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FRG NEWSLETTER - October 2014

FRG President’s Message: As I write this, four dozen, or so, of blinded veterans, (BV’s), and their guest, are just returning from having attended the first of FRG 2014-15 District Meeting held at the Rosen Plaza, in Orlando. Our Central East District Director, Jim Carr introduced a 91 year old attendee to the audience. Jim remarked that he thought this veteran must be the eldest veteran in the room. Jim‘s notion was quickly rejected by a voice stating that he was 92. In rapid succession another 92 year old was heard from followed by two veterans that were 94. To summarize, we had in attendance a good representation of World War Two Era veterans. The
Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) was started nearly three score and ten years ago by World War II BV’s. Those of us whom have benefited from the BVA owe a great debt to this group. It was wonderful having such a large contingency of these BV’s from our founder’s generation present at our meeting. I think it may be of value while serving as President of the Florida Regional Group, (FRG), for me to focus attention on the importance of being able to solve our own transportation problems. Restricting one’s movements is confining and leads to isolation. It is liberating to be able to meet your transportation needs which in many cases will require a diversity of sources. There are blinded veterans, (BV’s) that do solve their own transportation problems. It would be helpful for us to know how they do it. I suggest that there are BV’s that could benefit from learning the ways of addressing their transportation problems. For example: I found my driver to the Orlando meeting by approaching a fellow member at the YMCA who lost his job. In my case, I could afford to pay for gas and a day of his, time in cash. I know many of you may not have the cash to pay for a ride. Public transportation is almost always the preferred way to travel. Church members, club members and neighbors many times will perform a service for gas money or for free, just to have something to do. Between now and the FRG Convention, I ask that you share your ideas and suggestions with me on the best means and methods for developing and disseminating ways for BV’s to solve their own transportation problems. Let us know what works and what does not work. A Transportation Forum at the next FRG Convention could help identify needs, and resources. It is a fact that individuals that have made successful adjustments to their loss of vision have overcome transportation and communication barriers. Being able to solve your own transportation problems for any single time or situation is an accomplishment. Solving your transportation problem for a single occasion could be a first of many. Mike Taylor FRG President (904) 264-0884 e mail

FRG Meeting Notice: The nest Informational luncheon Meeting for the Florida Regional Group, will be held on Saturday, November 1st, at the Bianca restaurant 16251 North Cleveland Ave North Fort Myers. For lunch you may order Chicken Parmesan with Posta and vegetables, Chicken Marcella with Posta and vegetables, or Roast Beef with potato and vegetables. All entrees come with salad, dessert and beverage. The price of the luncheon will be $5 per person including tax and tip. This year we have been doing a lot of looking and asking around for a very special restaurant to hold our Southwest FRG annual luncheon. We are confident that we have found that special restaurant, and we are inviting you all to Come and experience the BEST ITALIAN cuisine, ON FLORIDA'S WEST coast, a REAL TASTE OF ITALY. All dishes are Prepared from scratch by Chef David Svoboda. Bianca's restaurant was even awarded Trip Adviser Certificate of excellence for 2014.

At the Informational Meeting, following lunch, a National Legislative Up-Date will be provided. Representatives from the VA will be on hand to provide information regarding services and benefits of interest to BV’s and their families. Information will be provided about future FRG activities.

Bianca is located in a little strip mall near the NW. corner of 41 and Littleton2 miles south of the Shell Factory on business 41, From the north take US 41 south into North Ft. Myers near the Northwest. corner of 41 and Littleton. From the south take Cleveland North 1 mile past Pine Island to just past Littleton on the NW Side. From north or south on I75, take exit 143 go west to business 41 (n. Cleveland), and turn right one mile to just past Littleton Rd, in a strip mall.

The restaurant has asked us to notify them as to the number who will be attending and the type of luncheon desired by October27. Please make your reservations prior to that date by calling Southwest district Director James Duda in Naples at: (239) 450-6007; in Port Charlotte, Bob Walck at (941) 875-9876; in Punta Gorda Terry King (941) 505-7747 or Bill Stockslager at (941) 276-1561; John Thomas, St. James City, (239) 283-1708; Joseph Taylor Cape Coral (239) 823-0744; Charles Moon Port Charlotte (941) 627-1426; Laurie Charles Cape Coral VIST Coordinator (239) 652-1800 ex 20828; Herbert Zimmer 239 731 8594 North Fort Myers.

