The Heartlander Newsletter: Winter 2016

President’s Message, by Douglas Olender

I would like to invite all members of the BVA’s Heartland Regional Group and your families to join us from April 14th to 17th for our annual meeting in Branson, MO. We will be reviewing the status of the Heartland Regional Group, electing our officers and delegation to the National Convention, and enjoying learning about various items related to visual impairments from guest speakers. We secured an excellent room rate and more information may be found in the annual meeting’s announcement section. We also have started a monthly support group teleconference slated for the second Tuesday at 1100 of each month. Simply dial into our teleconference line at (866) 820-9940 to participate. More information may be found in the Talk to Us: Our Teleconference and Phone Services section.
Over the Christmas Holiday, I had the pleasure to attend the Hines Blind Rehab Center for a little refresher. Lasting 12 days, it was a great visit because I went there on the 20th of Dec, which was a great time to go because they were not a lot of people and that left the instructors more time to spend with you. I received some excellent training on the Macbook Pro and the iPhone 6S. The instructor’s knowledge of windows and Mac proved beneficial, assisting me to convert a file so we can now print or own labels. The instructor also enhanced my proficiency with the iPhone, especially with the contacts, calendar, Siri, and other features and apps. Even though some items were not on hand, I still received the training on them and received them upon returning home. In 12 days I accomplished more than I had in the last year.
Life at the Edward J. Hines Jr VA Blind Rehab Center, by Gus Adams

This was my second tour for four weeks at the Hines VA for The Visually Impaired. The training is above reproach and you will always use the lessons taught to you, whether it is the cane training or the belt you have to put together. (Everyone that has already been to Hines knows what I’m talking about). The Hine VA gave me a feeling of being worth more than I am. The instructors know more than what they receive credit for. With the Hospitalized Vets only four blocks away you can get your leather projects for free. I put together wallets, checkbook covers and other leather projects.

Annual Meeting Announcement, by Paul Mimms

The Heartland Regional Group invites you to attend our annual meeting from April 14 to 17th at the Westgate Branson Woods Resort, 2201 Roark Valley Road, Branson MO 65616. basic room rate is $59.00 plus tax per night. Each room consists of two beds, so rooms can be shared to lower the cost of this very affordable event. Pictures and additional information on the rooms might be found at:
www.wgbransonwoods.com
If you are interested in attending the annual meeting and staying for the entire event, you must make your own reservations by calling, 1(877)502-7058, and mentioning the group code, “14-576.”. The agenda for the event is as follows:

  • April 14
  • 3:00 pm Reception
  • 7:00 pm hospitality room
  • April 15
  • 8:30 Opening Ceremonies (presentation of colors, pledge, etc.)
  • 9:00 Speaker Candice Law, kC VA Optometry
  • 10:00 MO Rehab Services, Envision
  • 11:00 Wolffner Library
  • 12:00 Lunch
  • 1:00 Centers for Independent Living
  • 2:00 BVA Field Service Office
  • 2:00 Opening business meeting (nominations, bylaw update, legislative update, etc.)
  • 7:00 Hospitality room
  • April 16
  • 9:00 Tech updates
  • 10:30 Closing business meeting
  • 6:00 Banquet followed by hospitality room

More information will be provided in future newsletters and in the official announcement. Contact Paul Mimms at 816 266-1773 or paul8655@gmail.com if you have questions or comments.

Talk to Us: Our Teleconference and Phone Services, by Timothy Hornik

Heartland Regional Group Monthly Teleconference

  • When: Second Tuesday of each month
  • Time: 1100 or 11:00 Am Central Time
  • Phone Number: (866) 820-9940
  • Note: This teleconference is designed to discuss activities, actions, and ideas related to the Heartland Regional Group. It is open to everyone interested in furthering the Heartland’s Objectives.

Blinded Veterans Association’s Leadership Discussions and Training Teleconference

  • When: Second Monday of each month
  • Time: 1300 or 1:00 Pm Central Time
  • Phone Number: (866) 820-9940
  • Note: This teleconference is designed to provide leaders, perspective leaders, or those interested the BVA the opportunity to share information, provide focused training opportunities, and bring together blinded Veterans from across the country. It is open to BVA Regional Group leaders, BVA general membership, and similar interested parties.

Blind Vet Tech Monthly Tech Talk

  • When: third Thursday of each month
  • Time: 1900 or 7:00 Pm Central Time
  • Phone Number: (866) 820-9940
  • Note: This teleconference possesses three sections. Each teleconference starts with a presentation on a specific device, iOS app or feature, or other piece of technology employed by blinded Veterans. The second section is an open question and answer related to either the monthly topic or general discussion. The third section reviews technology news and related trends.

Council on Veteran Guide and Service Dog Handlers Monthly Teleconference

  • When: third Wednesday of each month
  • Time: 1100 or 11:00 Am Central Time
  • Phone Number: (866) 820-9940
  • Note: This teleconference provides blinded Veterans with or are interested in service dogs the chance to talk about service dogs, legislation impacting service dogs, using service dogs in public and at the VA, and other topics. Participants includes blinded Veterans, representatives of guide dog schools, representatives from the VA, and similar parties.>

We are pleased to offer our first method to reach us by phone. Howard Adams. has agreed to field any calls individuals might have about the Heartland Regional Group. You can reach him at the below number, which is also located on the bottom of each page:

  • (913) 730-0404

We truly hope each of you take advantage of these numerous ways to connect with your fellow blinded Veterans.

Quick Tech Tip, by Timothy Hornik

Many of us received the NLS BARD digital talking books player to enjoy the practically endless listening enjoyment of audio books. This device is free from the Library of Congress and requires little to find yourself mastering the machine. However, do you know about the Humanware Victor Reader Stream or the Hims Blaze ET? Both the Victor Reader Stream and Blaze ET allows you to download NLS BARD books straight from their servers and onto these devices, removing the need to download or wait for the mail to delivery your next books.
Even better, both The Victor Reader and Blaze ET fits into your pocket, possesses a 12-hour removable battery, and acts as a digital recorder with the push of a button. Choosing between the two depends on your needs from such a device. The Victor Reader offers a very clean and easy to navigate user interface with crystal clear voices. Its integration with popular podcast and internet radio catchers places a multitude of content at your fingertips. Differently, the Blaze ET offers a built-in camera with LED to scan documents and listen to them, color recognizer, and a FM tuner. If you are interested in learning more about these devices, contact your VIST for more information, as Blind Rehab Services have issued both.
For more about blind tech, join my team during our monthly Blind Vet Tech teleconference. If you like podcasts, subscribe to our Blind Vet Tech Quick Guides and Tutorials podcast by searching for us in your favorite podcast catcher. Finally, you can review our posts at:
http://blindnotalone.com/category/blind-vet-tech/

How the BVA Created the VIST Program, by George Stocking

Editor’s Note: the below sections come from George Stocking of the Florida Regional Group with his permission to reprint the articles. These provide an excellent summary of the BVA’s efforts to create the VIST program.

