Chartered By The United States Congress
3801 Coco Grove Avenew
Miami, Florida 33133
(305) 446-8008

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FRG Newsletter January 2015

FRG President's Message: Members of the Florida Regional Group, (FRG), extend their deepest condolences to Dr. George Stocking, and his family, for the loss of wife Barbara. Barbara’s presence at the functions of the BVA and FRG for nearly half a century, has contributed greatly to both organization, as well as to their Auxiliaries. Barbara Stockings unwavering advocacy for blinded veterans, (BV’s), has had a positive impact. Barbara’s advocacy on behalf of BV’s has made an enduring contribution that I feel should be honored. In order to advance a sentiment that I have heard from several BV’s, I am requesting that future FRG Scholarships, be evaluated and granted with a Memorial Scholarship Fund, named for Barbara Stockings. Remembering Barbara with an activity to which she was most supportive would both honor her efforts and continue her work. Organizations are comprised of people and like people they change. Ours is an aging membership, increasingly dependent on the VA for services. At the same time, we need effective advocacy for our members. Experience can and often does serve where changing needs have to be addressed. Confronting the challenges that will inevitably arise for BV’s in the future will be more effectively done by advocates that are knowledgeable with the rules and regulations, and are familiar with their practitioners and practices. We have the knowledge base in the FRG now, but we are not training the leaders of tomorrow. The FRG faces a challenge many organizations are encountering, getting younger members to step up and participate! It is easy for me, with the benefit of forty years, to appreciate the advocacy of the BVA. I have seen and appreciate the changes implemented in our behalf. I fear that others may only realize the advantage they may have once enjoyed, after it is lost. The smart thing would be for future leaders to learn from the experienced leaders of today. Such a transfer of knowledge can only be gained from participating in our changing organization. The involvement of future leaders with the current leaders could provide a smoother transition so that the FRG can continue to serve the needs of BV’s. FRG luncheons are a great deal! If you have attended one you know. For those that haven’t had the opportunity to attend one of our luncheons, there is still time to attend one. Along with a good meal, served in congenial surroundings, you get the chance to interact with fellow BV’s and learn of current FRG activities. At the Seminole FRG Informational Luncheon the power of dedicated work was manifested. FRG Central West, District Director, Earl Bessent, and his family, sent attendees home with big smiles on their faces. There is not room remaining in this column to explain all the amazing circumstances that happened at the Seminole Informational Luncheon. Suffice it to say, that the dedicated efforts of Earl Bessent, and his family, resulted in benefits for FRG, much greater than numbers can show. We have had individuals in the FRG, like Barbara mentioned above, whose dedicated efforts have produced results. Try to join us at one of our future District meetings or the FRG State Convention in Daytona, April 30-May 3. Those interested in remembering Barbara Stocking with a donation to the FRG Scholarship Fund may mail it to 3801 Coco Grove Avenue, Miami, FL 33133. 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 February 7,2015 at the Columbia Restaurant, 2117 East 7 Avenue in Tampa. The meeting will begin with a period of socializing at 11:30 AM, followed by lunch at noon. For lunch, you may have 1. Roasted I Round of Beef stuffed with Chorizoin flavorable gravy, black beans & rice &platatos. Or 2. Arroz Chicken baked with yellow rice, green peppers, Spanish onions on top, each with Spanish Bean Soup, ice tea, coffee and Flan for dessert. The price of the lunch will be $5 per person, including tax and tip. Beer, wine, and mixed drinks will be available for an additional charge. FRG President Mike Taylor will preside at the Informational Meeting following lunch. A national legislative up-date will be provided. Representatives from the VA will provide information about services and benefits of interest to BV's and their families. Future FRG activities, including the FRG State Convention at the Plaza Ocean Club Hotel in Daytona Beach in May will be discussed. The restaurant has asked us to notify them as to the number who will be attending and the type of luncheon desired by February 4th. Please make your reservations prior to that date by writing to Central West director Earl Bessent at: 4526 Woodmere Road, Tampa, FL 33609 or call (813) 286-1708 e mail:, or call Willie Menendez at (352) 382-2314 or Charles Poff at (727) 372-3720. In Lakeland call Gigi Mathis at: (863) 255-9275. In addition, in Tampa call VIST Coordinators Kathy Rodgers at: (813)272-2000 ex 2225 or Bill Wilson at: 813) 903-2442 or Bay Pines VIST Coordinator Delva Freeman at (727) 398-6661 ex 1-4516. The restaurant needs the reservation information in order to prepare properly for our meeting. To get to the restaurant, from the south, take I-75 to exit 261,then take I-4 west (to Tampa) ramp, merge onto I-4 and travel 9 miles to exit 1 ramp, take 21 Street South, travel 0.4 mile to 7th Ave, turn left onto 7th Ave-the Columbia Restaurant is on the right. Parking is across the street from the restaurant. From Pinellas County Start traveling on south I-275 to exit 45B (toward Orlando), merge straight onto I’4 and travel 0.7 mile to exit 1 ramp, travel ramp road o.5 mile to 21st Street turn right onto 21st St and travel 0.4 mile to 7th Ave., turn left on 7th Ave. the Restaurant is on the right. FROM: Levy, Citrus, West Pasco Counties travel on the Sun coast Parkway (toll road) to the end, then merge onto the Veterans Highway to the end, then merge onto SR 60 East, keep in the lane marked Tampa/I-275 North, take I-275 N ramp and travel 6.0 miles to Exit 45B straight onto I’4 and travel 0.7 mile to exit 1 ramp, travel on the ramp road 0.5 mile to 21st St. ( turn right onto 21st St. and travel 0.3 mile to 7th Avenue turn left onto 7th Ave. the Restaurant is on the right. FROM: Largo, Clearwater and North Pinellas County : Travel on SR 60 East to the Tampa International Airport Area, be careful to keep in the lane marked Tampa/I-275 North ramp, after entering the I-275 N ramp, travel 6.0 miles on N I-275 to exit 45B , merge onto I-4 and travel 0.7 mile to exit 1 ramp,travel 0.5 mile on the ramp road to 21 St. turn right onto 21 st and travel 0.4 mile to 7th Ave, turn left onto 7 Ave.,the Restaurant is on the right.

