BLINDED VETERANS ASSOCIATION (BVA)
FLORIDA REGIONAL GROUP, INC.
3801 Coco Grove Avenue
Miami, Florida 33133
NEWSLETTER - October 2005
FRG President's Message: Here we are again, already approaching our annual Ft. Myers Luncheon Meeting. Mother nature has been keeping her part of her agreement to keep her hurricanes away, at least from Southwest Florida, so that we can enjoy our meeting. After what took place along the northern Gulf Coast, I'll never again complain about the rigid building code here in the Southwest Florida area. Furthermore, if we continue to be the target for these storms, I'm thinking of replacing our roof with the old traditional flat type of roof that once was common in Florida. That's enough about storms for now.
Here's is something new that we have been talking about for some time. Now, we would like to try it out. We are calling it a distribution list, for the purpose of disseminating information, out to all the Blinded Veterans who have computers with email addresses. Unfortunately, there is no way that we could consistently send out Newsletters quickly enough, in order to make a difference on an upcoming piece of legislation that is relevant to our Blinded Veterans. We estimate that there are approximately 30% of the Blinded Veterans in Florida that have computers. Therefore, maybe they could put to good use, those computers that they have received from the VA and help us promote and, hopefully, persuade Congressmen that the legislation at hand is very important. For the time being, this distribution list will have only information going out to you. Later, if it appears to be working, we hope to also have information in both directions. For example, if a BV has a question concerning the VA or the BVA, they would only have to post it on the list and therefore receive an answer or be told where to find the answer.
To sign up for this service, simply send an e mail to the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org. In the subject line, please include the words "sign me up" and in the text of the message, include your first and last name and the town or city in which you are living. When your e mail is received, you will be added to the distribution list. Please be patient, as it will take several months for this new form of communication to become operational. Bill Stockslager, Assistant Southwest District Director, who lives in Punta Gorda, has agreed to handle this service through his computer. He has created a special e mail address for the distribution list. I am encouraging all of you to take part in this innovative project. In the meantime, check the Legislative Up-Date in this Newsletter for very important pending legislation of significant interest to Blinded Veterans. Terry King, FRG President
FRG Auxiliary President's Message: I am sure that everyone has heard, time and time again, about the tragedy from Katrina. Has anyone realized that the people who were Johnny on the spot, were the people helping people. Isn't that what really counts? We can't depend solely on the government. The voices and the deeds are heard and acted upon by organizations. If you think about it, wasn't it the churches, Red Cross, Salvation Army and many other organizations who really did what they could do before our National Guard and military were able to come in. Just like that lesson and the reality that we have seen over TV, it is you and only you who can keep the BVA capable to voice our words to the government. Therefore, I am encouraging everyone of you to participate in our BVA and BVA Auxiliary by being a member. Get your voices heard. There are far too many things happening in this busy world to pay much attention to our needs. It is too bad that those who think they know the needs can't be heard. Wrong! We are the ones who know what we need because of living it day by day. For instance. True or not, what would you think of the workshops at the Blind Rehab Centers being closed because some sighted person thinks that perhaps, it may be too dangerous for a visually impaired person to use woodworking machines. That is why everyone, including spouses and friends, need to be counted. Contact me for an application for Auxiliary membership. Contact Terry King or George Stocking for BVA membership application. Let's join together and Meet at the FRG luncheon meetings around the state, beginning with the next one in North Ft. Myers on November 5. . Joanne King, FRG Auxiliary President.
FRG Meeting Notice: The next meeting of the Florida Regional Group will be held on Saturday, November 5th, at the Palms Restaurant at the Sabal Springs Golf and Racket Club, 17540 Old Tamiami Trail, North Ft. Myers. The meeting will begin with a period of socializing at 11:30 AM, followed by lunch at noon. FRG President Terry King has made the arrangements for this meeting. For lunch, you may have Roast Beef, Garden Salad, Potatoes, and Vegetable, Rolls & Butter, Iced Tea, soda, or Coffee and Dessert. The cost of the luncheon will be $5 per person, including tax and tip. Beer, wine, and mixed drinks will be available for an additional charge.
