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FRG Newsletter - September 2014

FRG President's Message: The results from the Florida Regional Group (FRG) survey of blinded veterans (BV's) indicate that less than half of the BV's in Florida have attended a VA Blind Rehabilitation Center (BRC). Our state is served by the most Visual Impairment Service Team (VIST) Coordinators, than any other state in the nation. I would guess that the number of BV's in other states that have attended VA Blind Rehabilitation Centers would be less than Florida's. The training one receives at the Blind Centers makes a difference. Demonstrably, individuals function with greater independence at the Centers, than what they could do at home, before the training. However, it was noted, some years ago, that newly learned skills practiced at the Centers were not always being utilized once blinded veterans returned to their homes. As a result, with the encouragement of the BVA, the Blind Rehabilitation Service started the Family Program which brings a family member to the Center, in the final stages of the veterans rehabilitation, to have the greater independence demonstrated to the family member. The Family Program strives to encourage the use of newly acquired adaptive skills.


The VA may provide adaptive equipment and training but it is up to us to put that equipment and training to work. The ability to perform tasks for ourselves is frequently incentive enough.


As an association of blinded veterans I would hope that we would encourage independence. Being able to perform tasks for ourselves that are necessary, or desired, lets us do things in our time and in our own way. It allows us to accomplish things weather help is available or unavailable.


Having once had vision and now trying to accomplish things without vision, I know there are simpler, faster ways of getting things done with vision. Having learned reading and writing, I can still write, but cannot read my writing. Starting over by learning different ways of doing things can be and often is slow and frustrating. However, at some point we all face a choice of getting started on learning a different way of accomplishing things, or being totally dependent on others. I faced such choices, and so have most of you reading these words. I sought guidance and inspiration for where and how to get started from other individuals that had gone through the same thing I faced. My association with the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) has provided me, and many others BV's with inspiration, guidance, encouragement, and more, during my 45 years of membership. I hope to continue that tradition of service to my fellow blinded veterans during the next year.


By the time you read this Newsletter, the 69th BVA Convention will have been held. Attendees of our first District Meeting at the Rosen Plaza, in Orlando will have heard a Convention Report, and much more. The things that affect the lives of blinded veterans are why BVA exist. Services and products that can help BV's function more independently are on display and being discussed at our meetings of the FRG. Again, I encourage you to attend one, or more of our FRG meetings to add your presence to the effort.

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


FRG Meeting Notice: The next Informational meeting of the Florida Regional Group will be held on Saturday, October 4th at the Quality Inn - Commonwealth, 6802 Commonwealth Avenue in Jacksonville. It will begin at 11:30 AM with a period of socializing, followed by lunch at noon. For lunch you may have either: Roast Turkey with dressing or Roasted Pork Loin each served with house salad, Rice Pilas, Southern style Green Beans, Zucani with Squash and Onions, Rolls & Butter, Iced Tea or Coffee, and Hot Cobbler & Vanilla Ice-Cream. The price of the lunch will be $5 per person including tax & tip.


FRG President Mike Taylor will preside at the informational meeting following 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.


The hotel has asked us to notify them as to the number who will be attending by September 30th. Please make your reservations by that date by writing to Northeast District Director Curtis Smith at: P.O. Box 156 Wellborn, Florida 32094 or call (386) 963-3658 e mail; or Mike Taylor at (904) 264-0884 email You may also make your reservations by calling: Bruce Davis, VIST Coordinator, Gainesville VAMC, at (800) 324-8387 ex. 5560 or Judy Hayes, VIST Coordinator Lake City VAMC at: (386) 755-3016 ex. 2088. Although the cost of the meal to you is only $5, each meal guaranteed will cost the FRG $20.34. If you make a reservation and can't come, please call Mike Taylor before October 1st and cancel your reservation. The FRG will have to pay $20.34 for each meal guaranteed, including those unused.


To get to the hotel, take I-10 to I-295 North (Georgia bound). Continue on I-295 to exit 22, which is Commonwealth Avenue. Exit there, the hotel is on your right. From the South take US 301, US 17, US 21 to I-10 or I-95 north to I-295 and continue as above on I-295. From the North, take I-95 South and merge with I-295 at exit 360 B then to exit 22. Keep left at fork in ramp, turn left on Commonwealth Avenue and the hotel will be on your right. Free parking is available at the hotel.


New Jacksonville VIST Coordinator: Daria Wells is the new VIST Coordinator at the Jacksonville VA Outpatient Clinic. She fills the

position which has been vacant since August 31, 2013 when Louise DiGennaro retired after 21 years in that position. Daria Wells is a native of Hollywood, Florida, where she graduated from high School. Then she earned an Associate Degree from Broward Community College before earning a BS Degree from FSU in Speech and hearing. She also received a BA degree from Central Florida University in Public Relations and Communications. Later, she earned a BS Degree in Nursing and is a Registered Nurse. To finish her education, hse earned a Master's Degree in Social Work from Florida International University. She has worked 25 years in the health care system. During the past 5 years, she has worked for the VA, first at the St. Augustine VA Clinic and for the past 2years with the VA Homeless Program at the Jacksonville VA Clinic. She took up her VIST Coordinator duties at the BVA National Convention in Reno, Nevada, where she, along with other VIST Coordinators and BROS, received training through the Blind Rehabilitation Service (BRS). Her first day as VIST Coordinator at the Jacksonville VA Outpatient Clinic was August 25th. She has been living in the Jacksonville area for a number of years. She has been invited to join us at the FRG meeting at the Quality Inn in Jacksonville on October 4th. The FRG welcomes Daria Wells to her new position as VIST Coordinator at the Jacksonville VA Outpatient Clinic and we look forward to working cooperatively with her for many years in the future.


