Blinded Veterans Association Florida Regional Group Official Website

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 March 2018

  FRG President’s Message:  Time is getting short, that’s right.  By the time you read this newsletter you will have about 24 days to register for the grand drawing on March 1, 2018 for the three room nights at the Florida Hotel and Conference Center, for the annual FRG convention May 3, 4, and the 5th, 2018.  The winner will be announced at the first dinner banquet on Thursday evening, May 3rd.  Our first convention in Orlando last year was a great success, and this year’s it’s shaping up to be one of the largest FRG convention ever.  We already have 18 venders, and that is 7 more than last year, and we plan on having more, as we are making arrangements to have a larger room for the venders.  Our hospitality room will be the same even with twice the number of veterans attending there is still plenty of room for more tables. 

   Also like last year there will be coffee and snacks throughout the duration of the convention.  After each banquet the bar will be opened, and remain open until around 10:30 PM.  On Friday evening there will be a pizza party along with other snack items, and an open bar.  This year we have come up with what we think is an improved banquet dinner menus.  Like last year there are three menu selections, chicken, beef, and a vegetarian selection.  Dinner Selections All Plated Dinner Entrees include: Salad, Freshly Baked Rolls and Sweet Butter, Freshly Brewed Coffee, Decaf, Ice Tea, and Pecan Pie for Dessert.  Entrees:  The first two entrees include a Starch and Vegetables.  Seared Breast of Chicken served with Capers and a Lemon Wine Reduction; Grilled Flank Steak served with Mushroom Sauce.  Napoleon Vegetarian: Portobello Mushroom filled with Fresh Grilled Vegetables and drizzled Balsamic Glaze.

   The Florida Hotel and Conference Center is located at 1500 Sand Lake Road, Orlando FL 32809; Ph: 407-859-1500. They are currently ranked in the top 20 out of 331 Hotels on Trip Advisor.  The FRG will provide a $20 subsidy for each of the three days of the Convention (May 3, 4, & 5 for Members and Associate Members of the FRG.  When you made reservations with the hotel the nightly room rate will show, $119 plus tax, but when you check out you will only be charged $99 plus tax per night for those 3 nights. This special room rate is only available to FRG Members and Associate Members.  For those that may come before the convention the special FRG rate of $119 plus tax will be available during the following period: April 17 - Monday, May 7, 2018 except for the 3 convention days for the FRG Members and Associate Members.  Those 3 days the rate is only $99 plus tax. The cutoff date for making reservations at the hotel is April 13, 2018.  After that date, accommodations will be only on a space available basis at the regular FRG-BVA hotel rate of $119 plus tax.  Here is how you make reservations with the hotel and register with George Stocking:  Make your reservations for the Florida Hotel and Conference Center:  By calling the reservation department (800) 588-4656(note:  This 800 reservation number is available from 8 AM to 9 PM weekdays and   9 AM to 5 PM weekends. Make sure that you are making reservations for the Florida Regional Group-Blinded Veterans Association Convention. To register for the convention banquets just send your Convention registration fee to George Stocking, for the two Banquets:  Just send a check or money order for $50 for each person attending to George Stocking, 3801 Coco Grove Avenue, Miami, Florida 33133.  Make all checks payable to the Florida Regional Group- Blinded Veterans Association.  The Three dinner menus are also included in the $50.00 per person registration. 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 email gstocking@bellsouth.net.  FYI although you only pay $50 per person to register, the two Banquets will cost the FRG from $105.66 to $115.50 for the 2 Banquets. 
   Before ending this president’s message, just to recap once again a few of the attractions this upcoming convention will have two dinner banquets, one pizza party night on Friday, 18 venders, a hospitality room that will even surpass last year’s momentous event, and the business is to be broken up into to short meetings like last year. Yes, and once again this year there is to be a drawing for a three night free for the winner. To qualify you must make reservations at the hotel and register with George Stocking on or before March 1, 2018. The winner shall be announced at the first banquet on Thursday evening. The convention as you may have heard from those who attended last year was a blast.  We had more venders than ever before with their updated wares, very interesting speakers but most of all was our hospitality room that was open most of the time with laughter, friendship, and just plain fun.  Don’t forget the hotel is attached to the large Florida Mall, where the spouses and friends of the veterans can shop to their heart’s content.  Come and see for yourself and it will be the beginning of many more. Informative and fun conventions, and it is in one of the nicest hotels in Orlando Florida.  FRG President Terry King (941) 505-7747 e mail tnking18@earthlink.net  