Last year, a number of BV's made reservations but did not attend or cancel. Consequently the FRG had to pay for each reservation under our guarantee. Although you only pay $5 for the lunch, the FRG subsidizes it with an additional $13. If you make a reservation and can't come, please cancel, so the FRG won't have to pay the $18 for each reservation we guarantee. If you can't come, please call one of those listed above and cancel it before October 27th.

US Legislative Up-Date: Congress has failed to complete work on a significant amount of legislation before it. This Newsletter is being completed in mid-September. Congress’ primary emphasis is on passing Continuing Resolutions (CR) to fund the government after FY 2015 begins on October 1st. Due to the work the Veterans Service Organizations did several years ago, to provide advanced funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs, the DVA appropriation for FY 2015 is in place. However, there is not sufficient funding for additional spending. Congress plans to recess by September 30th so they can return to their home districts to campaign for the November 4 general election. The BVA and PVA attempt to get S 633 and HR 1284 included in Omnibus Veterans legislation appears to have failed. Consequently, the BVA and PVA will begin working on legislation to provide beneficiary travel funding for eligible veterans to Blind Rehabilitation Centers and Spinal Cord Injury Centers whose income in above the income threshold, when the new Congress convenes in January. We urge all Blinded Veterans and their families to register and vote in the General Election on November 4th Then you and our family can express your opinion on the progress Congress has made during the past.

BVA Convention Up-Date: The BVA 69th National Convention was held at the Nugget Hotel in Sparks, Nevada. It began on August 18 and concluded following the Awards Banquet Thursday evening, August 21st. Prior to the start of the Convention, the BVA Board of directors met to prepare the BVA operating budget and to develop operating plans for the BVA staff to administer for Fiscal Year 2014-2015. The Exhibit Hall was open Monday and Tuesday with 40 venders demonstrating a variety of aids and devices to assist the blind with their independence. At 1 PM on Monday, the BVA Education Committee provided a brief history of the BVA and of its many accomplishments. Then several electronic aids and devices were demonstrated. The president’s Reception was held on Monday evening. Representative Mark Amodes who represents the 2nd District of Nevada in the Us House of Representatives was Guest Speaker. The opening session of the Convention convened on Tuesday morning with Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald as key note speaker. He described his plans for the DVA in the near future to insure that veterans get the services and benefits for which they are eligible. Secretary McDonald recognized a West Point classmate of his, Colonel Don Gagliano, an honorary member of the BVA who was in attendance at the convention. Colonel Gagliano retired recently, after 34 years in the Army. His last tour was as Director of the Vision Trauma Center of Excellence a joint DOD - DVA research center to research and recommend treatment of traumatic eye injuries. The BVA worked several years to get the Eye Trauma Center established. Colonel Gagliano has attended the BVA Board meetings and has provided the Board valuable information. Following Secretary McDonald’s remarks, Sparks, Nevada Mayor Geno Martini welcomed the BVA to his city. Following the opening session, the first BVA Business meeting was held. The membership approved the Board of Directors Annual Report along with the budget for FY 2014-2015. Tuesday afternoon the By-Laws and Resolutions Committee met. Wednesday morning was filled with informational seminars. The Father Carrol Memorial Luncheon was held at noon with Bill Wedekind as Guest Speaker. Bill is a Vietnam totally blind double hand amputee veteran. Bill described his rehabilitation. The two bones in his lower arm were made into long fingers. His grandmother was a potter and she taught him to make pottery. He became commercially successful marketing his pottery. More recently, he has learned to use a voice input-output computer to do computer programming. Following the Father Carrol Luncheon, the six district directors held District caucuses. The final business meeting was held on Thursday morning. The first order of business was to votes on the By-Laws and Resolutions presented to the membership for consideration. Nine By-Law amendments were considered. The membership defeated 8 of the nine. The one that passed added several words to Article IX Membership. During its meetings, the Board of Directors reviewed the resolutions passed last year. It eliminated those resolutions which had been accomplished and reintroduced 14 resolutions. Those resolutions were passed. There were 8 additional resolutions introduced which were passed. The one By Law Amendment and 22 Resolutions will be included in the next issue of the BVA Bulletin and will be on the BVA web site Next, the membership received a report on the present Convention and a proposal for the 70th BVA Convention by Christina Hitchcock. The membership voted to hold the 70th Convention in Louisville, Kentucky during August. The Business meeting closed with the election of the following Officers: President Mark Cornell, Vice President Dale Stamper, Secretary Joe Parker, and Treasurer Paul Minns. On Saturday afternoon, informational seminars were held on legislation, veteran’s benefits, and Regional Group leadership. The Convention closed with the Awards Banquet on Thursday evening. After a reception and dinner, the following awards were presented: Paul Minns, Past FRG President, received the Major General Melvin J. Maas Vocational Achievement Award. A Vietnam BV, Paul returned to college and earned bachelor and master’s degrees in Social Work. Subsequently, he worked as a Vet Rep at the VA Vet Center in Kansas City. When the Blind Rehab Center opened in West Palm Beach, he transferred there as a Computer Access Training instructor. Then, he worked as the WPB Vist Coordinator. . Charles Register received the Irving Diener Award for his work with the Southern California Regional Group. Charles Davis received the David Schnair Award for his work with the Greater Houston Regional Group Volunteer Office. The Gold Gavel was presented to the Washington Regional Group for the largest numerical increase in membership. The Wisconsin Regional Group was presented the Silver Gavel Award for the largest percentage increase in membership. The Florida Regional Group received the Bronze Gavel Award, for the second year, for converting the largest number of nonmembers to active membership status. George Stocking from the Florida Regional Group received a special recognition award for 42 years of service on the BVA Board of Directors. Following the installation of officers, President Mark Cornell adjourned the Convention.

