Editor's Note:  This Newsletter is being written in early December in order for you to receive it in early January, after the holidays.  On behalf of the Florida Regional Group, I would like to extend best wishes to you and your family for you to have a Most Merry Holiday Season and a Happy and Prosperous New Year.   As we continue into 2018, let us work cooperatively together to provide services and independence to Blinded Veterans within the Florida Regional Group. 

FRG President’s Message: This message will emphasize the importance for planning for the next few months.  This is particularly important for Blinded Veterans (BV’s) who may participate in the FRG Annual Convention May 3, 4, &5, 2018.  Again this year, the FRG Annual Convention will be held at the Florida Hotel and Conference Center, 1500 Sand Lake Road, Orlando, Florida 32809.       The Florida Hotel is ranked in the top 20 out of 331 Orlando Hotels by Trip Advisor.    It is important that BV’s make their hotel reservations early, to guarantee your space.  It also may permit the FRG to get additional rooms in our room block.  To make your reservations, call the reservation department (800) 588-4656(note:  This 800 reservation number is available from 8 AM to 9 PM week days and 9 AM to 5 PM weekends).  Be sure to notify the hotel Reservation Department that you are making reservations for the Florida Regional Group-Blinded Veterans Association Convention, in order to get the $119 special room rate.  The FRG will provide a $20 per night subsidy during the three days of the Convention for members of the FRG.  Thus FRG members may attend the Convention for only $99 per day.  To get the $20 subsidy, a FRG member must make reservations at the hotel and send their registration fee to George Stocking on or before March 1, 2018. 

Next, here is how you register with the FRG-BVA for the two Banquet (Thursday and Saturday evenings) and Hospitality Room activities.  These activities are included in the $50 per person registration fee.  Send your Convention registration fee to George Stocking, for the Banquets and Hospitality Room:  Send a check or money order for $50 for each person attending to George Stocking, 3801 Coco Grove Avenue, Miami, Florida 33133.  Since we are having two Banquets, you must select an entree for each Banquet.  You may have the same entree for each Banquet or change.  However, you must select your entree when you send your registration fee to George Stocking or by calling   George Stocking at (305) 446-8008 or e mail gstocking@bellsouth.net.  There are three menu selections, chicken, beef, and a vegetarian selection.  Here are your three dinner choices:  Filet of Beef 6oz Filet, pan seared and finished with a touch of Blue Cheese. Served with Roasted Shallots and finished with a Cabernet Sauce Served with Saffron Flavored Orzo;  Chicken Wellington Breast of Chicken filled with a Mushroom Duxelle, Foie Gras and wrapped freein Puff Pastry. Served with a Perigodine Sauce; The beef and chicken come with Caesar’s Salad, starch, and vegetable; Grilled Vegetable Napoleon Fresh Grilled Vegetables, Pesto Portobello Mushrooms and Balsamic Glaze.  All three entrees come with rolls and butter, regular coffee, decaf coffee, and ice tea.    For dessert true New York cheese cake.   

The FRG is having a drawing for FRG-BVA members on March 1, 2018.   This drawing will give a FRG-BVA member a free room at the Annual FRG Convention (May 3, 4, and 5, 2018). Don’t forget in order to be eligible for the drawing, first you must be a FRG member and you must make reservations at the hotel and send your registration fee to the FRG on or before March 1, 2018.
   Here is the latest on the Choice Program:  Officials from the largest federal workers union slammed Veterans Affairs officials’ new health care reform plan as “a total dismantling of the department” that would jeopardize veteran’s services. “It’s taking resources out of VA and shifting them into the private sector,” said J. David Cox Sr., national president of the American Federation of Government Employees. “It’s vouchering veterans’ health care.” The comments less than a day after the formal unveiling of the new Coordinated Access & Rewarding Experiences (Vets CARE) Act, proposed by VA leaders as a way to increase patient access to physicians through expanded appointments outside the department’s system.  In a statement, VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin said the new plan puts veterans at the center of all health care plans, instead of bureaucrats. “We want veterans to work with their VA physicians to make informed decisions that are best for their clinical needs, whether in the VA or in the community,” he said “This bill does just that, while strengthening VA services at the same time.” The Vets CARE program would replace the three-year-old Veterans Choice program, which allows veterans to seek private sector care at government expense if they face a 30-day wait for a department appointment or a 40-mile trek to the nearest department facility.  Under the new plan - which still needs congressional approval - those options would open to any veteran who faces a wait longer than “a clinically acceptable period.”  VA officials could also be able to authorize outside care for a variety of other reasons, and make it easier for private-sector doctors to get reimbursed for veteran’s walk-in care. On 17 OCT, officials from the American Legion offered general support for the reforms, saying they are in favor of making VA health care options “more efficient, transparent, and effective.” But AFGE leaders attacked the proposal, labeling it another effort to slowly undermine and destroy the VA system. “We’re seeing a constant push to expand ‘choice’ at VA, against veterans wishes”,” Cox said. “This is another attempt to dismantle VA from the inside out. It’s appalling, and it has to stop now.”  AFGE has been a frequent critic of President Donald Trump’s veteran’s policies, including legislation he signed into law this summer which made it easier to fire VA workers. In recent weeks, those arguments have centered around the idea that Trump appointees are working to privatize VA health care, an accusation Shulkin has repeatedly refuted. Cox - whose group represents about 250,000 VA employees - said instead of opting for an expensive expansion of outside care programs, lawmakers should back plans to reinvest in existing VA facilities and more carefully rely on private-sector doctors for specialties the federal workforce lacks. Shulkin’s vision has instead been focused on offering an expanded network of VA and community physicians. Conservatives on Capitol Hill have backed that idea, with similar promises that they aren’t looking to pull away resources from the department.  Will Fischer, director of government relations for Vote Vets, called that approach “death by a thousand cuts.” Their group, which has close ties to the Democratic Party, is working with AFGE to campaign against the new plan.  “They’re promising not to privatize VA, but their actions and words don’t match up,” he said. “Each time one of these vouchers is issued, its money that is leaving the VA system.” House lawmakers are expected to review the plan and their own health care reform proposals at a Capitol Hill hearing next Tuesday.  Meanwhile, officials from Concerned Veterans for America - which AFGE attacked in a press call Tuesday as pro-privatization, Republican activists - called the Vets CARE proposal a good start to the debate over VA’s future. “There is room for improvement,” said Dan Caldwell, policy director for the group. “One important modification that we believe should be made is that a veteran should be able to choose a primary care physician inside or outside of the Veterans Health Administration within the integrated care network.”  “This reform would be an important step towards fulfilling President Trump’s promise to increase health care choice for our veterans.”  

