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FRG Newsletter November 2014

Editor’s Note: In recent years, many BV’s have switched from land line telephones to cell phones and have not let the BVA know of their new telephone number. In addition, many BV’s who have had e mail addresses have changed those numbers. The FRG List Serve is a two-way process of giving BV’s in Florida the opportunity to exchange information about services and benefits or other information of interest to BV’s and get responses. If you were on the List Serve previously and have changed your e mail address contact one of those listed below and give them your new e mail address. If you have not previously been on the List Serve and would like to be able to exchange information and topics of interest to BV’s also contact one of those listed below. In addition, if you have changed your telephone number please give your new number to one of those listed below. We need to have valid addresses, telephone numbers, and e mail addresses to be able to contact BV’s when necessary. To bring your records up to date, please contact Terry King at: (941) 505-7747 e mail or FRG Web Site and List Serve moderator Bill Stockslager at e mail

FRG President's Message: At the BVA National Convention in Sparks, Nevada, the Florida Regional Group (FRG) obtained approval from the BVA Board of Directors to hold two fund raising programs. One of those fund raisers was the 50/50 held at the 7 FRG District Informational meetings and the FRG State Convention, the proceeds of which go to the FRG Scholarship Fund. FRG Newsletter Editor, George Stocking was the winner of the 50-50 at the Orlando and Jacksonville meetings. After expressing himself, in both instances, in a tone of astonishment, Dr. Stocking said he in all his years of buying tickets he had never previously won the 50-50. Dr. Stocking immediately donated his winnings to the Scholarship Fund. As a result, our Scholarship fund was increased by almost $250. With diligence that money can help encourage someone who is deserving of this resource to pursue academic or vocational training. You will find additional information about the FRG Scholarship Program later in this Newsletter. .

All BV’s have experienced first having and then loosing vision. We may have experienced that loss at different times in our lives or to differing degrees. Living with the total or diminished loss of vision can and is an adjustment made in widely differing ways. This is not the place, nor is there space here for a psychological discussion of adjustment to blindness. Father Carroll’s book “Blindness, What It is, What It Does, and How to Live With It” CB 20473, is still very relevant and I highly recommend this book. Father Carroll’s book can be obtained from the BARD site or from your Talking Book Library. Suffice it to say, there are BV’s who act as if their lives are over with the loss of vision. In contrast, there are BV’s that have adjusted to their loss of vision and have gone on to lead productive lives. It is my goal to point the FRG toward the latter and encourage individual BV’s to be more productive. There are great tools available to help BV’s with communications problems. The Computer Access Technology (CAT) available through the VA Blind Rehabilitation Centers is an incredible resource. I would like to see evidence in this Newsletter that the CAT Program is meeting or exceeding its objective. I challenge BV’s in Florida that have gone through the CAT Program to put their skills to work by sharing their experiences with their fellow BV’s on something that has made a meaningful difference in their lives. Write on any subject that you can share with passion and would be meaningful to your fellow BV’s. The FRG is offering $50 to BV’s who are living in the State of Florida, who have not previously been published in the FRG Newsletter, for a non –fiction article that is judged publishable by the FRG Newsletter Editorial board. Please keep your article to between 200 and 500 words and send your article to e mail I believe such an undertaking would be a positive accomplishment for the author, the readers, and BV’s everywhere. Mike Taylor, FRG President (904) 264-0884 e mail

FRG Meeting Notice: The next meeting of the Florida Regional Group will be held on Saturday, December 6th, at the Lake Seminole Square 8333 Seminole Blvd. in Seminole. The meeting will begin with a period of socializing at 11:30 AM, followed by lunch at noon. For lunch, you may have Grilled Breast of Chicken Picatta or Sliced Tenderloin of beef with natural mushroom aus jus, each with salad with Honey Dijon Dressing and Garlic Parmesan Potatoes, Glazed Carrots, Rolls & Butter, Iced Tea or Coffee and surprise for dessert. A complementary glass of white or zinsandeel wine is available upon request. The registration for the luncheon will be $5 per person. A National Legislative up-date will be presented at the Informational meeting following lunch. Representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs will be on hand to provide information about services and benefits of interest to BV's and their families. Future FRG activities will be reviewed.