Most of us take the services and benefits for granted and are not aware of all of the work which went into bringing us these services and benefits.  Your editor was one of the 11 Blinded Veterans who took part in the pilot project which ultimately led to the establishment of the Visual Impairment Service Program.  The following relates that VIST Program History.  Most Blinded Veterans (BV’s) have had contact with their Visual Impairment Service Team (VIST) Coordinator for assistance with benefits, rehabilitation training, prosthetics and sensory aids, and independent living.  We often take this assistance for granted.  However, few BV’s are aware of how the VIST Program got started and how it has evolved.  In this article your editor will attempt to describe what led up to the VIST Program, how it started and the tremendous changes it has experienced over the last 48 years.  To lay a foundation, it is necessary to return to the beginning of the BVA in 1945.  Near the end of World War II, when BV’s began to return from overseas, Army and Air Force BV’s were sent to Valley Forge Army General Hospital in Pennsylvania and Dibble AGH in California and Navy, Marine, and Coast Guard BV’s were sent to the Philadelphia Navy Hospital.  It was at Valley Forge that Dick Hoover initiated the long cane technique of mobility.  It was also at Valley Forge that the total approach to rehabilitation was implemented.  Shortly thereafter, this process was implemented at Dibble AGH and the Philadelphia Navy Hospital.  The first step was to help the BV to get his head on straight and acquire skills to make him as independent as possible.  When BV’s were transferred to Avon Army Convalescent Hospital in Connecticut, BV’s were assisted in planning vocational training and for employment in addition to further personal adjustment training.  At that time, the VA had no specialized rehabilitation training for BV’s and did not plan to establish such programs.  It had no Blind Rehab Centers, VIST, or BROS and few prosthetics and sensory aids.  Consequently, BV’s at Avon started the BVA to advocate for services and benefits for Blinded Veterans.  Through the BVA’s efforts, President Truman signed an Executive Order in 1947 requiring the VA to establish a Blind Rehab Service (BRS) and provide Blind Rehabilitation Training.  As a result, the first Blind Rehabilitation Center (BRC) was opened at Hines VA Hospital July 4, 1948.  The training started at Valley Forge, Dibble, Philadelphia, and Avon was refined and BV’s began receiving comprehensive rehabilitation training.  When BV’s completed their training at Hines and returned home, there were no VA Staff in the various VA facilities to assist in transferring the skills learned at Hines to the BV’s community.  Unfortunately, few staff at the many VA medical facilities were aware of the BRC at Hines and many BV’s dropped through the cracks.  Further, no one at the various VA medical facilities was assigned to learn about services for BV’s and provide counseling to BV’s at the local level.  The early leaders of the BVA worked with the VA BRS to inform BV’s of the training at Hines and other rehabilitation services.  In the early 1950, the BVA applied for grants to establish a Field Service Program (FSP) to have BV’s work with other BV’s to assist in their rehabilitation.  In 1954 the first BVA FSP was started and BV’s were placed geographically and employed to assist their fellow BV’s with information, assistance with benefits, and planning for employment.  This program provided invaluable assistance to BV’s and expanded the contact with VA medical facility staff, thus expanding their knowledge about Blind Rehab and the training at Hines.  Unfortunately, the grants which permitted the BVA to operate the first FSP ran out in the late 1950’s.  The resulting reduction in contacts with BV’s made apparent that something had to be done to improve this situation.
     In the early 1960’s, the BVA and BRS leaders began to work on a plan to educate VA medical facility staff regarding the needs of BV’s and of the rehabilitation services available to them.  At that time, they contacted the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) to join in securing data to justify establishing a program in the various VA medical facilities to provide specialized services to BV’s.  Robbie Robinson, one of the early BVA FSP Representatives, was then employed as a Social Work Researcher for the AFB.  As a result, the BVA, VA, and AFB joined in a pilot research project to acquire this data.  While a BVA Field Rep, Robbie was located in Florida.  As a result, he was familiar with the VA staff and facilities at the VA Regional Office then located in the old Don Caesar Hotel in Pasa Grille.  In March 1963, 11 Florida BV’s were brought to that VARO and run through a full day of testing, medical exams, and counseling.  It was quite similar to the annual VIST review, with the exception of the younger ages of the participants, more emphasis was given to vocational training and job placement.  The results of this pilot project were used to initiate an expanded research program at 10 VA facilities around the US.  Ultimately 851 BV’s completed the research program.  In 1966, the BVA and BRS used this data to work with the VA Central Office to start the Visual Impairment Service Program.  Initially, both the BVA and BRS leaders wanted to name the program the Blinded Veteran Service program.  However, because many veterans, though legally blind, were reluctant to identify themselves as blind.  Consequently, Visual Impairment Service was selected as the name of the program.  In 1967, the VA Central Office approved the establishment of Visual Impairment Service Teams at 60 VA medical facilities around the US.  The VIS Team was composed of individuals from the various disciplines which were involved with the annual VIST Review.  The VIST Coordinator was the catalyst who made the program function.  Initially the VIST Coordinator was a part time Social Worker.  In those VA facilities where the VIST Coordinator was given plenty of time for work with BV’s, the program flourished.  However, there were too many stations where the VIST Coordinator was only given a few hours a week for Work with BV’s.  It became apparent that there needed to be full time VIST Coordinators at the VA facilities where there was a large population of BV’s.  In 1977, with the assistance of Russ Williams BRS Chief, the Florida Regional Group submitted a resolution to the BVA National Convention urging the VA to establish full time VIST Coordinators at all VA facilities with large numbers of BV’s in their area.  As a result, in 1978 the first full time Central Office funded VIST Coordinator positions were established in Seattle, San Francisco, Houston, Cleveland, Miami and New York City.  At those 6 VA facilities, there was a dramatic increase in the number of BV’s on the VIST roles and the service those BV’s received.  The BVA used that data to go to Congress and in 1981, 12 additional full times Central Office funded VIST Coordinator positions were established.  In 1982, when the BVA Government Affairs Committee net with Dr. Jacoby, Deputy Chief Medical Director, emphasis was placed on the need for additional full time VIST Coordinators.  During that meeting, Dr. Jacoby agreed to establish 36 new full time VIST Coordinator positions over the next 3 years.  As it turned out, 4 positions were added in 1982, 12 in 1983, 12 in 1984 and the remaining 8 in 1986.  Since then, The BVA continued to work with Congress and the VA to establish additional full time VIST positions.  Since then, almost all of the VIST positions established around the US were a direct result of the efforts of the BVA.  Since the VIST Program was established in 1967, there are VIST Programs at 166 VA stations, with 138 full time and 28-part time VIST Coordinators in the US.  The BVA has worked with the Congress, VA Central office, and individual VA Medical Centers and Clinics to expand the VIST program.

Editor’s Note: Mirroring these past efforts, the Heartland Regional Group continuously advocates for our VIST coordinators. Over the last five years, we successfully reinstated the full-time VIST positions at the KC VAMC and Eastern Kansas VAMC. These facilities lost their VIST due to the VAMC’s Directors and staff desire to restructure programs. We strive to work closely with all of the Kansas and Missouri VIST, promoting a cohesive partnership.

