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FRG Newsletter October 2017

Blinded Veterans Association Florida Regional Group Official Website

FRG President’s Message:  As we look ahead to the 2018 FRG Annual Convention, the FRG Bboard of Directors have voted to assist Members and Associate Members of the FRG by providing a subsidy of $20 for each of the three days of the Convention, May 3, 4 ,  and 5, 2018.  Again in 2018, the FRG Annual Convention will be held at the Florida Hotel and Conference Center in Orlando.  Details have been worked out to reduce the room rates from last year’s rate of $119, plus tax, to only $99, plus tax. This room rate is only for FRG members, and you must state that you are a blinded veteran when making reservations at the hotel. The $99 per room rate is only for the three days of the convention.  If you are staying more than the three days of the convention, then the room rate will be $119, plus tax, for those additional days.  This rate is, of course, still a very good rate for a hotel that is rated to be in the top 20 hotels out of 339 located in Orlando.  The actual days of the FRG convention this year is May 3, 4, and 5, 2018.  Note, your credit card will indicate $119, plus tax, but you will only pay $99, plus tax, when you check out of the hotel for the three days of the convention.  I shall be keeping every one up to date on the particulars of the upcoming FRG convention as we move along from newsletter to newsletter.  Note:  Later in this Newsletter, you  will find the announcement for the November 4 FRG Meeting in North Ft. Myers, please join us.  FRG President - Terry King, (941) 505-7747 email

     The Spirit of the BVA:  Notwithstanding differences that exist within the Blinded Veterans Association, (BVA), there is a bond of shared need and purpose.  The loss of vision is a game changer.  As others have before me, I had to learn to eat without vision.  Eating is by no means the most difficult task a person that has lost their vision will confront, but hunger is a great motivator   for adapting to changed circumstances.  Adapting methods is part of adjusting to one’s reality. The happier, the more healthy individuals are individuals that are trying to adjust to the change circumstances of their lives.  Supporting and encouraging that adjustment to a healthier attitude is at the heart of what BVA is about.  When BVA supports and encourages blinded veterans to regain as much of the independence as possible, we help them, as others have helped us adjust to the loss of vision.  Blinded veterans that have and are adjusting to changes in their lives at the same time they are adjusting to the loss of vision face a daunting challenge.  As difficult a challenge as that may be, one’s options are limited.  Having to learn one’s ABC’s as an adult seems a Hugh step backward, at the same time one is gaining literacy in the only way possible for individuals without vision.  

          In order to serve the needs of blinded veterans, BVA members and staff must remain true to our purpose of “blinded veterans helping blinded veterans.”  BVA’s membership; Officers; Board of Directors; and staff have all come together for this purpose.  We should not allow ourselves to be distracted away from serving those needs that brought us together.  Mike Taylor, FRG Past President

     National Legislative Up-Date:  Congress has passed a Continuing Resolution (CR), to fund the government after September 30, the end of FY 2017, through December.  At that time, they will either pass another CR or decide upon the appropriations for the remainder of FY 2018.  Congress and the Administration have decided to continue the Veterans Choice Program through December.  In looking for a place funding could be reduced to pay for this extension, Congress and The Administration considered changing the process which provides compensation at the 100% rate for service connected veterans who receive that 100% rate due to individual unemployability.  Many years ago, SC Compensation at the 100% rate was provided to   SC veterans who were considered unemployable due to their SC disability.  The benefit required that the veteran be rated at 60% for one SC disability or a combined rating of 70%, if at least one of those ratings was 40% or more.  The 100% rate of compensation was paid because they were considered unemployable due to their SC disabilities.  Initially, the individual unemployability 100% rate of compensation ended when the veteran reached the retirement age for Social Security.  Later, when there was concern about age discrimination, the BVA and other Veterans Service Organizations worked with Congress to have age eliminated as criteria for reducing the 100% rating for individual unemployability. Since then, disabled veterans who otherwise qualified for the 100% SC rating for individual unemployability would continue receiving that compensation rating, regardless of their age or SS status.  When a return to the old procedure was proposed, the Veterans Service Organizations went to Congress.  As a result, DVA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin's has announced that the funding to continue the Veterans Choice Program will be found elsewhere.  Dr. Shulkin said that it became clear that this would be hurting some veterans and would amount to a takeaway from veterans who can't afford to have those benefits eliminated.   

     Recently, Senator Johnny Isakson, Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, announced that his Senate Committee confirmed three high officials to join Dr. David Shulkin at the top of the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA).  Tom Bowman was confirmed as Under Secretary of the DVA, the second man in the DVA.  Also confirmed was Brooks Tucker as Assistance Secretary for Congressional and Legislative Affairs and James Byrne as Chief Counsel of the DVA.

     Congress has passed a change in the regulations governing the new GI Bill training.  For the first time since the GI Bill training was first established in 1944, there will be no time limit for post 9-11 veterans to use their GI Bill training eligibility.  This does not change the number of months of training to which the veteran is eligible, it just gives them an unlimited period of time to use that eligibility.           