FRG President Terry King will preside at the 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 presented. Future FRG activities will be discussed. Information about the FRG Auxiliary will be presented.
The restaurant has asked us to notify them as to the number who will be attending by November 2nd. Please make your reservations prior to that date by writing to Terry King, in Charlotte County, at: 24243 Pirate Harbor Blvd., Punta Gorda, FL 33955, or call Terry at (941) 505-7747. You may also make your reservations by calling Joyce Thornton, Ft. Myers VIST Coordinator, at (239) 939-3939 ex. 6284, or in Ft. Myers contact Larry Newman at (239) 277-0821, Leo Bonamy at (239) 454-5784 or Jim Thompson at (239) 437-1912. In Cape Coral, call Edwin Wack at (239) 574-8592. In North Port, call Mike or Peg Toomey at (941) 423-9298; In Bonita Springs, call Bob Loft at -(239) 495-1803, in Venice call Frank Drab at (941) 497-7044, in Punta Gorda call Bill Stockslager at (941) 743-8364 or in Collier County call Jim Wu at (239) 461-7422. The restaurant needs the reservation information in order to prepare properly for our meeting.
To get to the Palms Restaurant, go North on I 75 to Exit 143, then Go West on Bayshore (State Road 78) 6.3 miles to "Old" US 41. Turn right (North) 2.2 miles to the "Shell Factory" and continue on US 41 another 1.3 miles to Sabal Springs Golf and Racket Club (a total of 3.5 miles North of SR 78). Turn right or East and continue about 3/4 mile past the guard house. Tell the guard you are going to the BVA meeting at the Palms Restaurant. Going South on I 75, take Exit 158 and go West on Tucker's Grade a short distance to US 41. Turn left (South) and go about 11 miles to the Del Prado Extension, continue 0.5 miles past that traffic light. Sabal Springs will be on your left or East side of the highway. Free Parking is available next to the restaurant. Check with your fellow Blinded veterans, family members, and friends and make plans to join us on Saturday, November 5th in North Ft. Myers. We look forward to meeting you there.
Last year, a number of BV's made reservations but did not attend or cancel. Consequently the FRG had to pay $12 for each reservation under our guarantee. Although you only pay $5 for the lunch, this year, the FRG will pay $13 for each lunch. Consequently, the FRG subsidizes your $5 with an additional $8. If someone makes a reservation and does not come or cancel, the FRG must pay the total $13 for each reservation we guarantee. Please make your reservations and if you can't come, please call Terry King and cancel it by November 2nd.
US Legislative Up-Date: Since its inception, the BVA has worked with Congress and the VA to secure services and benefits for Blinded Veterans. Often it takes a great deal of patience and persistence to accomplish these goals. In the 1970's, the BVA began to urge the VA to establish Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialist (BROS) positions to provide a continuum of care for Blinded Veterans not available at that time. The BROS positions would be placed at VA Medical facilities which contain large numbers of Blinded Veterans in their catchment area. The BROS would provide a variety of blind rehab services in the BV's home area. Finally, in 1995, the BVA was able to obtain funding, from Congress, for 22 additional full time Visual Impairment Service Team Coordinators (VIST) positions and to establish 16 new BROS positions around the US. Two of those 16 BROS positions were allocated to Florida - Bay Pines and Gainesville. When the Blind Rehab Center opened in West Palm Beach in 2000, two additional BROS positions were included in the staffing for that facility. Last year, two additional BROS were added at the Tampa VAMC and Orlando VA Outpatient Clinic. There is still a need for additional BROS in Florida and even more in other parts of the country. As a result of that need, the BVA has been working with Congress to fund additional BROS positions. Earlier this year, Senator Salazar introduced S 1190 (The Blinded Veteran Continuum