Orlando VAMC: Chris Collins Orlando VIST Coordinator provided the following information to those who attended the FRG Informational Meeting in Orlando. The VA Orlando Veterans Medical Center in Lake Nona has opened a 120 beds Community Living Center (Nursing Home) and 60-bed Residential Rehabilitation Program (Domiciliary). The remainder of the Medical Center is now targeted for completion sometime in December 2014. Then, it will take several months to move the equipment and other materials before the facility can welcome veteran patients. The facility covers 65 acres and will have 134 inpatient beds. The hospital will have all services except open heart surgery, neurosurgery, and transplant surgery. These services will be performed in high-volume centers of excellence to ensure the best quality of care for our nation's veterans. In addition to the state-of-the art dynamic technical equipment for procedures, it will also have smart operating rooms utilizing OR integration systems as well as a hybrid operating room to bring imaging technology into the Operating Room setting. The Medical Center will be part of the new "Medical City" which includes the University of Central Florida Medical School, the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, and the University of Florida Academic Research Center. The current VA facility on Raymond Street is scheduled to remain open as an outpatient clinic. It will serve the veterans in that area and will have a reduced staff and facilities. As further information about the new Orlando VAMC is available it will be included in future FRG Newsletters.

We look forward to meeting you at the next meeting of the FRG at in North Ft. Myers on Saturday, November 1st. Call one of those listed above to make your reservations. If you make a reservation and can't come, please call and cancel it before October 29th. Come join us in North Ft. Myers on November 1st for an interesting and enjoyable afternoon.

FRG Meeting Schedule
November 1 FRG Meeting Ft. Myers
December 6 FRG Meeting in Seminole
January 3rd FRG Meeting Ocala Hilton Hotel
February ? FRG Meeting in Tampa
March ? FRG Meeting in Ft. Lauderdale
April 30-May 3 FRG State Convention Plaza Ocean Club in Daytona
August ? BVA NATIONAL Convention Louisville, Kentucky

Newsletter Staff
Mike Taylor FRG President
George Stocking Newsletter Editor