     Exhibitors BVA Convention August 2017:  On August 15 & 16, I visited the exhibit hall at the BVA National Convention at the Hyatt Regency, in Jacksonville, where I found many different vendors that, by virtue of being all in one place and ready to explain their respective products made

it easy for a gadget lover like me to stay current of technological advantages.  Thus, I greatly enjoyed chatting with representatives of technology I already use, such as reminiscing with Charles at the VFO booth, which had been with Ted Hinter when Henter-Joyce introduced JAWS-For-Windows; learning from the ORCAM people that version 8 of the software is imminent and the improvements it will bring, even that it will be available in Spanish.  I talked to the people of My Healthy Vet, APH, NLS and many others whose products or services from which I already benefit.  Perhaps the most interesting part however, is touching, trying out, learning about new products, some I had no idea existed, others I had heard or read about but had not had the opportunity to touch, experiment, and try out.  In the first category I learned there is a product very similar to the Mini-Guide, which, is a sonar-based hand-held gadget that vibrates when you point it at something and the sonar waves bounce back, with higher intensity the closer you get to the object that makes the waves bounce.  This new tool works similarly, but has the advantage that you can clip it to your clothing thus leaving your hands free, the range can be adjusted to 1, 2 or 3 meters, does not seem to reach farther as does the Mini-Guide.  It is something useful if you are in a desolate area, in order to find in which direction a building lies. In the latter category, there were two products I knew about but had not touched or tried.  The first one is a contraption that you put in your mouth, connected to a small device that you put on your belt, which is in turn connected to a camera on your glasses.  When you look at an object, the sensor on your tongue vibrates in the same shape as the object; for instance, if you are looking at a circular object, you will feel a circular vibration in your tongue; if an object crosses from left to right in front of you, it will give you the sensation on your tongue of something moving from left to right.  Something even more interesting was the demonstration of AIRA.  I knew about it, but there, I actually had the opportunity to try it out.  If you are not familiar with AIRA, it is a service wherein a live person describes through the telephone what you are looking at; a person of whom you can ask questions, chat with, a person that, I am sure, will make you feel secure, even if like me, you are totally blind, when you get off a Uber at a place new to you.  They in fact, have an arrangement with Uber, the will call a car for you, tell you when it approaches, help you with your surroundings when you get out of it.  AIRA is presently negotiating with the VA to make the service available to veterans for $29 per month for 400 minutes of use, according to the very nice girl that demonstrated it for me, something that surprised me, for I thought it was for only 200 minutes.  They also offer unlimited service, but it is expensive.  Without a doubt, despite all the aforementioned gratifying experiences, the best part of attending these events is human networking, meeting people one knows only virtually, talking again with friends.  I met The VIST and BROS in the Gainesville VAMC catchment area, where I receive my VIST & BROS services. I also met others with whom I have met in the past.  In summary, although this was a National BVA Convention and therefor larger than what we have locally, I wish to encourage each and every veteran to keep in touch with the BVA-FRG visit the exhibitors at the FRG Annual Convention,  and its various activities, their respective VIST and BROS, to attend support groups whenever possible, to do everything reasonably within their reach, in order to stay current with the geometric progression of changes, innovations and discoveries that make our lives easier and more productive.  It is our responsibility, since we are fortunate enough to have lost our eyesight as adults, to adapt to new circumstances, use all new technology available to us and remain productive members of society, even in our retirement.  Humberto Rodriguez

     FRG Meeting Notice:  The next Informational Meeting of the Florida Regional Group will be held on Saturday, November 4, 2017 at "Capt'n Fishbone" Restaurant in the Shell Factory, 2787 Tamiami Trail in North Ft. Myers.  The meeting will begin with a period of socializing at 11:30 AM, followed by lunch at noon.  For lunch, you may select from the following three entries: Half Roasted Chicken, or Broiled Fish with Lemon Caper Sauce, either with Baked Potato, or Pot Roast with Mashed Potatoes, either of the 3 with Green Beans Almandine, Toss Salad, Rolls & Butter, Iced Tea or Coffee, and dessert. The cost of the luncheon 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 presented.  Representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs will be on hand to provide information of interest to BV's and their families.  FRG activities for the coming months will be reviewed.  This is your opportunity to make suggestions and recommendations regarding the FRG activities.  


     The restaurant has asked us to notify them as to the number who will be attending and the type of luncheon desired by November 1.  Please make your reservations prior to that date by calling FRG President Terry King at: (941) 505-7747, e mail or Southwest district Director Anna Clarke  at: (239) 789-6708 e mail  You may also call Bob Walczak in Port Charlotte at: (920) 246-6830, e mail; In Punta Gorda call Bill Stockslager 

at (941) 276-1561, e mail; John Thomas, St. James City,(239)  283-1708; Joseph Taylor Cape Coral (239) 823-0744; Laurie Charles Cape Coral VIST Coordinator (239) 652-1800 ex 20828.  The restaurant needs the reservation information in order to prepare properly for our meeting.  

     To get to Capt'n Fishbone Restaurant, go North on I 75 to Exit 143, then   Go West on Bay Shore (State Road 78) 6.3 miles to "Old" US 41.  Turn right (North) about 1.5 miles to the "Shell Factory, which will be on the west side of Old US 41.  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 13 miles to the Shell Factory.  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 4 in North Ft. Myers. 

     Last year, a number of BV's made reservations but did not attend or cancel.  Consequently the FRG had to pay for each reservation under our guarantee.  Although you only pay $5 for the lunch, the FRG will pay over $20 for each meal guaranteed if you make a reservation and can't come, please call Terry King at (941) 505-7747, and cancel by October 30, so the FRG won't have to pay for meals ordered but not used.  Get a group of your fellow BV’s together on Saturday, November 4 and join us in North Ft. Myers for an interesting, informative, and enjoyable afternoon.      

           FRG Meeting Schedule

November 4             FRG Meeting Cap'n Fishbone Restaurant in North Ft. Myers
January 6                 FRG Meeting at the Hilton in Ocala 
February 3                FRG Meeting Columbia Restaurant in Tampa 
March10                    FRG Meeting Tropical Acres Steakhouse in Ft. Lauderdale
May 3-6                     FRG Annual Convention Florida Hotel in Orlando 

Newsletter Staff               

Terry King                                         FRG President
Mike Taylor                                       FRG Past President
Humberto Rodriguez                          North Florida BV Jaws instructor.
George Stocking                                 Newsletter Editor

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