Act Now and Join the BVA and Heartland Regional Group
Thank you for reading this newsletter. If you are interested in joining or renewing your membership with the BVA, contact the National headquarters at

¥ (800) 669 7079
¥ http://bva.org/join.html

The Heartlander is edited by Timothy Hornik, LMSW, and Paul Mimms, MSW. For more information or for prior issues, visit www.BlindNotAlone.com. Without your support of the Heartland Regional Group or the Blinded Veterans Association at large, visually impaired Veterans will lose the only congressionally chartered Veterans Service Organization advocating for programs, services, and benefits for blinded Veterans. Ask yourself what can you do to assist another blinded Veteran, and not what can someone do for you.

The Heartlander Newsletter: Fall 2015

The Unofficial 70th BVA National Convention Summary, Timothy Hornik

The BVA convention transpired without controversy. Voting was limited to the election of national officers, and delegating the location of the 71st National Convention to the Board of Directors. The BVA officers consist of:
BVA National President – Robert “Dale” Stamper
Dale Stamper was elected as President without competition.
BVA National Vice President – Joe Parker
Dr. Thomas Zampieri, former BVA Legislative Director and now District 6 Director) was nominated by Paul Mimms to challenge Joe Parker. Joe Parker was declared the winner when he obtained the vast majority of the votes.
BVA National Secretary – Paul Mimms
Paul Mimms received a challenge by Pete Davis for the position, which Paul won thanks to an overwhelming majority of the votes.
BVA National Treasurer – Joe McNeil
What started as a four-way battle ended with the unopposed appointment of Joe McNeil by the time voting commenced.
Regarding the District Directors, two elections were held over the summer, and one appointment occurred. Dennis O’Connell replaced David Pat Van Long within District 1; and David Fox replaced Freddie Edwards in District 2. Both elected not to run for election, and their years of leadership and excellent counsel will be sorely missed. This leaves our District Directors as:

  • Dennis O’Connell representing District 1 on the National Board
  • David Fox representing District 2 on the National Board
  • Pete Davis representing District 3 on the National board
  • Ray Hale representing District 4 on the National Board
  • Paul Kaminsky representing District 5 on the National Board
  • Dr. Thomas Zampieri representing District 6 on the National Board.

Experiencing Operation Peer Support, by Joe Bogart

My experience was quite fulfilling at the 70th National Convention. Whether visiting with old friends or meeting new ones, I was busy engaging with OIF and OEF veterans through the Operation Peer Support Committee while also working as a liaison between the BVA and the Blinded Veterans UK. These all led to numerous exchanges with blinded veterans of all ages and eras discussing what OPS does and answering “why” on countless occasions.
The biggest question was, “Why aren’t Operation Peer Support veterans participating in the main convention activities?” Simply answered, we are. Several OIF and OEF Veterans serve as delegates from regional and state groups, as the National Sergeant of Arms, as the former Director of Legislative Affairs or many were just quietly observing the discussions and voting. Operation Peer Support is a program to bring in the OIF and OEF veterans to BVA and integrate them into the full convention. When OPS started, a handful of newly blinded veterans had a couple hours of conversation and getting to know each other, then thrown into the main convention. The main convention where bylaws were debated, issues discussed and board of directors politicked for positions.
All of this was quite overwhelming to those that were still trying to grieve for our sudden loss of eyesight and try to learn how to operate in the world. So, after a few years of young veterans not returning to the convention, things changed. We began to work a more structured approach to Operation Peer Support. We are all blinded veterans, and we need to bring in and keep the younger veterans so one day they can assume the mantle of leading and governing the BVA. So a few of us more seasoned OIF/OEF veterans began mentoring and slowly integrating the newer OIF and OEF Blinded Veterans into the convention.
We began the integration by bringing them in a day or two early, and conducted some ice-breaking activities designed to get to know one another and show them what they can still do with limited or no eyesight. This is beneficial to those that avoided travel since becoming blind. Then, as the convention officially begins, we bring them to some of the meetings and afterwards discuss what went on and answer questions. This continues throughout the convention with the new blinded veterans beginning to show a keen interest in the more in depth workings of the organization. This is where we try to ensure they are introduced to their local delegates to put faces to names, so to speak.
By the end of this last convention, each and every new OIF and OEF blinded veteran was planning to engage across the BVA and attend next year’s convention if they could afford it.
During this recent convention, we strengthened our bond with our blinded allies by hosting the last group of Blinded Veterans U.K. attending our national convention. So, we wanted to show them all there is that makes the United States great. We took them to enjoy America’s Pastime with a Triple a Minor League Baseball game. Then to the Louisville Slugger Factory and Museum, as well as the Kentucky Military History and Frazier Museums. There they learned about military history on our side of the pond while getting to correct some common mistakes regarding the United Kingdom vs England.
Not only did the British get out and about, but they actively engaged with other BVA members, speakers, and even found some new accommodations in the exhibition hall. This is where we were able to link up three Blinded Brits directly with doctors, therapists, and vendors. We also introduced the BVUK Activities Director Esther Freeman to several representatives of organizations that can improve communications, equipment and therapy techniques between the U.S. and the BVUK.
And finally, I was able to connect and converse with many other Blinded Veterans from across the country. I spent time talking with a 90-year-old World War II veteran from the North African and Sicilian campaigns, Korean War Veterans, Vietnam Veterans and those that lost their eyesight in peacetime. We exchanged a few stories, spoke of families, discussed how we were injured and of course discussed issues concerning all veterans. I found a new appreciation for my fellow Blinded Veterans as to how they embraced life and truly lived for many decades. And it reaffirmed my hope and resilience in going forward with my life and family as a Blinded Veteran.
These were some of my personal experiences at the 70th Blinded Veterans Association National Convention. I enjoyed each moment of it and look forward to the coming year working with my local group as well as next summer’s convention.

Inaugural Meeting of the Council of Veteran Guide and Service Dog Handlers, by Paul Mimms

The first meeting of a newly-created interest group, the Council on Veteran Guide and Service Dog Handlers (CVGSDH), met at the 70th BVA convention in Louisville KY on August 20.  The group has a purpose of providing advocacy, support, information and education on issues relevant to the handling of guide and service dogs by blind veterans.
At the meeting, a compilation of documents was distributed to attendees.  The information included the new policy covering access on VA property for service animals, and new revisions contained in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 
Guest presenters included Joyce Edmondson from VA Prosthetics, Welles Jones and anne Mercer from Guide Dog Foundation/America’s Vet Dogs, and a demonstration of backpack usage.  Topics covered the VA health insurance program for certified guide and service dogs, and the progressing research into training of a certified PTSD dog.
Contact Paul Mimms at paul8655@gmail.com to be added to the mail list for the group.  Access the documents distributed at the meeting at:
www.CVGSDH.org