State National Legislative Up-Date: During its closing days, Congress passed several measures improving benefits for veterans. The special adaptive housing grants available to certain eligible service connected veterans has been increased for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015. The 2101 A grant essentially for wheelchair bound veterans has been increased to $70465 and the 2101 B essentially for Blinded veterans and double hand amputees has been increased to $14093.34. Several years ago, the BVA and PVA got Congress to make it possible for eligible veterans to use the grant up to three times if the amount of the grant they used is less than the present grant. For information contact Dennis Thompson at the VARO Adaptive Housing Unit at (727) 319-7602 or Jaime ORTIZ AT (727) 319-7264. The one time automobile grant for service connected BV’s wheelchair vets, and certain amputee vets has been increased to $20114.34 for FY 2015. Service Connected Disability Compensation is paid for blindness according to the severity of the visual impairment. That is, the loss of central visual acuity or the reduction of field of vision, as follows: 20/200 or a 15 degree field of vision - 70%; 15/200 - 80%; 10/200 - 90%; Veterans whose severe disabilities are considered to warrant more than the 100% rate may receive Special Monthly Compensation (SMC). The types of disabilities and severity of conditions which warrant SMC and the amounts are determined by legislation passed by Congress. The following visual impairments are considered to warrant SMC by Congress: 5/200 or a 5 degree field - Paragraph L; light perception only - Paragraph M; Total Blindness - Paragraph - N. The maximum Compensation paid for blindness alone is Paragraph N. To receive more than Paragraph N, A Blinded Veteran must have additional service connected disabilities, rated separately at 50% or above. Intermediate steps - L 1/2, M 1/2, and N 1/2 are for combinations of disabilities. For example: If a BV has light perception in one eye and 5/200 in the other eye - the intermediate rate of L 1/2 would be paid. Veterans who have other SC disabilities in combination with blindness rated from 50% to 90% would be eligible for a half step increase. BV's whose blindness is in combination with another disability individually rated at 100% would receive a full step increase. For example: a totally blinded veteran rated at Paragraph N for blindness with another SC disability individually rated at 100%, would have the rating increased to Paragraph O, the maximum rate of Compensation. There are several other situations, for example blindness in combination with a hearing loss or loss or loss of use of an arm or leg may also warrant a maximum rate of Paragraph O. The amounts of R 1 and R 2 include the maximum Compensation (Paragraph O) plus the two levels of Aid and Attendance allowances. R 1 is paid to veterans with SC disabilities rated at Paragraph O who are in need of regular Aid and Attendance. R 2 is paid to veterans receiving Paragraph O who have severe disabilities requiring daily medically oriented treatment in order to remain out of the hospital.Service Connected Disability Compensation effective December 1. 2014 (rounded to nearest dollar):

10% $ 133 20% $ 263 30% $ 408 40% $ 587 50% $ 836 60% $1059 70% $133580% $1551 90% $1743 100% $2907

Special Monthly Compensation rates (SMC) L $3637 L.5 $3772 M $3992 M.5 $4266 N $4541 N.5 $4808 O,P $5076R.1 $7273 R.2 $8319 S $3253 K $ 103