Service Connected Compensation, Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, NSC Pension

     The VA has announced the 2% Cost of living increase for SC Comp, DIC, and NSC Pension for 2018.  It became effective December 1,, 2017 and should have appeared in your checks received in January 2018.  Before and during World War II the maximum comp rate was 100%.  Following WW II the BVA, PVA, and DAV felt that the 100% rate did not adequately compensate veterans with very severe SC disabilities.  They got Congress to established Special Monthly Compensation (SMC) above the 100% rate.  Thus the SMC rates for paragraph L thru O were established.  Half step rates were established for combinations of the above rates.  Paragraph N is the highest comp a BV can receive for blindness alone.  To receive a higher rate, a totally blind BV must have other disabilities rated at 50%-100% or more.  In 1959 veterans whose S.C disabilities warranted even higher ratings, paragraph R 1 & r 2 were established.  R 1 is paid for veterans whose disabilities cause the vet significant limitations.  R 2 is paid to vets who need continual medical treatment to remain at home.

Service Connected Disability Compensation
10% $ 136.24 20% $ 269.30 30%  $  417.15 40%  $  600.90 50%  $ 600.90 60%  $1083.52, 70%  $1365.48 80%  $1587.25 90%  $ 1783.68 100% $2973.87 L   $3700.43 L.5 $3891.72  M $4083.79    M.5 $4364.38 N $4645.60 N.5 $4918.87  OP  5192.68 R 1 $7419.88 R  2 $8510.79
   In addition to the rates above, a veteran rated at 30% to 100% and SMC may receive a dependent allowance for a spouse and/or dependent children.       The amounts listed below are for a veteran rated at 100% or SMC.  Veterans rated from 30% to 90% would be that percentage times the rates listed.
   

Vet with spouse $165.81; with 1 child $287.24; 2 children $369.62; $82.38 for each additional child;

Vet no spouse 1 child $110.89; with two children $193.27; each additional child $82.38.

In 1959, Congress established DIC for the Spouse and dependent children of the individuals killed on active duty or who died as a direct result of conditions incurred on active duty.  At that time, the BVA began working with Congress to extend DIC to the survivors of 100% SC disabled veterans.  Later the PVA joined with the BVA in this endeavor.  In 1978, Congress extended DIC to 100% service connected veterans whose 100% rating had existed for 10 years, 5 years if continually following discharge.  Initially, DIC was paid according to rank.  In 1992, Congress eliminated rank as the criteria for DIC.  Now there are two levels of DIC.  The lower level is for the dependents of a veteran who was married less than 8 years at the time of his/her death and the higher amount for the survivors of veterans married more than 8 years.  Lower level $1283.11    higher level $  1555.57 monthly. The monthly amount for dependent children under age 18,  317.87 and over 18 if still in school, $269.30.

Non Service Connected Disability Pension-
Following WW I veterans tried to get a general pension for those who served during that conflict.  A general pension was never established.  In the 1930, a small pension was established for veterans of WW I who were disable and unable to work.   Following WW II, the BVA, PVA, and DAV got Congress to establish three levels of NSC Pension.  Basic pension i.e. a veteran whose vision met the description of legal blindness (20/200 or a 20degree field of vision; House Bound - vision less than legal blindness or who had other disabilities; Aid and Attendance Allowance Vision 5/200 or a 5 degree field or less.  Although higher than previously, other family income did not affect the veteran’s pension.  In 1979, the pension amounts were significantly increased.  However since then all household income what-so-ever would reduce the veterans’ NSC pension.     This includes, but not limited to, salary, SSA, interest, dividends, return on investments, etc.  Below are the NSC annual pension rates for 2018.

Basic Pension     $13166 one dependent $17241 each additional child $2250

House Bound       $16089 spouse $20166 each additional $2250.  

Aid & Attendance $21196 spouse 26036 each child $2250     

   Remember, the amounts above will be reduced for all household income.  