Annual Meeting Announcement, by Paul Mimms

The Heartland Regional group of Blinded Veterans Association will be holding its annual election and business meeting as a bi-state convention in April 2016.  Here is the preliminary information on the event
Location:  Westgate Branson Woods Resort, 2201 Roark Valley Road, Branson MO 65616
Dates: April 14 to 17, 2016
basic room rate is $59.00 plus tax per night. Each room consists of two beds, so rooms can be shared to lower the cost of this very affordable event. Pictures and additional information on the rooms might be found at:
www.wgbransonwoods.com
If you are interested in attending the annual meeting and staying for the entire event, you must make your own reservations by calling, 1(877)502-7058, and mentioning the group code, “14-576.”
Our tentative schedule consists of guest speakers discussing the BVA, VA services, and technology; formal banquet; and other events to engage each of us. More specific details will be announced in future newsletters.  Contact Paul Mimms at 816 266-1773 or paul8655@gmail.com if you have questions or comments.
I

Talk to Us: Our Teleconference and Phone Services, by Timothy Hornik

Heartland Regional Group Monthly Teleconference

  • When: Second Tuesday of each month
  • Time: 1100 or 11:00 Am Central Time
  • Phone Number: (866) 820-9940
  • Note: This teleconference is designed to discuss activities, actions, and ideas related to the Heartland Regional Group. It is open to everyone interested in furthering the Heartland’s Objectives.

Blinded Veterans Association’s Leadership Discussions and Training Teleconference

  • When: Second Monday of each month
  • Time: 1300 or 1:00 Pm Central Time
  • Phone Number: (866) 820-9940
  • Note: This teleconference is designed to provide leaders, perspective leaders, or those interested the BVA the opportunity to share information, provide focused training opportunities, and bring together blinded Veterans from across the country. It is open to BVA Regional Group leaders, BVA general membership, and similar interested parties.

Blind Vet Tech Monthly Tech Talk

  • When: third Thursday of each month
  • Time: 1900 or 7:00 Pm Central Time
  • Phone Number: (866) 820-9940
  • Note: This teleconference possesses three sections. Each teleconference starts with a presentation on a specific device, iOS app or feature, or other piece of technology employed by blinded Veterans. The second section is an open question and answer related to either the monthly topic or general discussion. The third section reviews technology news and related trends.

Council on Veteran Guide and Service Dog Handlers Monthly Teleconference

  • When: third Wednesday of each month
  • Time: 1100 or 11:00 Am Central Time
  • Phone Number: (866) 820-9940
  • Note: This teleconference provides blinded Veterans with or are interested in service dogs the chance to talk about service dogs, legislation impacting service dogs, using service dogs in public and at the VA, and other topics. Participants includes blinded Veterans, representatives of guide dog schools, representatives from the VA, and similar parties.>

We are pleased to offer our first method to reach us by phone. Howard Adams. has agreed to field any calls individuals might have about the Heartland Regional Group. You can reach him at the below number, which is also located on the bottom of each page:

  • (913) 730-0404

We truly hope each of you take advantage of these numerous ways to connect with your fellow blinded Veterans.

Quick Tech Tip, by Timothy Hornik

Over the last two months Windows 10 and Apple’s iOS 9 surfaced. There is no simple answer to deciding whether to update or not. My best advice involves trusting your instincts and reading available materials on these subjects. However, some of the decisions do not reside with you. Windows 10 is only a viable option for those running the latest versions of their screen readers and magnifiers. Differently, iOS 9 is available on all iPhone 4S and newer and all iPads 2nd Generation and newer, with little risk in updating. Both of the updates offers some nice new features. Windows 10 received Cortana, a Digital Assent similar to Siri and a user experience similar to Windows 7. iOS 9 includes easier searching features and improvements to battery life and performance.
For additional information, please join me on Blind Vet Tech teleconferences mentioned earlier or visit:
http://blindnotalone.com/category/blind-vet-tech/ Thank you for reading this newsletter. If you are interested in joining or renewing your membership with the BVA, contact the National headquarters at:

  • (800) 669 7079
  • http://bva.org/join.html

Without your support of the Blinded Veterans Association here in the Heartland Regional Group or through national level activities, visually impaired Veterans will lose the only congressionally chartered Veterans Service Organization advocating and assisting with claims upon our behalf.

The Heartlander Newsletter: Summer 2015

Editor’s Note: In an effort to digitize archived newsletters, I will be posting them, so do not feel shocked to see an outdated newsletter.

Celebrating 25 Years of the Americans with disabilities Act, by Timothy Hornik

July 26th, 2015 marks the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The landmark legislation firmly stated that discrimination based on disabilities will no longer be tolerated, establishing guidelines and regulations for an inclusive and accessible world. 

The passage and revisions to the ADA demonstrates the importance for civilians and Veterans groups to unite for a common cause. When originally proposed in the 1980’s, Senator Bob Dole, a combat disabled WWII Veteran, numerous paralyzed Vietnam Veterans, and Veteran Service Organizations advocated and educated Congress and the public on the importance for comprehensive disability rights. Continuing to carry the torch, Veteran Service Organizations, like Paralyzed Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans, and the Blinded Veterans Association, unite their memberships to fight for equality for all persons with disabilities.

 

The multitude of disabled Veterans fuel these efforts, since our culture stipulates that I shall never leave a comrade behind. The National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics states that in 2013 3,743,259 Veterans possessed a military service connected disability rating. These ratings include minor conditions like scars and joint stiffness to sensory impairments and traumatic brain injuries. Nearly 1/3 of these Veterans, 1,139,815 Veterans, received a VA disability rating of 70% or more, indicating a severe disability. 

For disabled Veterans, our benefits and entitlements from the Department of Veterans Affairs do not create accessible and inclusive environments, it’s the Americans with Disabilities Act. Those benefits and entitlements are just a piece of the transitioning puzzle. The ADA protects our ability to pursue our dreams, whether in higher education, employment, or simply engaging local goods and services.


Reflections from El Dorado Lake, by Sandy Adams

On July 17, 18, 19, 2015 Howard and I attended the Annual Veterans Family Reunion held at El Dorado Lake in Kansas.  Howard used this venue as a 3-day recruiting event and information booth for the BVA. 

What an amazing week-end it turned out to be.  I have never had the opportunity to be around veterans and their families in this sort of setting.  It truly felt like family…everyone was happy to be there and so happy to see their fellow comrades.  As we started to put up our gazebo/booth, within minutes there were at least 4 fellow veterans there to offer help.  It was like that all week-end.  Someone was always at the booth talking about their experiences or just chit chatting.  They truly seemed interested in what Howard had to say and vice versa.  Howard would start the conversation by telling them why he was there.  He handed out pamphlet after pamphlet with information on the BVA and giving the person some history on the BVA and told about his personal experiences with the BVA.  No one refused a pamphlet and they listened to his “spill” with interest.   I could see from setting in the background how proud Howard is to be a part of this organization and how happy it made him to be among fellow veterans.  Howard also recruited a new member that came to the event to specifically join the BVA and meet Howard. 

We are already making plans to attend this annual event next year.  I believe all veterans and their family would enjoy it. 


