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Editor’s Note: In an effort to digitize archived newsletters, I will be posting them, so do not feel shocked to see an outdated newsletter.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