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FRG Newsletter - August 2015?

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FRG President’s Message: The Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) and I got started about the same time. The BVA started March 28, 1945 with 100 Blinded Veterans (BV’s) pledging mutual support. I was born in Cocoa, Florida in July 1945 needing my mother’s support. I didn’t know about the BVA until 1969 when I needed that support. They could and did offer that support. It has given me guidance and inspiration for the majority of my life. The quality of life me and my family enjoy are due, in part, to my association with the BVA. I am grateful for the assistance received and am convinced that the assistance I can now offer has value. In 1969, I spent 16 weeks with a group of other Viet Nam BV’s and some older BV’s at the Hines Blind Rehabilitation Center. That rehabilitation provided me with a foundation with compensatory skills to replace some of the lost skills to better prepare for a life without vision. The learning tools and techniques proven to be most effective for overcoming loss are taught at the Blind centers. BV’s that have taken advantage of the training offered at the Blind centers can equip themselves with a foundation of learning that can be continued. At the FRG Convention in May, we had training available to learn “My Healthy Vet”. This web site lets BV’s, with computer skills, manage their own health care with the VA. The information and services available on “My Healthy Vet” are also available by telephone. There are both benefits and advantages to be able to manage your own health care. Managing your health care, independently, with My Healthy Vet, or using the telephone requires skills with those tools. The Computer Access Technology (CAT) Program at the BRC, can get you started on acquiring those skills. BV’s who can navigate the “My Healthy Vet” web site can probably handle on line banking. Managing your own health care and money would be a big step toward independence. At the BRC, one can also acquire other skills that help overcome the limitations that diminished vision presents. I encourage BV’s who have not taken the opportunity for this excellent training, to consider doing so. Learning new skills can give one confidence and gain greater independence. The BVA’s pledge of mutual support began 70 years ago and is sustained with the FRG. BV’s in Florida can contact other BV’s that have experience in overcoming problems commonly faced by the visually impaired. Contact is available on our web site: Click on the contact link for telephone numbers and e mail addresses for your FRG Officers and District Directors. In addition, you will find a list of that information at the end of this President’s message. Blinded Veterans serve as FRG Officers and Directors to assist other BV’s. Take advantage of the assistance that is available to get started or continue gaining independence. We cannot guarantee a solution to an immediate or pressing problem, but we may be able to refer you to available resources. The FRG Board is making arrangements for 7 informational luncheons. These luncheons will be held at locations around Florida. The first of our Informational Luncheons will be held at the Rosen Plaza Hotel in Orlando on Saturday September 12. The Rosen Plaza is a wonderful venue for our luncheon. If you can’t attend this luncheon, others will follow. Future issues of this Newsletter will contain the location, date, and time. I look forward to meeting you in the coming year. Mike Taylor, FRG President. the following is a list of the 2015-2016 FRG Board of Directors: President - Mike Taylor Fleming Island (904) 264-0884 email met8@comcast.nett; Vice President Russell Pollard- Tamarac (954) 735-5841, e mail; Secretary-Treasurer George Stocking - Miami (305) 446-8008 email; Past President Terry King - Punta Gorda (941) 505-7747 email; Northwest District - Mimi Robinson, Tallahassee (850) 727-0330, e mail; Northeast Jane Karp - St. Augustine (904) 797-1389, e mail; Central East District Jeffrey Ebbers - Oviedo (407) 473-5698 e mail; Southwest District James Duda - Naples (239) 450-6007 e mail; Southeast District Jim McCoy - Sunrise (954) 748-9428 email