Kansas Legislative Update, by Timothy Hornik

Keeping track of state level legislation helps determine how Veteran friendly our states truly are. This perception stems from what bills our elected officials introduce and fight for at the local level. Keep in mind that we are impacted more with state level actions than flashy national orders and regulations. This year Kansans witness a political system struggling with many issues, but many of the Veterans bills have already been signed into law. Here is a brief list of these new statutes. 

SB 127 honors 2nd Lieutenant Justin L Sisson, who was killed in action in June 2013 in Afghanistan, by memorializing the portion of US Highway 69 between 135th Street and continues to 167th Street in Johnson County. Lieutenant Sisson died as the result of a suicide car bomber while with 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division.

 

A second roadway honorarium was granted through HB2103. Bridge number 14(030) in Clay county is designated the Vietnam Veterans Bridge in tribute to all our Vietnam Veterans, who after 50 years, we proudly welcome home. 

HB2006 provides free parking to all Veterans with a disabled Veteran license plate at any monitored public parking lot if parked in a disabled spot throughout Kansas.

 

SB12 establishes a Veterans court system throughout Kansas. If a Veteran commits a crime, but the judge or prosecution believes that the cause for the crime stems from a behavioral health condition, like PTSD or depression; poly-trauma; or traumatic brain injury from combat, Service Member or Veteran will receive an option to undergo therapeutic treatment, instead of incarceration, similar to Veteran courts in other states.

HB2154 aides Veterans seeking higher education and employment. It accomplishes this by granting private employers the right to create a Veterans hiring preference policy to stimulate Veteran employment, and providing in-state tuition for military and Veterans living in Kansas. 

The final bill of note is to demonstrate how the legislature takes an introduced bill, guts it, and inserts the text of an unrelated action. The bill retains the number and original name as introduced, confusing anyone looking just at the surface. H Sub 112 originally enabled Service Members and/or their Dependents with a professional licensure new guidelines to apply for reciprocity or other status to continue practicing. It was gutted and substituted with a bill impacting discretions against wildlife and parks. Please note that unlike the other bills discussed with the designation of HB or SB, this bill received the identifiers H Sub to indicate a substitution. It’s important to note this as you examine or listen to news about Congress, for this is a common ploy.

 


Annual Meeting Summary, by Paul Mimms

On May 14, 2015 at the Kansas City VAMC, the Heartland Regional Group conducted the annual meeting of the membership. All members in good standing received an announcement through the newsletter and a separate mailing prior to this date. Present for this was Doug Olender, the President; Paul Mimms, Secretary/Treasurer; Gus Adams, Timothy Hornik, Danny Wallace, and Mark Wilson. 

During this meeting, three main actions unfolded. First, uncontested election of Gus Adams as the Vice President filled the void left by Tim’s resignation. Gus, Mark, and Doug were selected to represent Heartland at the 70th Annual BVA National Convention in Louisville, Kentucky. Finally, Gus received approval to pursue actions in order to establish a BVA booth at the Kansas state fair. The Heartland Regional Group’s mid-year business meeting will be hosted in Kansas during the first half of October. More information will follow.

Talk to Us: Our Teleconference and Phone Services, by Timothy Hornik

Heartland Regional Group Monthly Teleconference

  • When: Second Tuesday of each month
  • Time: 1100 or 11:00 Am Central Time
  • Phone Number: (866) 820-9940
  • Note: This teleconference is designed to discuss activities, actions, and ideas related to the Heartland Regional Group. It is open to everyone interested in furthering the Heartland’s Objectives.

Blinded Veterans Association’s Leadership Discussions and Training Teleconference

  • When: Second Monday of each month
  • Time: 1300 or 1:00 Pm Central Time
  • Phone Number: (866) 820-9940
  • Note: This teleconference is designed to provide leaders, perspective leaders, or those interested the BVA the opportunity to share information, provide focused training opportunities, and bring together blinded Veterans from across the country. It is open to BVA Regional Group leaders, BVA general membership, and similar interested parties.

Blind Vet Tech Monthly Tech Talk

  • When: third Thursday of each month
  • Time: 1900 or 7:00 Pm Central Time
  • Phone Number: (866) 820-9940
  • Note: This teleconference possesses three sections. Each teleconference starts with a presentation on a specific device, iOS app or feature, or other piece of technology employed by blinded Veterans. The second section is an open question and answer related to either the monthly topic or general discussion. The third section reviews technology news and related trends.

Council on Veteran Guide and Service Dog Handlers Monthly Teleconference

  • When: third Wednesday of each month
  • Time: 1100 or 11:00 Am Central Time
  • Phone Number: (866) 820-9940
  • Note: This teleconference provides blinded Veterans with or are interested in service dogs the chance to talk about service dogs, legislation impacting service dogs, using service dogs in public and at the VA, and other topics. Participants includes blinded Veterans, representatives of guide dog schools, representatives from the VA, and similar parties.>

We are pleased to offer our first method to reach us by phone. Howard Adams. has agreed to field any calls individuals might have about the Heartland Regional Group. You can reach him at the below number, which is also located on the bottom of each page:

  • (913) 730-0404

We truly hope each of you take advantage of these numerous methods to reach out and engage with your fellow Blinded Veterans.

BVA Changes How to Access Field Services, by Timothy Hornik

Starting September 1st, the BVA’s Field Service program will operate through a dedicated toll-free hotline and closing its offices throughout the country. The Field Service Program offers Veterans information and assistance with VA benefits and disability claims, regardless if you are a member or not. The Field Service Program Resource Center will serve as a one stop shop, and will be located at:

 

  • 1 BVA Field Service Resource Center
  • 125 N. West St, 3rd Floor
  • Alexandria, VA 22314
  • Phone: 844-250-5180 (Toll Free)
  • Fax: 202-371-8258
  • Email: fieldservice@bva.org

In an effort to bridge the geographical divide, the BVA is seeking members interested in serving as Volunteer National Service Officers at their local VA Medical Centers. Training by the BVA will commence at the 2016 BVA National Convention, and interested parties must be willing to become accredited with BVA and dedicate 1000 hours annually to help veterans with claims.

Thank you for reading this newsletter. If you are interested in joining or renewing your membership with the BVA, contact the National headquarters at

 

(800) 669 7079

http://bva.org/join.html

 

Without our membership, the BVA will not exist, and no one will advocate for us.

The Heartlander Newsletter: Spring 2015

Editor’s Note: In an effort to digitize archived newsletters, I will be posting them, so do not feel shocked to see an outdated newsletter.

VA Choice Card, by Timothy Hornik

Recently, many of you might have received a Veterans Choice Card. As part of the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2015. The Veterans Choice Card ensures Veterans possess the ability to receive healthcare services at the VA or through a partnering private provider. Accessing a private provider is restricted to those Veterans who either:

  • Live more than 40 miles from their nearest VA Medical Center,
  • Have been waiting for more than 30 days for a medical appointment or 120 days for a rehabilitation program,
  • Live in an area where you must take a boat or plane to a VA Medical Center, or
  • Live in an area where you encounter a geographical barrier to visit a VA Medical Center.

