Editor’s Note: In an effort to digitize archived newsletters, I will be posting them, so do not feel shocked to see an outdated newsletter.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:
- Visit Kansas and Missouri Area’s At least once a year.
- keep everyone informed.
- Communicate with the VIST’s to improve relationship with our Veterans.
- Establish a hot line to assist Veterans.
- Plan and organize events for Blinded Veterans.
- Work with Tim and Paul to accomplish things that benefits the Blinded Veterans.
- Involve the community in events and make them aware of how many blinded veterans are in their mist.
- 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:
- 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.
- Serve as your voice to the BVA District Director, BVA headquarters, and our local Veterans Affairs Medical Centers.
- 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.
- Increase active membership through activities and educating the public about being a visually impaired Veteran.
- 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.
- 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:
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:
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, firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.
Without you as members, the BVA cannot fight to save these services.