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FRG Newsletter June 2015

FRG President's Message: The coming together, the learning and sharing, and
the comradery we had on the "world's most beautiful beach", was gratifying.
Those fortunate enough to have attended our 2015 State Convention, returned
home with new ideas and hopefully inspired. Our organization, the Florida
Regional Group (FRG) of the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA), is of and
for Blinded Veterans (BV's). What gets done is due to BV's. There is not
space available here to thank all of those who helped during the year and
at the Convention. The FRG is our organization and I am gratified that lots
of other BV's care enough to make it the wonderful organization we enjoy.
FRG members Convention presenters, exhibitors, and our Convention Guest
Speaker all exceeded our expectations. If you were not inspired by our
Guest Speaker - Steve Davidson, as I am, I don't know what it would take.
The FRG Convention was a great opportunity to see demonstrated products and
procedures that provide access for the visually impaired. The rapid pace of
development was demonstrated by Magnify America's John Palmer who had the
"Patriot" answering questions almost as fast as a person, if the person
could even answer the questions. Florida Reading and Vision Technology's
Lesa Kretschmer had Patrick Turnage demonstrate the Victor Reader Stream
(VRS) new generation. Although Human Ware introduced the VRS New Generation
2 years ago, the software has continued to be developed, adding more
sources of information from this small easily operated device. Those using
this device just love all that it does for us. An unplanned event was Paul
Kaminsky, District 5 Director, who demonstrated the I Phone which does
everything the KNFB Reader does and at a fraction of the price. Paul
operated the I Phone accurately and faster. Having an I Phone that can read
documents to you is wonderful. . I look forward to serving as your
President for another year and invite you to get involved in making this
year productive for BV's in Florida. You will get more out of your
organization by getting involved. I welcome our new Board Members: Russell
Pollard Vice President, and District Directors, Mimi Robinson - Northwest
and Jane Karp - Northeast. Our focus has not changed but the realities
faced by aging members present new and distinctive challenges. This will
require all of the skills and support organization can muster. Get involved
and help the FRG continue to be the largest and most active Regional Group
in the BVA. Mike Taylor, FRG President.

National Legislative Up-Date: The BVA and PVA continue to work on
legislation to provide beneficiary travel to eligible veterans to attend
specialized training at Blind Rehab Centers and Spinal Cord Injury Centers
whose income is above the income threshold. Since the previous measures
considered by the past Congress died when that Congress ended its term on
December 31, 2014, new legislation needed to be introduced. The BVA and PVA
secured introduction of S 171 in the Senate and HR 288 in the House. We
urge all BV's to contact their US Senators and

Representatives and urge them to sign on as co-sponsors of these two
measures. This is particularly important for BV's in the Pensacola area
which is represented by Jeff Miller who is Chairman of the House Veterans
Affairs Committee and in the Jacksonville area where Conine Brown is Ranking
Minority Leader in the House.