Easiest way to determine one’s eligibility stems from when they received the card. SO if you received the card in:

  • Early November 2014 are more than likely able to use the card immediately,
  • Late November 2014 most likely have been waiting more than 30 days for a VA medical appointment and have the right to use the card for said appointment with a local medical provider, or
  • Between December 2014 and February 2015 will possibly be eligible to use the card at some point in the future.

To determine your eligibility, ask a VA representative about the Veterans Choice Card, or to setup an appointment to use the Veterans Choice Card, contact a representative at (866) 606-8198.

Other eligibility requirements and notes to consider:

  • Not all providers and programs currently accept or possibly will accept the VA Choice Card
  • A VA doctor must validate the requested care
  • There may be co-pays or other monetary responsibilities Veterans must pay out of pocket
  • All Veterans who enrolled in the VA for medical care before August 2014 or any recently discharged combat Veterans will receive a Choice Card
  • The VA Choice Card cannot be used if MEDICARE or TRI-Care is being used as the primary insurance as per federal law.

For more information, visit the following links:

triwest.com/en/veteran-services/the-veterans-choice-card-benefit/frequently-asked-questions/

va.gov/opa/choiceact/

Mid-Year Business Meeting Summary, by Paul Mimms

The first mid-year meeting of the Heartland Regional Group was held on October 4, 2014, at Golden Corral in Topeka KS. Present were 5 members and 4 guests, where two members resided in Missouri, and three members resided in Kansas. The treasury is currently divided between two accounts from the merger of the Missouri and Kansas Regional Groups. Below are the current amounts the Heartland Regional Group possesses in each bank account:

  • $3283.63
  • $6,097.09
  • Total – $9370.72

The present members voted to transfer $5000.00 from the Kansas RG treasury immediately, and to transfer the remaining balance when the account for Kansas RG is closed out. As of this Newsletter, this action is still pending, due to travel barriers to Wichita by the signature card holders.

In order to conduct business, the assembled members unanimously agreed that the Executive Committee will hold regular monthly teleconference meetings on the third Thursday of each month at 1400. The phone number for this teleconference is (866) 820-9940, and will be open for public listening.
All present were in favor of investigating the possibility of hosting the BVA national Convention in the Kansas City area for 2016. This provides the Executive Committee the necessary authority to begin investigating and pursuing the bid for the 2016 National Convention with the BVA Convention Program Manager.
Applying the final touches to the merger between Kansas and Missouri BVA Regional Groups, Paul is compiling and submitting the necessary forms to establish the Heartland Regional Group as a 501 C3 Non-Profit corporation. This will provide us the ability to conduct fund raising endeavors that will be used for services and activities for Blinded Veterans here in Missouri and Kansas. The best part of this is that as we have no paid staff, or proceeds go straight towards supporting things like the regular business meetings, future fishing and other activities.

Annual Meeting Announcement, by Paul Mimms

With Spring in the air, it’s time for us to come together to conduct the annual business meeting of the Heartland Regional Group. At this meeting, we will be nominating our delegate to the 70th BVA National Convention set for Louisville, KY from August 17th to 21st. Additionally, we need to vote on a new Vice President, since Timothy Hornik had to step down due to scheduling conflicts. Our President, Doug, appointed Howard Adams of Lincoln KS, to fill this role until we have a final vote. Finally, this will be the time to bring forwards any new ideas to help reshape our Regional Group. The precise meeting details are:

  • When: May 14th
  • Time: 1100 to 1200
  • Location: Kansas City VA Medical center
  • Room: Hall of Heroes

Please note that lunch will be provided to BVA members and their guests, so we will be sending out another announcement with instructions on RSVP’ing.

Talk to Us: Our Teleconference and Phone Services, by Timothy Hornik

Heartland Regional Group Monthly Teleconference

  • When: Second Tuesday of each month
  • Time: 1100 or 11:00 Am Central Time
  • Phone Number: (866) 820-9940
  • Note: This teleconference is designed to discuss activities, actions, and ideas related to the Heartland Regional Group. It is open to everyone interested in furthering the Heartland’s Objectives.

Blinded Veterans Association’s Leadership Discussions and Training Teleconference

  • When: Second Monday of each month
  • Time: 1300 or 1:00 Pm Central Time
  • Phone Number: (866) 820-9940
  • Note: This teleconference is designed to provide leaders, perspective leaders, or those interested the BVA the opportunity to share information, provide focused training opportunities, and bring together blinded Veterans from across the country. It is open to BVA Regional Group leaders, BVA general membership, and similar interested parties.

Blind Vet Tech Monthly Tech Talk

  • When: third Thursday of each month
  • Time: 1900 or 7:00 Pm Central Time
  • Phone Number: (866) 820-9940
  • Note: This teleconference possesses three sections. Each teleconference starts with a presentation on a specific device, iOS app or feature, or other piece of technology employed by blinded Veterans. The second section is an open question and answer related to either the monthly topic or general discussion. The third section reviews technology news and related trends.

Council on Veteran Guide and Service Dog Handlers Monthly Teleconference

  • When: third Wednesday of each month
  • Time: 1100 or 11:00 Am Central Time
  • Phone Number: (866) 820-9940
  • Note: This teleconference provides blinded Veterans with or are interested in service dogs the chance to talk about service dogs, legislation impacting service dogs, using service dogs in public and at the VA, and other topics. Participants includes blinded Veterans, representatives of guide dog schools, representatives from the VA, and similar parties.>

We are pleased to offer our first method to reach us by phone. Howard Adams. has agreed to field any calls individuals might have about the Heartland Regional Group. You can reach him at the below number, which is also located on the bottom of each page:

  • (913) 730-0404

We truly hope each of you take advantage of these numerous methods to reach out and engage with your fellow Blinded Veterans.

Membership Spotlight, by Paul Mimms and Timothy Hornik

This section will feature stories about our members from our members. Our hope is to bring each of us closer together. Please contact us if you wish to be featured here, or would like to nominate someone.

This issue features Edward Reyes, who Served in the US Navy from 1964 to 1968. He served aboard USS Floyd County LST. Following his discharge, Mr. Reyes worked in electronics and later HVAC until he sustained his visual impairment from optic atrophy in 1996.

Mr. Reyes joined the BVA following his blind rehabilitation at Hines BRC in 1997. Edward Reyes has been one of the mainstays of the Missouri Regional Group since joining, and during his span of membership, has served numerous terms as Missouri Regional Group President, vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer.

Mr. Reyes is an active volunteer at the Kansas City VAMC. He also stands ready to assist the Heartland Regional Group as notified.

Equipment Reviews, by Timothy Hornik

The advent of Apple’s iOS powered iPhone revolutionized how a blind person interacts with the world. Previously, a Blind Rehab Center provided a Veteran with a different device to read labels, scan and read print materials, use the telephone, answer emails, detect light, and figure out where to go through GPS. Now, all one needs to do is take their iPhone or iPad, and either use an app to accomplish these goals or ask the digital personal assistant, Siri, a question.

