BLINDED VETERANS ASSOCIATION
Chartered by the United States Congress

FLORIDA REGIONAL GROUP
3801 Coco Grove Avenue
Miami, Florida 33133
(305) 446-8008
email
gstocking@bellsouth.net
FRGBVA web site:  frgbva.org
FRG Newsletter January 2017

Blinded Veterans Association Florida Regional Group Official Website

     Editor's Note:  This Newsletter is being written in early December in order for you to receive it in early January, after the holidays.  As we continue after the Holiday Season, on behalf of the Florida Regional Group, I would like to extend best wishes to you and your family that you all had a Most Merry Holiday Season and a Happy and Prosperous New Year.   As we continue into 2017, let us work cooperatively to provide services and independence to Blinded Veterans within the Florida Regional Group. 

      FRG President's Message: Here we are again, approaching our second largest FRG District Informational luncheon.  Only the March 4, 2017 Informational Meeting in Ft. Lauderdale will take place before our 2017 history making annual convention.  The Ocala and Tampa luncheons are by far the largest turn out of Blinded Veterans (BV’s).  This can be attributed to the VIST Coordinators in those areas who send notices to BV’s in their areas, prior to the meetings.  They send out letters about the meetings to BV’s in their areas.  Next year, I am proposing that we ask our other VIST Coordinators to also send out a notice of the upcoming Informational Luncheons taking place in their respective areas.  When the number of persons attending drops below 50, it is almost impossible to work out a luncheon with a restaurant or hotel.  We are looking forward to seeing you all at the Tampa FRG Informational Meeting on February 4, 2017 and I think that we will have a larger group than last year.  Changing points to the 2017 Annual FRG Convention April 27-30, 2017.  Later in January, I will list the banquet menus for the two Banquets on February 27 and 29, in conjunction with our 2017 FRG Annual Convention at the Florida Hotel and Conference Center in Orlando.  The catering department requires that we provide a definite count by April 13, 2017.  Consequently those who plan to attend the two Banquets must select their entree before that date.  Your menu selection ticket will be placed in your Convention Packet you pick up the afternoon of April 27.  Only those who send their Convention registration fee and select their entree will be able to attend the two Banquets.  The Banquets will cost the FRG more than $100, consequently, we are requiring a registration fee of $50 for each person attending the Banquets.  Please send your registration fee to George Stocking at 3801 Coco Grove Avenue, Miami, Florida 33133.  You may also make your menu selection by contacting George at the same address or by calling (305) 446-8008 or e mail gstocking@bellsouth.net.  At this point, the most important item is to make your hotel reservation by calling 1 (800) 588-4656 and give the reservation staff your credit card number.  Be sure to tell the reservation staff that you will be attending the Blinded Veterans Association-Florida Regional Group Convention.  In that way you will get the low special Convention rates arranged by the BVA-FRG.

      In June 2016, I included in my President’s message a list of items to be considered during this year.  Below are some of the possible changes to be considered:  1 The FRG Annual Convention should be decided each year at the Annual Convention for the following year with the alternative of moving the Convention periodically.  2 District Directors should be put in charge of setting up and conducting the District Informational Luncheon Meetings.  3 Consideration might be given for a voting process to get more BV’s involved.  This point could become mute if our Annual Conventions started involving a much large attendance.  4 the position of Secretary- Treasurer might be separated into 2 positions. This will require a By-Law change which will be considered at the 2017 FRG Annual Convention.  5 A credit card system might be established, Thereby allowing Informational Luncheons to be paid by telephone.  6 A more liberal systems of expenses for Officers and Directors who have to travel long distances to attend their District Informational Luncheons.  This has been solved temporarily by providing expenses for Directors who must travel more than 100 miles one way to attend the Informational Meeting in their District.  7 Our Annual FRG Convention should encompass 3 days.  This could allow one day for tours.  Our 2017 FRG Convention has been set up for three days.  See you in Tampa on February 4.  Terry King FRG President.  (941) 505-7747 e mail tnking18@earthlink.net.                      

      FRG Meeting Notice:  The next meeting of the Florida Regional Group will be held on Saturday February 4, 2017 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. 2. grilled Boneless Breast of Chicken topped with a rich Spanish Amontillado  Baked Cherry Mushroom Sauce 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.

     FRG President Terry King 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 Annual Convention at the Florida Hotel and Conference Center in Orlando in April will be discussed.  Last year, we broke a record for attendance at a FRG meeting in the Tampa area.  Please come join us and let’s try to break that record again this year.  

      The restaurant has asked us to notify them as to the number who will be attending and the type of luncheon desired by January 31.  Please make your reservations prior to that date by writing to President Terry King at 24243 Pirate Harbor Blvd., Punta Gorda, Florida 33955 or call (941) 505-7747, e mail tnking18@earthlink.net.  You may also call Tampa VIST Coordinators Cathy Rodgers at: (813)903-2414 or Bill Wilson at: 813) 903-2442.  In Lakeland call Gigi Mathis at: (863) 255-9275.  In Tampa, You may call Paul Mendoza at (813) 830-3083.    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 0.3 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 straight onto I-4 and travel 0.7 mile to exit 1 ramp,travel 0.5 mile on the ramp road to 21stSt. turn right onto 21st and travel 0.3 mile to 7th Ave., turn left onto 7th Ave.,the Restaurant is on the right, parking is across the street.  Although you only pay $5 for the luncheon, the FRG will pay $20 for each meal guaranteed.  If you make a reservation and can't come, please contact one of those listed above and cancel your reservation before January 31.  In that way the FRG will not pay for unused meals.