Membership reminder: Fellow Blinded Veteran: If you find a membership
application and return envelope in this Newsletter, it means that you are
not presently a Member or Associate Member of the BVA._It is only by
joining together that we can make our voices heard by the Nation, Congress,
and the VA. The strength of your voice is needed by The BVA to make
Congress and VA listen to the special needs of Blinded Veterans. Those of
us who served during the Korean Vietnam, Persian Gulf, and Iraq &
Afghanistan conflict, as well as, who served during peace time owe a debt of
gratitude to those World War II Blinded Veterans who had the foresight to
join together and form the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) in 1945. At
that time the VA had no special training or programs for BV's. It had no
Blind Centers, no VIST, no BROS, and few prosthetics and sensory aids for
BV's. Further the VA did not want to establish such programs. It was the
VA's plan to turn over those services to the private sector. In almost all
cases the services and benefits specifically for BV's resulted directly
through the efforts of the BVA. Those WW II BV's accepted the
responsibility to advocate for Blinded Veterans with the executive and
legislative branches of government. As a result the BVA was chartered by
the US Congress as the sole organization to specifically represent BV's
before all branches of government. As a result of that early work, the BVA
got President Truman to sign an Executive Order requiring the VA to
establish a Blind Rehab service and a Blind Rehab center. This resulted in
the opening of the first Blind Rehab Center at the Hines VA Hospital in
July 1948. Now there are 13 BRC's around the country. Certainly, those of us
who have come later can be thankful for all of the work those WW II BV's
performed for us when they took their destiny into their own hands by
forming the BVA. Now it is our responsibility to continue that work if we
are to maintain and preserve those many services and benefits we enjoy. If
you are a Life or Associate Life Member, that status remains until
perpetuity and you never have to pay dues again. If you are an annual
Member (M) or Associate Member (AM) your dues are paid up through
September. We need the support of all Blinded Veterans to continue the work
the BVA has done for Blinded Veterans over the past 70 years. If you find a
membership application and return envelope in the print copy of this
Newsletter please use it to JOIN THE BVA TODAY. Annual dues are only $15.
Better yet, join as a Life Member (LM) or Associate Life Member (ALM), then,
you won't have to pay dues ever again. Your life dues go into the LM Fund,
the principal of which is never touched. The dividends and interest from
that fund are apportioned to the Regional Groups according to the number of
LM and ALM in the Group. LM and ALM dues run from $50 to $100 depending on
your age. You may start a LM or ALM with a down payment of $25 with the
balance payable over the next 2 years. The enclosed application form
indicates that Life and Associate Life Memberships run from $100 for BV's
age 44 and under, $88 for BV's 45 to 54, $75 - 55 to 60, $63 61-65, and $50
age 66 and over. Join the BVA and help to continue the work of the BVA for
all of us who benefit from the services available to us and to insure that
these services and benefits will continue to be available for the Blinded

FRG Annual Business Meeting Minutes: The meeting was called to order at 9:06
AM on May 2 by FRG President Mike Taylor who gave the invocation and the
pledge to the flag. A motion was passed to waive the reading of the May 3
2014 Annual Business Meeting Minutes and to accept them as

published in the June 2014 FRG Newsletter. The Treasurer reported an opening
balance of $41827.88 in the FRG checking account in April 2014. During the
year, income totaling $24702.21 was received, making a total of $66530.11
available in the checking account for FRG use. Expenditures during the year
totaled $21022.19, leaving a balance in the checking account, prior to the
2015 Convention, of $45507.92. 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 $1000
toward the transportation of Southwest District BV's to the State
Convention. The value of the CD's in the general fund, in April 2015 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 $112,654.79. Total cash
assets including the checking account and all certificates of deposit in
April 2015 were $158162.71. The membership at the Convention voted to
accept the Treasurer's report.

The Membership Committee reported the Florida Regional Group had a total of
1354 Members and Associate Members as of April 2014. As of April 2015, the
FRG had 1294 Members and Associate Members, a decrease of 60. The FRG
membership is composed of 32% WW II, 22% Korean, and 32% 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 300 BV's during the past two years. 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 899 BV's on the FRG - BVA mailing list who have not paid
their dues for 2015. In past years, through the help of the VIST
Coordinators in Florida we added BV's to our mailing list. Unfortunately,
some confusion by the Washington RG with which the FRG shared its VIST
letter, the Washington RG put its letterhead on the proposed letter rather
than the VIST Coordinator's letterhead. The Blind Rehab Service at the VACO
ruled this a HTPPA violation. The FRG has worked with the Chief of the BRS
and the matter clarified during the past month. We hope to resume the VIST
letter in the near future. Two years ago, the BVA began presenting a Bronze
Gavel Award to the RG which converted the largest number of BV's who had
never been members to membership status. The FRG has won that award for the
two years the Award has existed.

The Legislative Committee presented information regarding National
legislation of interest to Blinded Veterans. The BVA and PVA have secured
introduction of S 171 in the Senate and HR 288 in the House of
Representatives. Those measures would provide beneficiary travel to veterans
above the income threshold to Blind Rehab Centers and Spinal Cord Injury
Centers for specialized rehabilitation training. All BV's with computer
access were encouraged to add their name to the BVAFRG List Serve so they
can received information on legislation as it is being considered by
Congress. Old business: The remaining activities at the 2015 FRG State
Convention were reviewed.