While this review will not go into detail how this is possible, I encourage each of you to visit the below links or call into the Blind Vet Tech teleconference on the third Thursday of each month at 1900 at (866(673-3353 to learn more. The below link will take you to guides developed by other Blinded Veterans on how to use various functions and apps on an iOS device:

www.BlindNotAlone.com/Resources/iOS

Community Resources: by Timothy Hornik

In each of our communities, we have many different organizations and events that provides information’s and programming for Veterans, disabilities, and other themes. In this issue, I will describe the Power Up Missouri Assistive Technology and Assistive Technologies for Kansans Conferences.

Both the Power Up and Assistive Technologies for Kansans brings together technology vendors, community resources, and individuals with disabilities to learn about new and upcoming assistive technologies that helps promote independence indoor place of residence, employment, or school. Devices ranges from simple items like canes and mobility devices to complex computer systems and mobile devices. The VA, through the VIST, Blind Rehab Center, or other programs, might be able to issue many of these items, if you can articulate your need. Based on this premise, we promote these events for you to learn just how different items might benefit your life.

Power Up Missouri Assistive Technology
¥ When: April 13 to 14
¥ Location: Holiday Inn Expo Center, Columbia, MO
¥ Website: http://at.mo.gov/power-up-conference/
¥ Point of Contact: (573) 445-2965

Assistive Technology for Kansans
¥ When: September TBD
¥ Location: TBD, Wichita, KS
¥ Website: http://atk.ku.edu/events

/

Thank you for reading this newsletter. If you are interested in joining or renewing your membership with the BVA, contact the National headquarters at

 

(800) 669 7079

http://bva.org/join.html

 

Without our membership, the BVA will not exist, and no one will advocate for us.

The Heartlander Newsletter: Fall 2014

Editor’s Note: In an effort to digitize archived newsletters, I will be posting them, so do not feel shocked to see an outdated newsletter.

President’s Message, by Doug Olender

My goals as Heartland RG President are to:

  1. Visit Kansas and Missouri Area’s At least once a year.
  2. keep everyone informed.
  3. Communicate with the VIST’s to improve relationship with our Veterans.
  4. Establish a hot line to assist Veterans.
  5. Plan and organize events for Blinded Veterans.
  6. Work with Tim and Paul to accomplish things that benefits the Blinded Veterans.
  7. Involve the community in events and make them aware of how many blinded veterans are in their mist.
  8. Identify additional resources that benefits all visually impaired Veterans.

Call to Action, by Timothy Hornik

As your Vice President, it’s my intent to aid Doug and further the heartland Regional Group of the BVA. The below list represents those priorities we hope to accomplish as a regional group:

  1. Inform you the membership about changes and updates to the BVA and VA. We will accomplish this through monthly teleconferences, quarterly newsletters, bi-annual business meetings, and establishment of chapters.
  2. Serve as your voice to the BVA District Director, BVA headquarters, and our local Veterans Affairs Medical Centers.
  3. Encourage you all to volunteer with the VA or BVA. VA. Volunteering occurs in numerous capacities from talking with Veterans to helping hospital staff. BVA volunteering involves becoming chapter leaders or a volunteer claims officer.
  4. Increase active membership through activities and educating the public about being a visually impaired Veteran.
  5. Advocate for our rights and benefits at our VA’s, serve on the Volunteer Services Councils, and Establish the Heartland Regional Group within the minds of VAMC Directors.
  6. Devise other fundraising activities and priorities.

BVA National Convention Update, by Paul Mimms

The Blinded Veterans Association hosted its 69th National Convention in Sparks, NV. All three of our officers attended the majority of the various sessions, ensuring your voices impacted national events. Additionally, we each received valuable training to help lead us into the future. The following section describes that which transpired during the convention.
Election of National Officers: The incumbent officers were all elected to serve another 1-year term. They are Mark Cornell – President, Dale Stamper – Vice President, Joe Parker – Secretary, and Paul Mimms – Treasurer. It’s of note that over the next year, our District Director, Freddie Edwards’ position will be open for nominations and selection.

National By-Laws Amendments: The amendment enabling Veterans with Low Vision Acuities failed to pass. This is despite Doug and Timothy’s attempts to persuade the assembled body otherwise. Amendments to change the dues structure and/or eliminate annual memberships were also defeated. These include suggestions to provide free lifetime membership to those above a set age limit or a static amount for everyone to pay towards life membership.

Resolutions Passed: A resolution is the method for a member to direct the actions of the National headquarters staff or for the BVA to establish a policy on an issue. Resolutions submitted by Heartland members to establish and implement more accurate and inclusive diagnostic codes for diagnosis and determination of legal blindness, establish training protocols for adaptive devices, and to re-establish centralization of blind rehab services passed unanimously.

Kansas VIST Information: Blind Rehabilitation Services reported that Eastern Kansas VA Medical System has applied for a rural services grant which will fund expansion of the VIST programs at Leavenworth and Topeka VAMC’s.

Life Time Achievement Award: Paul Mimms, Secretary/Treasurer of Heartland RG and National BVA Board Treasurer, received the Major General Melvin J. Maas Award at the convention awards banquet. The Maas Award is a lifetime achievement award, and is the highest award given to a blind veteran. Paul is well desiring of this honor, through his many years as a stalwart advocate and example as a professional visually impaired Veteran.

Membership Spotlight, by Paul Mimms and Timothy Hornik

In this section, the Heartlander will feature stories and information about our members. Starting off this inaugural issue, we will feature the three individuals who comprise of the Executive Board of Directors.

President, Doug Olender,
Doug is a retired Army Chief Warrant Officer. He possesses an array of degrees and certifications in Business, and automotive repair. He served as an instructor at Central Texas College in Europe, Clover Park Technical College in Tacoma Washington, and numerous Soldiers over the course of his career. Before accepting his current position as President, he aided the Missouri Regional Group as their Secretary and Treasurer for many years.

Doug’s Army career span over 23 years. Enlisting in the Army around 1970, Doug rose to the rank of Sergeant First Class, in 1982, Started as a Private and worked his way through the ranks to Sergeant First Class and in 1982, he accepted an appointment to become a Warrant Officer, reaching CW3. His tours included Many parts of the US, Korea, Southwest Asia, and Europe. His distinctions include the Army-wide maintenance excellence award, Inspector General, volunteerism achievements, and numerous medals for service.

Doug is a native of New York. He and his wife have been married for over 40 years, with three sons and six grandchildren providing much enjoyment. Doug is a life member of the BVA and Warrant Officer association.

Vice President, Timothy Hornik
Tim is a medically retired Army officer. He received several degrees in the humanities and Social Work. He volunteers with his VIST at the Eastern Kansas VAMC, and on various other boards advocating for Veterans and disability rights.

Tim accepted his commission into the Army in 2002. Becoming blind as a result of combat actions, he remained on Active Duty for nearly 9 years.

Tim hails from Chicago, but lives in Lawrence with his wife and four-year-old daughter. He is a member of the National Association of Social Workers and The National Council on Independent Living, as well as the BVA and Military Officers Association of America.