US Legislative Up-Date: At the writing of this Newsletter, Congress is in summer recess and will not be back into session until mid-September. Since only the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs 2015 appropriations have been passed, Congress will be busy passing Continuing Resolutions to keep the government operating after October 1st when fiscal year 2015 begins. It is anticipated that Congress will again recess about October 1st to campaign for the National elections on November 4th. The BVA and PVA will attempt to get S 633 and HR 1284 included in an omnibus veterans legislative package which may be considered prior to Congress' recess for the election. At this time, that does not appear probable. If that does not occur, the BVA and PVA will begin work on a measure to provide beneficiary travel to veterans attending Blind Rehab Centers and Spinal Cord Injury Centers whose income is above the income threshold. The progress of this legislation will be followed in future FRG Newsletters.


As indicated above, the National elections will take place on November 4th. As a Congressionally Chartered Veterans Service Organizations, the BVA is prohibited from becoming involved in partisan politics. However, as citizens, we have a responsibility to study the issues and vote in the election. We encourage all Blinded Veterans in Florida to register to vote and then on November 4th, to cast your ballot for the issues and individuals you feel are most qualified to govern our country for the next few years.


Final Survey Report: Your FRG Board of Directors as of June 30th had concluded the 2014 survey with which many of you participated by responding to the 11 questions t that appeared in a previous FRG newsletter and the many phone calls that the FRG district directors made. I'm happy to report that we not only had 25 percent participation, but the final results were, in our opinion, most satisfactory, particularly after all of the adverse publicity that the VA has been undergoing lately. I am proposing to the FRG

board that we run a survey biennually, but also proposing that the district directors and there assistants contact each and every blinded veteran in there district once each year. We also shall be revising some of the questions in the survey. The largest problem that we ran into was incorrect phone numbers, no phone numbers, and disconnected phones. In recent years veterans have been going to cell phones, and have been going to the BRC to obtain training on voice activated cell phones. I urge all veterans that have cell phone or that have changed their phone numbers in recent years to contact National BVA or your district director in your area, so that your new phone number can be corrected in our database. One of the items in the survey gave a Blinded Veteran the opportunity to describe any difficulties he or she was having. . As a result, 46 Blinded Veterans indicated problems that they were incurring. As of this writing 44 of those have been addressed and solved. I might add that most of the problems were that the veteran just did not know how to go about solving the problem. The following is a copy of the final survey results in percentages.


1: Are you receiving aids and devices in a timely manner? 90% Yes

2: Are the services with the VA Healthcare satisfactory? 93% Yes

3: Are the services from your VIST Coordinator satisfactory? 89% Yes

4: Do you receive services from the Daytona Beach Talking Book Library? 75% Yes

5. Have you been provided with the new digital talking book machine? 70% Yes

6. Have you attended any VA Blind Rehabilitation Center (BRC)? 48% Yes

7. If the answer is yes then, what BRC did you attend and how was the training? Birmingham 76% Positive West Palm Beach 87% Positive

8. Do you have a computer? 63% Yes

9. If yes, have you received any local computer training, not including your BROS? 27% Yes

10. Do you attend the VIST support group meetings in your area? 39% Yes

11. Have you ever paid annual, life time, or paying to life membership dues in the BVA? 56% Yes


Again, let me encourage those of you who have moved or changed your telephone number to contact Alyson alt in the BVA National Headquarters and make the necessary changes. You may reach Alyson at (202) 371-8880 ex 3315. Terry King FRG Past President & Survey Coordinator.


Remember the next meeting of the Florida Regional Group at the Quality Inn in Jacksonville on Saturday October 4th. Please make your reservations by calling one of those listed above in this Newsletter by September 30th. If you make a reservation and can't come please call Mike Taylor and cancel as soon as possible. Join your fellow BV's for an informative and enjoyable afternoon in Jacksonville.


FRG Meeting Schedule


October 4th FRG meeting Quality Inn Commonwealth in Jacksonville

November 1st meeting FRG Biancas RISTORANTE in Ft Myers

December 6 FRG Meeting at the Seminole Square in Seminole

January 3rd FRG meeting at the Hilton Hotel in Ocala

February 1st Proposed FRG meeting in Tampa

March (TBD) Proposed FRG meeting in Ft. Lauderdale

April 30-May3 FRG State Convention Plaza Ocean Club in Daytona


Newsletter Staff:


Mike Taylor FRG President

Terry King FRG Past President & Survey Coordinator

George Stocking Newsletter Editor