The first order of New Business was the election of Officers and District
Directors for the coming year. The following were elected: President - Mike
Taylor, Vice President Russell Pollard, Secretary-Treasurer - George
Stocking, District Directors Northwest - Mimi Robinson, Northeast Jane
Karp, Central East - James Carr, Southwest - James Duda, and Southeast -
James McCoy, and Terry King will remain as Past President. The FRG
Delegation to the BVA 70 National convention in Louisville, Kentucky in
August was held with the following being elected: Delegate - Mike Taylor
and Alternate Delegates 1. George Stocking, 2. Terry King, 3. Paul Kaminsky,
4. Bill Geden,

5. Paul Kaufman, 6. Darryl Goldsmith, 7. Charles Brooks, 8. Israel Chance.
Paul Kaminsky was elected Representative for the By-Laws and Resolutions
Committee with the Delegate and Alternate Delegates in order listed as
Alternate Delegates to that Committee. The Delegation was sent to the
Convention uninstructed.

The five proposed FRG By-Law Amendments, included in the March 2015 FRG
Newsletter were discussed. To pass, a By-Law amendment must have a 2/3
majority of the votes cast. If passed, a Proposed amendment will be sent to
the BVA National Board of Directors for review and approval before the
amendment is added to the FRG By-Laws. Proposed By-Law amendment 1, will
require that a BV notify the Secretary-Treasurer by 3 PM on the day before
the Business meeting that he/she plans to attend and vote at the meeting.
This would permit a check of his/her membership status before the meeting
so that a voting roster can be prepared for the meeting. The proposed
amendment passed by a majority of 68%to 32%. Amendment 2 would require that
all members of the FRG-BVA be sent proposed By-Law Amendments at least 30
days in advance of a meeting at which the amendment will be considered.
Proposed Amendment 2 was tabled. Proposed By-Law Amendment 3 was passed. It
will move section 2 of previous Article X, regarding Robert's Rules, and
make it a new self-standing Article XIII. Proposed Amendment 4 passed and
will be added to Article V at the end of Section 2 and will read: Any
Member or Associate Member who is unable to attend the FRG State Convention
due to illness or Previous engagement must produce a signed statement to the
currently acting Secretary on or before 3 PM the day prior to the Annual
FRG Business Meeting. The letter must indicate that he or she will serve if
elected. Proposed By-Law Amendment 5 passed. This amendment will add a Sub
Section G to Section 4 in Article VII, Duties of District Directors. If
passed, it will add the following sub section G: At least once each
calendar year, be responsible for contacting all Blinded Veterans who
reside in his/her District, paying special attention to incorrect mailing
addresses, telephone numbers, e mail addresses and problems that the BV may
have. A By Law amendment was introduced which if passed would establish
Chapters within the FRG. The proposed amendment was tabled

A motion was passed to permit BV's in the 6 counties from Panama City to
Pensacola to form a new Panhandle Regional Group and leave the FRG.

The 2016 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 2015. A brief discussion was held
regarding holding the Convention elsewhere. It was suggested that the FRG
hold its 2016 Convention at the Plaza Ocean Club Hotel and if others can
find and obtain information about other locations to report that
information to the Board of Directors for exploration. The membership voted
to accept the Plaza Ocean Club Hotel contract for the 2016 FRG State

A resolution was passed authorizing the FRG to maintain its bank accounts in
the First National Bank of South Miami and that the President and Treasurer
be co-signers on all accounts. The President and Treasurer, with the
approval of the Board of Directors, have the authority to move the funds to
another bank if more advantageous interest rates can be obtained.

The $1500 donation to the Talking Book Library, as approved on an on-going
basis, will be sent. As previously, The FRG will purchase a $100 full page
ad in the BVA National Convention Program. The meeting was adjourned at
12:15 PM.

Respectfully submitted

George E. Stocking, Secretary