The restaurant has asked us to notify them as to the number who will be attending and the type of luncheon desired before December 2nd. Please make your reservations prior to that date by writing to Central West Director Earl Bessent4526 Woodmere Road, Tampa, FL 33609 or call (813) 286-1708 email In the Polk County call Gigi Mathis at: (863) 255-9275 and in Pasco County call Charles Poff at: (727) 372-3720. In Pinellas, Sarasota, and Manatee Counties you may call the Bay Pines VIST Coordinator Delva Freeman at (727) 398-6661 ex 1-4516. In the Tampa VAMC catchment area call VIST Coordinators Kathy Rodgers at (813) 972-2000 ex 2225 or Bill Wilson (813) 903-2442. The restaurant needs the reservation information in order to prepare properly for our meeting.

To get to Lake Seminole Square in Pinellas County, take US Highway 19 Alternate north or south until it becomes Seminole Blvd. Lake Seminole Square, 8333 Seminole Blvd. will be on the east side of the street. There are 4 American Flags in front of the building. From the Tampa area, take I 75 north or south to I 275 south. Go across the Gandy Bridge to exit 28 which is State Road 694, which becomes Park Blvd. Continue west 8 miles to Seminole BLVD. with is US Highway 19 Alternate. Turn right and go 0.6 mile Lake Seminole Square will be on your right. From the east (Orlando, etc.) take I 4 wests to I 275 then continue as above. From Sarasota take I 75 north to exit 228 merge on to I 275, go north 28 miles to exit 28 merge on to Gandy-Park Blvd., go west 8 miles to Seminole Blvd., turn north. From levy, Citrus, and Pasco Counties, take US 19 to Park Blvd right (west) on Park to Seminole Blvd. turn north 0.6 mile to Seminole Square on your right. If you need directions, call Lake Seminole Square at (727) 392-3932. Do not call Lake Seminole Square for reservations but one of those listed above. Free Parking is available. Join us on Saturday, December 6th in Seminole. We look forward to meeting you there.

National Legislative Up-Date: As you have heard through the news media, Congress recessed on September 30th until after the national elections on November 4th. Prior to the recess, Congress passed Continuing Resolutions (CR) to keep the government funded until December 31st. It will be necessary for Congress to have a lame duck session in December in order to pass another CR to fund the government until after the new Congress convenes in January 2015. Fortunately, the Veterans Health Administration has additional funding for Fiscal Year 2015. This resulted from legislation the Veterans Service Organizations, including the BVA, got Congress to pass several years ago. That law requires Congress to pass appropriation for the Current year and for the next year. This advanced funding permits the GHA to have additional funding for FY 2015. The Continuing resolutions Congress passed before their recess, only continuing the funding for the other departments of government at last year’s level. Consequently, it is actually a reduction in funding, due to inflation. Although S 633 and HR 1284, the BVA-PVA beneficiary travel measures are still alive, the chances for a lame duck session of Congress to consider these bills are not strong. Glenn Minney, BVA Director of Government Relations is working with the staffs of the Senate and House of Representatives Veterans Affairs Committees to have S 633 and HR 1284 brought to a vote. If that is not successful, during this session, the BVA and PVA will begin working on that measure when the new Congress convenes in January 2015.