FRG-BVA Website: The purpose of the official website of the Florida Regional Group of the Blinded Veterans Association is to provide a resource to the FRG BV’s where useful information can be found addressing a wide range of interests. The website has been designed to be as accessible as possible to legally blind or totally blind veterans. One way that this is done on the website is to keep the number of links on each page to a minimum. This article will address the information contained on the FRG-BVA website that provides information about the Board of Directors and their contact information. This information is accessed from the Home page of the website via the tab labeled "Contact Us". Selecting this tab will provide the "Contact Us" page where all the board members are listed along with their position, phone number and e-mail address. The FRG event calendar is found on the Home page with a brief description of the event with a link to the Newsletter where detailed information on the event can be found in the newsletter that is published in advance of the date of the event. Please visit your FRG website and explore it. All suggestions for improving the website will be appreciated. You may contact the web master by addressing an e-mail to webmaster@frgbva. or by calling Bill Stockslager at (941) 276-1561

FRG Meeting Notice: The first Informational Meeting for the Florida Regional Group this fall, will be held on Saturday, September 12th, at the Rosen Plaza Hotel 9700 International Drive in Orlando. The meeting will begin with a period of socializing at 11:30 AM, followed by lunch at noon. For lunch, you may have either Breast of Chicken Picatta, or Sliced Roast Sirloin with Wild Mushroom Sauce each with Garden Salad with Parmesan Peppercream & Greek vinaigrette dressing Cheddar Mashed Potatoes, Julienn of Fresh Vegetables, Ice Tea or Coffee, and Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing. The price of the lunch will be $5 per person, including tax and tip.

FRG President Mike Taylor will preside 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. A National Legislative Up-Date will be provided. A report will be presented regarding the BVA National Convention in Louisville, Kentucky. Future FRG activities will be discussed.

The hotel has asked us to inform them as to the number who will be attending and the type of luncheon you desire by September 7th. Please make your reservation by writing to Central east DistrictDirector Jeff Ebbers at: 1052 Kerwood Circle, Oviedo, FL 32765 or call (407) 473-5698,
e mail; you may also contact Gigi Mathis in Lakeland at (863) 255-9275, e mail; or Terry King, (941) 505-7747, e mail You may also call Orlando VIST Coordinator Chris Collins at (407) 629-1599 ex. 1353; Daytona Beach VA VIST Coordinator Connie Stolp at (386) 323-7534. Remember when you make your reservation to give the first and last name of each person attending and the choice of lunch desired, by September 7th. We look forward to meeting you in Orlando.

Arrangements have been made with the Rosen Plaza for those who wish to stay over Friday and/or Saturday for room rates of $109 plus tax. Those interested in using this alternative may call the hotel at: (407) 996-9700 for reservations. The cutoff date for these reservations is Thursday August 27th. Be sure to tell the reservation clerk that you will be attending the FRG-BVA luncheon meeting on Saturday, September 12. Do not call the hotel to make your luncheon reservation, just one of those listed above.

To get to the Rosen Plaza Hotel from Tampa and the Gulf Coast, take I 4 East to exit 72, take 528 East (Bee line Expressway) to exit no. 1 - International Drive. Turn right on International Drive; the Rosen Plaza will be on your left after the Convention Center. From Daytona or the East Coast, take I 4 and continue as above. From the North or South on the Turnpike, go to exit 259. Take I 4 West to exit 72 and continue as above. Note: The Orlando Convention Center is between the Rosen Plaza Hotel and the Rosen Center Hotel. Our meeting is in the Rosen Plaza, so be sure you have the correct hotel. Complementary self-Parking is available behind the hotel. Notify the attendant that you are with the Blinded Veterans Association to get the complementary self-parking. Regular parking is $13 for self-parking and $20 for valet parking. Check with your fellow Blinded Veterans, family members, and friends and make plans to join us in Orlando on Saturday, September 12th.

Daytona Beach BROS: In recent years, Cindy Perkins, the BROS at the Orlando Veterans Health Care System has covered all of the area in that system, including BV’s receiving treatment through the Daytona Beach VA Outpatient Clinic. We are happy to announce that the hiring of a BROS to work out of the Daytona Beach VAOPC. This will permit more timely service for BV’s in the areas covered by both of those facilities.