   Florida Total Homestead Tax Reminder:  It's that time of year, when we remind BV's of two 

Total Homestead Tax Exemption Statutes available to qualified individuals in Florida. This may be old news to some of you. However, we have many Blinded Veterans move into Florida each year and with Florida's older population, many veterans lose their vision each year. Consequently, we are including this information. The Florida Regional Group worked many years to obtain and improve these benefits.  If you qualify, take your documentation to your local Tax Appraiser before March 1. FS 196.081:   This statute provides total Homestead Tax Exemption to 100% SC veterans. The exemption has no income limitation. In the event of the veteran's death, the exemption is continued to the surviving spouse, as long as he or she does not remarry. In the past the spouse would have to remain in the same home to continue the exemption. Several years ago, the FRG secured an amendment to the statute to permit the surviving spouse to keep the exemption on that home or a different home as long as the new home is assessed at the same or a lower amount. To qualify for this exemption, obtain a statement from the VA Regional Office certifying that you are a 100%SC veteran and take it to your County Tax Assessor before March 1.  If you have previously obtained this total exemption, it will be automatically renewed each year.  If you have qualified for FS 196.081 in the past and have not received notification of the renewal contact your County Tax Appraiser's Office before March 1, 2018.  FS 196.101:  This statute provides a Total Homestead Tax Exemption to certain individuals who are restricted to a wheelchair for mobility or who are legally blind. Initially, this statute has an income limitation of $8200 annually. On several occasions, the FRG returned to the Florida Legislature to get that limitation raised due to inflation. Finally, about

 20 years ago, the FR G succeeded in getting an annual increase equivalent to the Consumer Price Index (CPI). In 2017 this Exemption had a total household income limitation of $28115 for 2017. 

 At the writing of this Newsletter, the Florida Department of Revenue has not determined if there will be an increase for 2018. Contact your County Tax Appraiser's Office for information. To

qualify for FS 196.101, obtain a statement from two Florida licensed Ophthalmologists or

Optometrists or from the VA stating that you are legally blind. Take those statements to your

County Tax Appraiser's Office before March 1.  You will be required to certify your income annually, to keep the Tax Exemption under FS 196.101.

   FRG Meeting Notice: The Southeast District Informational meeting of the Florida Regional Group will be held on Saturday, March 10, 2018 at the Tropical Acres Steakhouse, 2500 Griffin Road, in! Ft. Lauderdale (Dania Beach). The meeting will begin at 11:30 AM, with a period of socializing, followed by lunch at noon. For lunch, you may select from Sliced Sirloin of Beef or Stuffed Breast of Chicken and Salad, mashed Potato, Vegetables, Rolls and Butter, Iced Tea or Coffee, and Black Forest Cake.  The price of the lunch will be $5 per person, including tax and tip. Beer, wine, and mixed drinks will be available at an additional charge.  FRG President Terry King will preside at an informational meeting following lunch. A national legislative up-date will be provided. Plans for the FRG Annual Convention at the Florida Hotel in Orlando May 3-5, 2018, will be discussed.  VA Representatives will provide information about services and benefits of interest to Blinded Veterans and their families. Other FRG-BVA activities will be presented.  The restaurant has asked us to notify them as to the number who will be attending and the type of meal desired by March 6.

    Please make your reservations prior to that date, by calling to SE Director Jim McCoy at: (954) 748-9428, e mail jmccoy@att.net; or in Miami George Stocking at: (305) 446-8008 email gstocking@bellsouth.net. In addition, you may call the following VIST Coordinators  Wendy Griand, Miami, at (305) 575-7000 ex 1-3607, April Barnes, Broward VA Outpatient Clinic, at: (954) 625-8730, or John Getz West Palm Beach VAMC VIST, at: (561) 422-8645.  Please be sure to make your reservations before March 6, as the  restaurant needs this information in order to plan properly for our meeting. Wendy Briand and John Getz are attempting to arrange transportation to the meeting from the Miami VAMC and West Palm Beach VAMC. This transportation will leave from the Miami VAMC and West Palm Beach VAMC. If you need such transportation, contact Wendy or John, as soon as possible.

To get to the Tropical Acres Steakhouse, take I 95 or the Turnpike North or South to Griffin Road.

From I 95 go west a half mile or from the Turnpike go east about 3 miles. The Tropical Acres is on the south side of Griffin Road. Parking is available adjacent to the restaurant. Please mark March 10 on your calendar and make plans to join us for an enjoyable and interesting afternoon. Although the cost of the lunch is only $5 to you, the FRG will pay $19.95 for each meal guaranteed. If you make a reservation and can't come, please call one of the individuals above and cancel before March 6.

FRG Meeting Schedule:
March 10            FRG Meeting Tropical Acres Steakhouse Ft. Lauderdale
May 3-5             FRG Convention Florida Hotel & Conference Center Orlando 

Newsletter Staff  :  Terry King President

George Stocking Editor