of Care Act of 2005) into the Senate. Later, Representative Michaud introduced a companion bill HR 3579 into the House of Representatives. Both S 1190 and HR 3579 would establish 75 new BROS positions around the country during the next 3 years. If funded the new BROS positions would be placed at VA facilities with full time VIST Coordinators which do not, presently, have a BROS. These BROS would significantly increase the service to Blinded Veterans in their home communities. On September 15, S 1190 was taken up by the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. Apparently the leadership in the Senate did not want to recommend the 75 BROS positions over the next 3 years. Instead, they merged S1190 into another measure S 1182 but only approved 35 new BROS positions over the next 3 years. HR 3579 has not yet been taken up by the Veterans Affairs Committee in the House. to date all of the co-sponsors on HR 3579 are Democrats. We desperately need some Republicans to sign on as co-sponsors of HR 3579. This would insure a more positive consideration by the House. If we can get the House to pass HR 3579 with the 75 new BROS positions, it would greatly help when the measure went to a Senate-House Conference Committee. Many Representatives say that they have not heard anything from their home districts regarding this legislation. Below you will find the names of Representatives in Florida who need to be contacted by BV's in their Districts. It will only take you a few minutes to call their District Office and urge them to support BROS services for Blinded Veterans by supporting HR 3579. It will make a significant difference in getting HR 3579 passed. You may get your Representative's name by calling your County Elections Office. For most of you, it is a local call to a District Office. Below you will find a list of Representatives who need to be ccalled.
Rep. Ander Crenshaw Jacksonville (904) 598-0481; Rep. ginny Brown-Waite Dade City (352) 567-6707, Brooksville (352) 799-8354; Rep. Cliff Stearns Ocala (352) 351-8777, Orange Park (904) 269-3203, Gainesville (352) 337-0003; Rep. John Mica Maitland (407) 657-8080, Deltona (386) 860-1499, Ormond Beach (386) 676-7750, St. Augustine (904) 810-5048, Palatka (386) 328-1622, Palm Coast ((386) 246-6042; Rep. Ric Keller Orlando (407) 872-1962, Eustis (888) 642-1211, Ocala (888) 642-1211; Rep. Michael Bilirakis (Palm Harbor (727) 773-2871, Tampa (813) 960-8173; Rep. C.W. Bill Young St. Petersburg (727) 893-3191, Largo (727) 581-0980; Rep. Adam Putnam Bartow (863) 534-3530; Katherine Harris Sarasota (941) 951-6643, Bradenton (941) 747-9081; Connie Mack 4th Ft. Myers (239) 322-4677, Naples (239) 774-8035; Rep. Dave Weldon Melbourne (321) 632-1776; Rep. Mark Foley Palm Beach Gardens (561) 627-6192, Port St. Lucie (772) 878-3181, Port Charlotte (941) 627-9100; Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen Miami (305) 275-1800; Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart Miami (305) 470-8555; Rep. e. Clay Shaw Ft. Lauderdale (954) 522-1800, West Palm beach (561) 832-3007; Rep. Tom Feeney Orlando (407) 208-1106, Port Orange (386) 756-9798, Titusville (321) 264-6113; Mario Diaz-Balart Miami (305) 225-6866, Naples (239) 348-1620;
It is imperative that these Representatives hear from their Constituents about HR 3579. It will only take a few minutes for you to call the Representatives District Office and urge them to support services for Blinded Veterans by supporting HR 3579.
Remember to mark your calendar for Saturday, November 5th. Bring your family members and friends to the FRG meeting in North Ft. Myers. Be sure to call Terry King or the others listed above and make your reservation before November 2nd. If you make a reservation and can't come, please call Terry and cancel by November 2nd. .
FRG - BVA Meetings
November 5 FRG Meeting Palms Restaurant Ft Myers
December 3 FRG meeting - Bill Irle's Restaurant in Clearwater
January 7 FRG meeting - Quality Inn, Ocala
Terry King FRG President
Joanne King FRG Auxiliary President
George Stocking Editor