, Puerto Rico VA Blind Rehabilitation Center where he worked 3.5 years as a Visual skills and O & M instructor. His knowledge of Spanish came in handy during his time in Puerto Rico. When the Broward VA Outpatient Clinic finally announced the BROS position, Matthew Hogel quickly made application. Since he is dual certified, the VA Human Resources and Blind Rehabilitation Service Boarding Committee were able to process his application expeditiously. Upon learning of his being offered the BROS position, he quickly made living arrangements in Sunrise near the Broward VA Outpatient Clinic. This will permit him to serve Blinded veterans in the Broward VAOPC catchment area. He enjoys music and outdoor activities. We in the Florida Regional Group welcome Matthew Hogel to his new position as the BROS at the Broward VAOPC and look forward to working cooperatively with him for many years in the future.

FRG Annual Business Meeting Minutes:

The meeting was called to order at 9 AM on May 3rd by FRG President Terry King. Following the invocation by George Stocking and the pledge to the flag led by Mike Taylor, a roll call of those registered for the Convention was held. A motion was passed to waive the reading of the May 4, 2013 Annual Business Meeting Minutes and to accept them as published in the June 2013 FRG Newsletter. The Treasurer reported an opening balance of $44414.93 in the FRG checking account in April 2013. During the year, income totaling $21256.31 was received, making a total of $65671.24 available in the checking account for FRG use. Expenditures during the year totaled $23843.36, leaving a balance in the checking account, prior to the 2014 Convention, of $41827.88. The only fund raising project conducted solely by the FRG was the scholarship raffle conducted at FRG District meetings and the State Convention. The Southwest District participated in a Walk-A-Thon, along with a number of other organizations which provided $500 toward the transportation of Southwest District BV's to the State Convention. The value of the CD's in the general fund, in April 2014 was $100,447.41. The FRG Scholarships Fund CD, a restricted account, was valued at $11605.92, available for future FRG Scholarships. The total Certificates of Deposit, including the Scholarship fund were $112,053.53. Total cash assets including the checking account and all certificates of deposit in April 2014 were $153,881.21. The membership at the Convention voted to accept the Treasurer's report.

The Membership Committee reported the Florida Regional Group had a total of 1259 Members and Associate Members as of April 2013. During the year, the FRG held several membership drives, resulting in the FRG membership being increased to 1354 Members and Associate Members as of April 2014, an increase of 95 over the total in 2013. The FRG membership is composed of 34% WW II, 23% Korean, and 29% Vietnam BV's. Only 14% are peace time, Desert Storm, and Iraq and Afghanistan BV's. The predominance of WW II, Korean, and Vietnam BV's in our membership has resulted in loosing over 150 BV's during the past year. The FRG continues to have the largest membership of any Regional Group in the BVA. In addition to those Blinded Veterans who actively support the BVA, there are a total of 893 BV's on the FRG - BVA mailing list who have not paid their dues for 2014. During the past year, through the help of the VIST Coordinators in Tampa and Gainesville, we have added 177 BV's to our mailing list. The FRG will continue to work with the VIST Coordinators to send letters to BV's in their area to increase our contact with BV's. We need to contact our fellow BV's and try to get our membership list increased.

The Legislative Committee presented information regarding National legislation of interest to Blinded Veterans. The BVA continues to work with the PVA to pass S 633 and HR 1284 which would provide beneficiary travel to veterans above the income threshold to Blind Rehab Centers and Spinal Cord Injury Centers for specialized in patient rehabilitation training. The BVA is also working with Congress and the VHA to insure that the Blind Rehab Centers, as well as, the VIST and BROS All are fully staffed. The Blinded Veterans in attendance were encouraged to become actively involved in writing to their Senators and Representatives regarding legislation. All BV's with computer access were encouraged to add their name to the BVA-FRG List Serve so they can received information on legislation as it is being considered by Congress.

Reports were made on the Florida Dept. of Veterans Affairs Veterans Council (FDVA) and the Florida Division of Blind Services (DBS) Rehabilitation Council. The FDVA Council is composed of representatives from the various Veterans Service Organization. The DBS Rehabilitation Council monitors the services the DBS provides to Florida citizens.

Old business: The format of the FRG Newsletter was reviewed. There were no recommendations regarding changes in the Newsletter. The FRG District meetings were discussed. The remaining activities at the 2014 FRG State Convention were reviewed.

The floor was opened for New Business with the election of Officers and District Directors as the first item of business. The following BV's were elected as Officers and District Directors: President - Mike Taylor; Vice President Gilda (GiGi) Mathis; Secretary-Treasurer - George Stocking; District Directors - Northwest David Bigoney; Northeast Curtis Smith; Central West - Earl Bessent; Central East Jim Carr; Southwest - Jim Duda; Southeast - James McCoy; and Terry King will serve as Past President. An election was held to select the Florida Regional Group Delegation to the BVA 69th National Convention , as follows: Delegate - Dr. George Stocking; Alternate Delegates: 1. Terry King, 2. Paul Kaminsky, 3. Jim McCoy, 4. Russell Pollard, 5. Bill geden, 6. Israel Chance, and 7. Darryl Goldsmith. Paul Kaminsky volunteered to be the FRG Representative on the By-Laws and Resolutions Committee, with the Delegate and/or Alternate Delegates, in the order listed above, as Alternate Representatives on that Committee. The Delegation was sent to the Convention uninstructed.

After the election, the floor was open to other New Business. A Resolution was passed to maintain, on an on going basis, the FRG funds in the First National Bank of South Miami and to have the President and Secretary-Treasurer as co-signers on all accounts. Further, the Resolution, gave the President and Secretary-Treasurer, with the approval of the Board of Directors, the authority to move the funds to another bank if more advantageous interest rates can be obtained.

The 2015 FRG State Convention was discussed. When the Convention Chairman George Stocking, met with the hotel management the hotel offered to maintain the same contract as in 2014. The membership voted to accept the Plaza Ocean Club Hotel contract for the 2015 FRG State Convention.

The FRG Newsletter was discussed and will continue as in its present format. The recorded version was discussed and the $1500 donation to the Talking Book Library, as approved on an on-going basis, will be sent. The 7 District Meetings were reviewed and will continue as in the past year. The FRG will purchase a $100 full page ad in the BVA National Convention Program, as previously authorized.

The Resolution passed at the 2013 Convention sent to Kathleen Fogerty Tampa VAMC Director and the VISN 8 Acting Director Thomas Wisnieski, urging that the vacant VIST Coordinator position, in Tampa, be filled was successful. Shortly thereafter, the positions were announced. In September, Cathy Rodgers and in October Bill Wilson began working as VIST Coordinators at the Tampa VAMC. It was reported, to the membership, that the vacant BROS position at the Broward VAOPC was filled and the new BROS is to start on May 5th. An individual has been selected for the vacant VIST position at the Jacksonville VAOPC. When Human Resources processes the paper work, that position should be filled. At that time, all 13 full time and one part time VIST positions in Florida will be filled as will, the 10 authorized BROS positions.

The meeting was adjourned at 11:48 AM.

Respectfully submitted

George E. Stocking, Secretary

FRG-BVA Schedule of Activities
August 18-22 BVA National Convention Reno (Sparks), Nevada
September 6 Proposed FRG meeting in Orlando

FRG Newsletter Staff

Mike Taylor FRG President
George Stocking FRG Newsletter Editor