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.
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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.