Dependents Allowance: In addition to the Compensation listed earlier, Veterans rated at 30% or more are eligible for a monthly allowance for their dependents. A married Veteran would receive $162 for his or her spouse. A monthly allowance of $280 would be paid for a spouse and one child and $83 monthly for each additional child. A Veteran without a spouse would receive $109 for the first child and $81 for each additional child. The indicated Dependant Allowance is based on a veteran receiving Compensation at the 100% rate or higher. Dependant Allowances for Veterans rated from 30% to 90% would be that percentage times the amount listed above. Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC): DIC is payable to the survivors of individuals killed on active duty, veterans who die as a result of a service connected disability, or veterans rated at 100% at the time of their death. For the survivors of veterans rated at 100% to receive DIC, the veteran must have been rated at 100% for 10 years, 5 years if continually since discharge, prior to his or her death. The basic amount of DIC is $1254 monthly for the surviving spouse. If the eligible veterans was rated at 100% for 8 years prior to death, during which 8 years he or she was married to the surviving spouse, the larger amount of $1520 monthly would be paid in DIC benefits. Each surviving minor dependent child would receive $311 monthly. An additional $311 monthly may be paid to a spouse in need of Aid & Attendance.

NSC Pension

Pension House Bound Aid & Attendance

Veteran $12867 year $1072 mo. $15725 year $ 1310 mo $21065 year $1755 mo

1 depen $16850 year $1404 mo. $19708 year $1642 mo $25447 year $2120. mo

In addition, an eligible veteran would receive an allowance for each additional minor dependent child of $2197 a year or $183 monthly. The above mentioned NSC Pension amounts are the maximum available. The amount an individual veteran would receive in NSC Pension, would be the amount indicated less any income, whatsoever, received in the household. This would include, but not be limited to salary, Social Security, retirement pension, interest, and dividends. The amount an individual veteran would receive would be the appropriate amount above less any income received in the household. Any medical expenses, not reimbursed by Medicare, Insurance, or through other resources, may be deducted from the income amount received in the household, and possibly increase the amount of NSC Pension

Florida Total Homestead Tax Exemption Reminder: It's that time of year, when we remind BV's of two Total Homestead Tax Exemption Statutes available to qualified individuals in Florida. This may be old news to some of you. However, we have many Blinded Veterans move into Florida each year and with Florida's older population, many veterans lose their vision each year. Consequently, we are including this information. The Florida Regional Group worked many years to obtain and improve these benefits. If you qualify, take your documentation to your local Tax Appraiser before March 1. FS 196.081 provides a total Homestead Tax Exemption to 100% service connected disabled veterans. The exemption has no income limitation. In the event of the veteran's death, the exemption is continued to the surviving spouse, as long as he or she does not remarry. In the past the spouse would have to remain in the same home to continue the exemption. Several years ago, the FRG secured an amendment to the statute to permit the surviving spouse to keep the exemption on that home or a different home as long as the new home is assessed at the same or a lower amount. To qualify for this exemption, obtain a statement from the VA Regional Office certifying that he or she is a 100% service connected disabled veteran. This total Homestead Exemption will be renewed each year. If you have qualified for this Total Exemption in the past and have not received notification of the renewal by the end of January, contact your County Tax Appraiser's Office. FS 196.101 provides a Total Homestead Tax Exemption to certain individuals who are restricted to a wheelchair for mobility or who are legally blind. Initially, this statute has an income limitation of $8200 annually. On several occasions, the FRG returned to the Florida Legislature to get that limitation raised due to inflation. Finally, about 20 years ago, the FRG succeeded in getting an annual increase equivalent to the Consumer Price Index (CPI). This total Exemption has a total household income limitation of $27289 for 2014. As a result of the CPI legislation, FS 196.101 will have an increase in the income limitation equal to the increase in the CPI. Since there was a 1.7% increase in the CPI during FY 2014, there should be an increase in the income limitation for FS 196.101 in January. In the past, the state did not get that increase processed until later in January. Contact your County Tax Appraiser's Office in January for the new income limitation. To qualify for FS 196.101, obtain a statement from two Florida licensed Ophthalmologists or Optometrists or from the VA stating that you are legally blind. Take those statements to your County Tax Appraiser's Office before March 1. You will be required to certify your income annually to keep the Tax Exemption under FS 196.101. Please join us at the FRG meeting in Tampa on February 7th, 2015. If you make a reservation and can’t come please call before one of those list above before February 3 and cancel it, so we won’t have to pay for unused meals.

FRG-BVA Meeting Schedule

February 7 FRG Meeting Columbia Restaurant in Tampa

March 21 FRG meeting at the Tropical Acres Steakhouse in Ft. Lauderdale

April 30-May 3 FRG State Convention Plaza Ocean Club in Daytona

August ? BVA National Convention in Louisville Kentucky