      National Legislative Up-Date:  As this Newsletter is being written, Congress is about to recess from its post-election session.  It is anticipated that congress will pass another Continuing Resolution to keep the government in operating funds into 2017.  The Senate requested the CR be extended until April 2017 in order to act on confirmation proceedings on the President’s new cabinet appointments and any urgent legislation requests from the new administration.  During this lame duck session, one piece of legislation was passed by both the Senate and House of Representatives which was HR 8471 the Veteran Mobility Safety Act, which put in place comprehensive standards in an effort to improve the quality and safety of mobility equipment used by disabled veterans.  The bill also contained provisions aimed at improving of hearing aid service for veterans seeking treatment at VA Healthcare facilities.  The number of veterans seeking treatment for hearing loss continues to grow.  This bill is intended to reduce wait time for those seeking service by qualified specialists.  In addition, provisions are being considered to improve access to certain survivor claims without a formal application when sufficient evidence of the survivor’s entitlement is available to the Department of Veterans Affairs.  Included in the bill are burial benefits, disability pension and Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) for the survivors of deceased veterans or veterans who are classified as permanently disabled.  Current law requires survivors of veterans to file formal claims and undergo a lengthy review process to receive  benefits when this information is already available within the Veterans Benefits Administration.  Within a year of enactment, the bill would require the DVA to report to Congress the number and types of claims adjudicated and awarded during the preceding year and recommendations for improving the adjudication process.  The bill would also modify the VA’s authority to enter into contracts with private physicians to conduct medical disability exams.  It would allow private physicians with current unrestricted licenses to conduct disability exams.  Although the time to process claims for DVA benefits has improved in recent years, there needs to be more timely processing of such claims.  The time for processing appeals is still too lengthy.  A number of other legislative measures brought before Congress during its last session will probably have to be reintroduced after Congress reconvenes in January.  Watch for legislative matters in future FRG ewsletters and BVA Bulletins.                          

     BVA Field Service Program (FST):  For over 40 years, the BVA has operated a Field Service Program to assist Blinded Veterans with claims for benefits with the Department of Veterans Affairs.  The FSP Officers have also provided assistance with services from other organizations, such as the Social Security Administration.  During most of this time, FSP Officers have been stationed geographically around the country providing services to BV’s in a number of states.  For example, FSP services for BV’s in Florida were handled by a FSP Officer in Atlanta.    During this time, BV’s wishing to contact the FSP Officer by telephone had to call the Atlanta VA Regional Office and then ask for the BVA Office.  Since the BVA moved its offices to Alexandria, Virginia, it has explored other alternatives in providing service to BV’s around the country.  Recently, the FSP program has been consolidated.  All of the FSP Officers are now located in the BVA National Office and a toll free number is now available for the Field Service Program.  It is 1(844) 250-5180.   There are FSP Officers on duty from 7 AM to 6 PM eastern time, Monday through Friday.  BV’s desiring to contact the FSP Officers by e mail can send it to fieldservice@bva.org.  The BVA National Office is located at    125 N. West Street (3 Floor), Alexandria, Virginia 22314

      FRG Scholarship Program:  For a number of years, the FRG has offered two scholarships for the spouse or children of Blinded veterans within the Florida Regional Group.  The FRG will offer two $2000 scholarships for the 2017-2018 academic year.  Later this month, letters will go out to all Members and Associate Members of the Florida Regional Group asking for applicants for the 2017-2018 academic year.  These scholarships will be available to the spouses and/or children of Blinded Veterans residing within the Florida Regional Group area.  At present, grand children are not eligible.  In order to qualify for the scholarships Applicants must complete the scholarship packet in its entirety, including the application, academic transcripts, reference letters, supplementary information, and an essay regarding the applicant’s vocational or educational goals.  Watch for the announcement later this month.  For information, contact George Stocking, FRG Secretary-Treasurer at   3801 Coco Grove Avenue, Miami, Florida 33133, telephone (305) 446-8008 email gstocking@bellsouth.net.    The application packet must be completed in its entirety to qualify and must be received by the FRG by April 15, 2017.

      Meeting Reminder:  Let’s make the February 4 FRG Informational Meeting a record attendance for the Tampa area.  Get a group of your fellow BV’s together and join us at the Columbia Restaurant in Tampa on February 4, 2017.  If you make a reservation and can’t come, call Terry King or one of those listed above and cancel before January 31 so the FRG will not have to pay for  meals guaranteed but not used.   

     
FRG-BVA Meeting Schedule

 February 4, 2017     FRG meeting at the Columbia Restaurant in   Tampa
March 4                     FRG Meeting Tropical Acres Steakhouse in Ft. Lauderdale.
April 27-30, 2017     FRG Annual Convention Florida Hotel in Orlando.

 

                     FRG Newsletter Staff

Terry King                                          FRG President 
George Stocking                                FRG Newsletter editor