In recent months, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) has received significant negative publicity about long delays in veterans receiving treatment. The most apparent was the problems publicized about the Phoenix Veterans Health Care System. Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) Robert McDonald is considering reorganizing the VHA. Prior to 1995, the VHA was divided into 8 Regions. In 1995, VHA was divided into 22 Veteran integrated Service Networks (VISN). VISN 8 covered Florida, with the exception of the panhandle, and Puerto Rico. The VACO provided funding to the 22 VISN. Then the various VISN allocated the funding to the various Veteran Healthcare Centers in each VISN. Secretary Mc Donald is considering returning to the organizational structure that existed prior to 1995. Prior to that time, the VA Central Office had more control over the medical facilities in the field. For example, The Blind Rehabilitation Service (BRS) had influence over the selection of candidates for VIST Coordinators. Since 1995, all BRS staff, other than those in the VA Central Office is controlled by the medical facilities in the field. It is unknown is Secretary Mc Donald’s reorganization plan will include that process. At the BVA National Convention in Nevada in August, the BVA membership passed a resolution urgent the VACO to give the BRS more responsibility in the selection of BRS staff including VIST Coordinators and BROS. For example, the Chief of the VA Blind Center in Waco, Texas refused to add new staff thus reducing in half the number of beds available for BRC training. This resulted in a very long wait for BV’s to get BRC training. The BVA helped to get an investigation of the facility which ultimately forced the management to replace the Chief of the Blind Rehab Center. The new BRC Chief has recruited new staff and the BRC is now up to its approved bed capacity. More involvement of the BRS in the VACO could preclude this happening in the future.

The VA Central Office is considering streamlining the forms used by the DVA. Presently the VHA and Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) have different forms to accomplish the same thing. For example, the VHA has a 4 page form for a veteran to authorize a third party to have access to his/her information. It is complex and is difficult for a Blinded Veteran to complete. Whereas, the VBA limited Power of Attorney (POA) which accomplishes the same goal, is only one page and relatively easy to complete. It would be most helpful for veterans and the Veterans Service Organizations if the DVA would simplify its forms. This would make it easier and quicker for veterans service organizations to assist veterans throughout the country.

The DVA has established a new web site to make it easier for veterans to obtain information about services and benefits available through the DVA. The new web site is: This web site is supposed to be section 508 compliant. The BVA has found one glitch and is working with the VACO to correct that problem so that BV’s using screen readers may have access to the new web site.

FRG Scholarship: The Florida Regional Group offers two $1000 scholarships to the spouse or children of a Florida Blinded Veteran. This year, as in the past, a special announcement letter will be sent to members of the Florida Regional Group in January. It will include information about the scholarship application packet and guidelines. Applicants must complete all of the requirements in the packet to qualify for the FRG Scholarship. Applicants may also qualify for other scholarships including the BVA Kathern Gruber Scholarship. These scholarships are awarded to encourage and help the children of BV’s in obtaining additional college and vocational training. In the past two years, the FRG scholarship Committee has received application from the children of only two BV’s. It may be that as BV’s are aging, their children are beyond the normal time when they would be seeking a higher education or vocational training. It has also been suggested that since the present scholarship amount is set at $1000 per academic year, this amount buys significantly less than when the FRG Scholarship Program began. Evaluating programs to determine that they are meeting the needs and goals they address is our responsibility. Between now and the FRG State Convention I have asked the Scholarship Committee to investigate if changes need to be made. If it is determined changes that would more effectively meet the needs and goals of the program are necessary, the Committee should present their recommendations to the FRG membership. If you have ideas or suggestions for areas to investigate or changes you think would make this program more effective, let the Committee hear from you. You may send your suggestions or recommendations to Committee Chairman George Stocking at the address at the top of this Newsletter or call (305) 446-8008 EMAIL GSTOCKING@BELLSOUTH.NET. Mike Taylor, FRG President

FRG Meeting Reminder: Please join us at the next FRG Informational Luncheon Meeting at the Lake Seminole Square on Saturday, December 6th. Bring some fellow BV’s with you and join usL. for an interesting and informative afternoon.

FRG-BVA Meeting Schedule
December 6 FRG Meeting at Lake Seminole square in Seminole
January 3 FRG meeting Ocala Hilton Hotel
February 7 FRG meeting Columbia Restaurant in Tampa
March ? Proposed FRG meeting in the Ft. Lauderdale area
April 30 - May 3 FRG State Convention Plaza Ocean Club Hotel

Daytona Beach
August ? BVA National Convention in Louisville, Kentucky

FRG Newsletter Staff
Mike Taylor FRG President