National Legislative Up-Date: The BVA and PVA continue to work with Congress to get HR 288 and S 171 brought before the House of Representatives and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees for mark up. This measure would provide beneficiary travel for Blinded veterans to Blind Rehabilitation Centers and Spinal Cord injured veterans to Spinal Cord Injury Centers, whose income is above the income threshold. However, getting Congress to come up with the small amount of money necessary to provide this needed travel may be difficult at this time. Due to all of the media exposure regarding the significant wait time for treatment at VA facilities, Congress authorized eligible veterans who live more than 40 miles from a VA healthcare facility to receive medical treatment at private facilities. Congress often passes legislation authorizing services without providing the necessary appropriations to fund those services. This has resulted in a significant cost to the VHA for this treatment. Unfortunately, Congress did not appropriate the necessary funds to pay for this treatment. This has resulted in the VHA being $2.5 billion in the red as of late June. If Congress does not appropriate the necessary funds, the VHA will have to cut other expenditures.

VIST Retiring: Roberta Goldstein, the VIST Coordinator at the Miami VAMC since 2004 is retiring effective October 3rd. Roberta started her career with the VA as a Social Worker. For a number of years, she was the Social Worker on the VIST Team at the Broward VA Clinic. Later, she worked on the Spinal Cord Injury Center at the Miami VAMC before taking up her duties as VIST. On September 3rd, she will coordinate her last VIST Support meeting at the Miami VAMC. We appreciate her efforts on behalf of BV’s and the FRG-BVA and wish her good luck in her retirement.

FRG Scholarship Program: The FRG Scholarship Program for the 2015-2016 academic year was announced in the December 2014 FRG Newsletter. The program offered two $1000 Scholarships for children or spouses of Florida Blinded Veterans. In January 2014, a Scholarship Program letter was sent to all members of the FRG. The Scholarship letter contained the guidelines for the Scholarship Program and the method for securing the application packet. Two individuals requested application packets. The cut off date for the receipt of completed application packets was April 15, 2015. One Scholarship candidates sent a completed application packets. The other individual who requested a Scholarship Packet did not return their packet. Consequently, the applicant who sent a completed packet has received a $1000 Scholarship for the 2015-2016 academic year. The successful candidate is Arial Taylor who lives in Fleming Island and is attending Florida State College in Jacksonville. MS Taylor is working on a business degree. A check, for tuition, books, and academic fees, in the amount of$500 has been sent in her name to the Florida State College in Jacksonville for the fall 2015 term and another check in the amount of $500 will be sent in December for the winter 2016 term. She took 4 courses during the spring term and received A’s in all 4 courses, continuing her perfect record in her present academic program. The FRG congratulates this successful Scholarship Candidates and wishes her good luck in the future. A new Scholarship Committee is being formed and will review the present Scholarship Program and possibly recommend changes in the process for the 2016-2017 academic year, this may include an increase in the amount of the scholarship. .

Meeting Reminder: We look forward to meeting you at the Rosen Plaza on Saturday, September 12th. Be sure to call those listed above and make your reservations, by September 7. If you make a reservation and can't come, please call Jeff Ebbers and cancel your reservation before that date, so we won't have to pay for unused meals.

FRG Meeting Schedule

September 12t FRG Meeting Rosen Plaza Hotel in Orlando
October 3 FRG Meeting in Jacksonville
November 7 FRG Meeting the in St. Petersburg-Clearwater area
December 5 Proposed FRG meeting in Ft. Myers
January 9 Proposed FRG meeting in Tampa.
February 13 Proposed FRG meeting in Ocala
March ? Proposed FRG meeting in the Ft. Lauderdale area
April 28- May 1 FRG State Convention Plaza Ocean Club Hotel in Daytona

FRG Newsletter Staff

Mike Taylor FRG President
Bill Stockslager FRGBVA Web Master
George Stocking FRG Newsletter Editor