-Terry King, FRG President (941) 505-7747 e mail tnking18@earthlink.net   

   National Legislative Update:  As previously reported, Dr. David Shulkin, Secretary of Veterans Affairs has said the Veterans Health Administration will not be privatized under his watch.   However, three members of the House of Representatives, none of whom are on the House Veterans Affairs Committee have introduced legislation to privatize the VHA.  The bills have been referred to at least five Committees Including the Veterans Affairs Committee, Armed Services Committee, and Ways and Means Committee for consideration.  The Veterans Service organizations are mobilizing in opposition to this bill.  At the writing of this Newsletter, it has not been introduced into the Senate.  There are many services available through the VA Health Care System that do not exist in the private sector.  This is particularly true for Blind Veterans and Paralyzed Veterans. Watch for further news about this legislation in future FRG BVA publications .         

     FRG Central West Director’s Message:  I joined the BVA after completing training at the Blind Rehab Center in West Palm Beach, Where I received training with the Apple voice-over system along with everyday life skills. My visual impairment meets the legal description of blindness but I am considered high functioning, which is a fancy term meaning “I can’t sit still”.  I am a small business owner and have used my past experience and the skills I have gained to operate my business.  At the FRG Annual Convention at the Florida Hotel in Orlando in April I was elected Central West District Director.  Since my election I’ve found it’s been a learning experience to work with such an organization and the great leadership of The Florida Regional Group. . My goal besides helping blind veterans, is to improve and update my districts form of communication. This is a priority since it has been a challenge to reach some of the veterans due to change of email or phone numbers. If I have not reached you and you are part of the Central West District (Hillsborough, Pasco, & Pinellas) feel free to reach me via email at pere0608@gmail,com or by phone at 813-486-4817, please leave your name and a way to reach you in return, if I am unable to answer right away.  I look forward to hearing from you.  Try to join us at the FRG Informational meeting at the Columbia Restaurant in Tampa on February 3.  Carlos Pere’, Central West District Director.    

    *FRG Meeting Notice:   The next meeting of the Florida Regional Group will be held on Saturday February 3, 2018 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 Chorizo in 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.  Come join us at the Columbia Restaurant in Tampa and help beat last year’s record attendance. 




    fFRG President Terry King will preside at the Informational Meeting following lunch.  A national legislative up-date will be provided.   Representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs 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 early May 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 29.  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 Tampa, You may call Central West FRG District Director Carlos Pere at (813) 486-4817, e mail pere0608@gmail.com.    In Lakeland call Gigi Mathis at: (863) 255-9275.    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 21st St. 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 $25 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 29.  In that way the FRG will not pay for unused meals.

    FRG Meeting Schedule

February 3, 2018                FRG meeting at the Columbia Restaurant in   Tampa

March 10, 2018                FRG Meeting Tropical Acres Steakhouse in Ft. Lauderdale.

May 3-6, 2018                 FRG Annual Convention Florida Hotel in Orlando.

-FRG Newsletter Staff

Terry King                              FRG President 
Carlos Pere’                    FRG Central West Director
George Stocking                FRG Newsletter Editor

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 2018

Blinded Veterans Association Florida Regional Group Official Website