Secretary and Treasurer, Paul Mimms
Paul is a Vietnam Veteran, having served in the Navy. He retired from the VA, after serving as a Vet Center counselor, VIST, and Blind Rehabilitation Center instructor. For the last year, he served on the National Board of Directors for the BVA, as well as President of the Missouri Regional Group.

While aboard the USS Luzerne County LST 902 in 1969, in the Mekong Delta, Paul sustained an eye¬¬ injury that left him blind in the left eye. His injury progressively deteriorated, forcing him to dramatically alter his life in in November 1984. Following completion of blind rehab training in 1986, he returned to college, earning a bachelors and Masters in Social Work.

Paul currently lives in Kansas City with his wife, with their three kids and grandchildren nearby. He is active in the Missouri Council of the Blind and local affiliates of the Missouri Council.  Besides being active in his church, he is the Veterans Service Officer at the American Legion Post 626, and volunteers at the Kansas City VAMC.

Equipment Reviews, by Timothy Hornik

Most likely many of you have heard about two products from Apple, the iPhone and the iPad. These two devices represent the leading edge in portable electronics. However, did you know that both of these also lead the way in assistive technology? I possess a little better than light perception in my remaining eye, but what if I told you I drafted these newsletters on an iPad? So these devices can be more than entertainment, but mobile business solutions.

The iPhone and iPad may serve you as a method for composing documents, sending emails, identifying barcodes, acting as a GPS, and much more. All of this in a device that either fits in your pocket or the size of a thin notebook. The VA can issue both the iPad or iPhone. The best to acquire one of these is through attendance of the CATS program at the KC VISP, Hines, or Waco BRC.

The below link will take you to a webpage containing documents and guides about various apps and guides available. Feel free to review these to garner a further understanding on how these items may benefit your life:

www.BlindNotAlone.com/Resources/iOS

Community Resources: by Timothy Hornik

In each of our communities, we have many different communities based entities that helps. In this issue, I will describe the Heartland Honor Flight and NLSTalking Books program.

The Heartland Honor Flight is an affiliate chapter of the national Honor Flight network. Their goal is to fly any World War II Veteran to the memorials in Washington DC. This occurs at no cost to the Veteran, and the Veteran can even take a family member. Recently, they opened eligibility to Korean and even some Vietnam Veterans. Any Veteran with a terminal condition automatically will be placed at the top of the list for the next flight. If this interests you, you can contact them at:

(816) 569-0266
www.heartlandHonorFlight.org

The National Library Service Talking Books program is a federally operated source of audio books. Often times, the first resource a Veteran receives is an application for entry. The Talking Books program allows one to choose from a plethora of audio books, magazines, and newspapers, at no cost. Additionally, one receives a digital player, earphones for hard of hearing folks, and the ability to request whatever they desire. Updating their service, Talking Books is now available for the iPhone and iPad, making search and reading even easier than before. For more information contact your VIST, or email the national service center at, NLSDownload@loc.gov.

Kansas Members may call (800) 362-0699 or email, KSLIB_talking_books@library.ks.gov, for more information.

Missouri members may call 800) 392-2614, or email, wolfner@sos.mo.gov, for more information.

Thank you for reading this newsletter. If you are interested in joining or renewing your membership with the BVA, contact the Director of Membership.
Alyson Alt
(202) 371-8880
Extension: 3315
http://bva.org/join.html

Without you as members, the BVA cannot fight to save these services.

Welcome to the Heartland

Welcome to the Blinded Veterans Association’s Heartland Regional Group’s website. We are an organization comprised solely of visually impaired and blinded Veterans of the US Armed Services residing in Kansas and Missouri. We are the only membership organization in Kansas and Missouri comprised of Veterans with severe sight loss related to military service, genetic predisposition, or age related onset. This honor stems from our status as an affiliated regional group of the Blinded Veterans Association, the only congressionally chartered VSO serving Veterans with severe visual impairments.

We hope you keep checking back as we continue to grow our digital presence with upcoming events, -e-newsletters, news and information alerts, and other press releases about resources, services, programs, and how you can assist a blinded Veteran. In the meantime, visit Blind Not Alone, which is maintained by one of our members.

Recapping My First Year with a Guide Dog

A selfy of Black Jack,  a Black Lab, and the Author Timothy smiling.One year ago, an energetic young black Lab stormed into my life. Immediately upon entering my dorm room at the Guide Dog Foundation’s facility, Black Jack lunged towards me, bestowing puppy kisses and licks all over my face, arms, and hands. Since then, I cannot imagine my life without him guiding me through our daily exercising routes, chasing my daughter, attending classes, and traveling throughout the country. This post will share a few of the highlights from this adventure.

When America’s Vet Dogs received my application, they faced a challenge determining if I walk fast or slow. Determining the handler’s walking style plays a significant role in the matching process, along with individual personality. Something informed them to select Black Jack, whose pace exceeded most of the other dogs. You have to understand a video of me using a cane fails to show I am actually a fast walker, a lesson everyone learned the first time Black Jack and I walked through the park. We quickly found our rhythm, a glide that forced our trainer to begin trotting to a jog just to keep up. Seeing this, the photographer just opted to wait for us to come around for his picture.

Our walking pace represents one of the key reasons why I opted to ditch the white cane for a guide dog. While my Chris Park white canes Created a level of independent travel, the tradeoff stems from the cane technique. The cane’s design and implementation forces one to tap objects for navigational cues. Differently, a guide dog does all of this just like you do when walking with sight.

This takes us to the next highlight, walking and running for leisure. Whether black Jack and I venture forth on a simple 3-mile loop hike in the park, or jog down a familiar trail, I have not experienced this much fun exercising since losing my sight. We have marked out everything from a quick mile loop to a complex six-mile jaunt through neighborhoods. Instead of relying on a ride to visit friends or family, we prefer to walk across town, often arriving much faster than waiting for a cab, ride, or bus. Even better yet, Black Jack inspired me to pick up distance running. These are all things I skipped out on with the white cane due to frustrations with sidewalks, routes, and obstacles. If I had to guess, we logged over 1,000 miles together.

While mostly positive, we have had our share of downsides. Employing a guide dog requires one to learn how to properly implement its training to achieve ones independence. The Guide Dog Foundation immediately sent a trainer of my house for additional home lessons. The trainer corrected my actions and provided some additional tips and tricks for operating in my neighborhoods. After all, Kansas is slightly different than Long Island. I am now happy to announce we have been mostly problem free since then, minus approaching large banks of doors with undergraduate students buzzing in and out of and not paying attention to the adorable black guide dog attached to the middle-aged dude trying to grab a coffee from the KU Union.

Thank you America’s Vet Dogs and the Guide Dog Foundation for introducing Black Jack and I. Thank you to the trainers, Jodi and Maria, for teaching me how to properly handle Black Jack. Thank you to the wonderful family from Fort Bragg who raised black Jack as a puppy and taught him how to be a part of a family. Thank you Black Jack for your willingness to be my partner in guide wherever we go.