Project Gemini Offers Binding Link to Veterans of Two Nations (4/5/2017) 
   Project Gemini Offers Binding Link to Veterans of Two Nations

Project Gemini Offers Binding Link to Veterans of Two Nations


A joint initiative of the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) and Blind Veterans UK has again brought together veterans with vision loss from the United States and the United Kingdom. The occasion is this week’s exchange in Washington, DC in recognition of the centennial anniversary of World War I.

Now in its seventh year and known as Project Gemini for the transatlantic cable that connects the two countries and continents, the week of activities in the Nation’s Capital has included educational forums, key federal agency site meetings with leaders of such agencies, and visits with U.S. vision rehabilitation experts, eye trauma specialists, researchers, and Department of Defense (DoD) specialty leadership.

The group today visits Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in nearby Bethesda, Maryland, where the veterans will meet with the Director of the joint Department of Defense/Department of Veterans Affairs Vision Center of Excellence and the Chief of Ophthalmology. They will also visit the Military Amputee Treatment Center and the National Intrepid Center of Excellence within Walter Reed.

“The goal of this DC exchange is much like the ones we have experienced in England and then in Chicago last year,” said BVA Government Relations Committee Chairman Major Tom Zampieri (Ret.) and annual coordinator of the exchanges. “We learn from one another and share best practices in the area of blind rehabilitation, war eye injury management, and current vision research advances so that our participants can be prepared to share them with officials in their home countries.”

The Wednesday activities later in the day include visits to each of the Washington, DC war memorials with special emphasis on the present-day, lesser known World War I Memorial.

Zampieri stressed the importance of the program in fostering mutual respect and understanding between the two allied nations as participants establish new friendships, share knowledge of blind and visually impaired rehabilitation services, and exchange insights and personal experiences regarding their own adjustment to blindness. The dynamics have been created this week as participants recognize the historical significance of World War I and the subsequent beginnings of blind rehabilitation programs in both countries.

U.S. blinded veteran participants are BVA National President and Vietnam War veteran Dale Stamper of Hayden, Idaho; Gulf War era veteran Monaca Gilmore of Rocky Mount, North Carolina; Gulf War I and II veteran Bryan Corcoran of Dayton, Ohio; and Vietnam era veteran Tom Zampieri of Pearland, Texas.

Participating from the United Kingdom are Blind Veterans UK President Colin Williamson and Royal Navy veterans Steven Birkin and Sue Eyles. Alan Walker, an Army veteran who served in the Falkland Islands War in 1982, will also make the trip along with Blind Veterans UK Director of Research and Innovations Dr. Renata Gomes.

The group’s activities continue throughout the week, culminating in a Friday evening farewell dinner.


 BVA Announces Affiliate Memberships (4/4/2017) 
   BVA Announces Affiliate Memberships

BVA Announces Affiliate Memberships


Alexandria, VA (April 04, 2017)—The Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) today announced the addition of a series of new membership types across the spectrum of the organization’s current and future stakeholders.

The categories added, which are effective immediately, include individuals and organizations that offer rehabilitation services, technology, and other types of support to veterans with vision loss. The memberships are categorized under three major affiliate names: Veterans and First Responders Affiliate, Occupational Affiliate, and Organizational Affiliate.

“The addition of these new categories will allow BVA to expand its outreach far beyond what it has been previously,” said Executive Director Al Avina. “We are confident that these additions will also increase public awareness of America’s blinded veterans and strengthen our networks of support across the country.”

Affiliate members will receive the Association’s bi-monthly publication, the BVA Bulletin, as well as the monthly e-newsletter and regular legislative updates. They can register for the annual national convention at the regular membership rate.

For additional information on how to become an affiliate member, visit bva.org.


 Blinded Veterans To Present Annual Congressional Testimony (3/20/2017) 
   Blinded Veterans To Present Annual Congressional Testimony

Blinded Veterans To Present Annual Congressional Testimony


Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) National President Dale Stamper will join representatives of seven other Military and Veterans Service Organizations at the witness table at a joint hearing of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees scheduled for March 22 in the Nation’s Capital.

The annual hearing, originating this year from Room 50 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building, will be streamed live at veterans.senate.gov beginning at 10 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

Stamper and officials from the Jewish War Veterans, Fleet Reserve Association, Air Force Sergeants Association, Military Order of the Purple Heart, American Ex-Prisoners of War Organization, The Enlisted Association, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, and Military Officers Association of America will each outline their respective organizations’ legislative priorities for the upcoming fiscal year. Their oral testimony will be limited to approximately five minutes.

A question and answer session moderated by Committee Chairmen Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Phil Roe (R-TN) and Ranking Members Jon Tester (D-MT) and Tim Walz (D-MN) will follow the oral remarks.

In addition, each participating organization submitted in advance for the Congressional Record a much longer and detailed written testimony document that will be accessible at veterans.senate.gov soon after the hearing.

Already in town for the Association’s annual early spring meetings, the National Board of Directors will also attend the hearing.

Priorities for national legislation included in this year’s BVA testimony are the modernization of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) information technology and communications infrastructures to become more accessible to veterans with vision loss. Also included is a request for improved access to information about prescription drugs for blinded veterans; funding for research into the prevention, diagnosis, or treatment of penetrating eye blast injuries; and greater oversight of efforts to more fully establish the joint VA-Department of Defense Vision Center of Excellence.

Now in its 72nd year of service, BVA is the only Veterans Service Organization chartered by the U.S. Congress (1958) to represent the needs of blind and visually veterans. For more information about BVA and its services, call toll-free 800-669-7079 or visit bva.org


 American and British Blinded Veterans To Unite in Commemoration of World War I (3/20/2017) 
   Blinded Veterans To Present Annual Congressional Testimony

American and British Blinded Veterans To Unite in Commemoration of World War I


A joint initiative of the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) and Blind Veterans UK will once again bring together veterans with vision loss from the United States and the United Kingdom. The occasion will be an April 2-8 exchange in Washington, DC in recognition of the centennial anniversary of World War I.

Now in its seventh year and known as Project Gemini for the transatlantic cable that connects the two countries and continents, the week of activities in the Nation’s Capital will include educational forums, key federal agency site meetings with leaders of such agencies, and visits with U.S. vision rehabilitation experts, eye trauma specialists, researchers, and Department of Defense (DoD) specialty leadership.

“The goal of this April exchange is much like the ones we have already experienced in England,” said BVA Government Relations Committee Chairman Major Tom Zampieri (Ret.) and annual coordinator of the exchanges. “We hope to learn from one another and share best practices in the area of blind rehabilitation, war eye injury management, and current vision research advances so that our participants can be prepared to share them with officials in their home countries.”

Zampieri also emphasized the importance of the program in fostering mutual respect and understanding between the two allied nations as participants establish new friendships, share knowledge of blind and visually impaired rehabilitation services, and exchange insights and personal experiences regarding their own adjustment to blindness. This year, he says, it will happen as blinded veterans recognize the historical significance of World War I and the subsequent beginnings of blind rehabilitation programs.

U.S. blinded veteran participants are BVA National President and Vietnam War veteran Dale Stamper of Hayden, Idaho; Gulf War era veteran Monaca Gilmore of Rocky Mount, North Carolina; Gulf War I and II veteran Bryan Corcoran of Dayton, Ohio; and Vietnam era veteran Tom Zampieri of Pearland, Texas.

Participating from the United Kingdom are Blind Veterans UK President Colin Williamson and Royal Navy veterans Steven Birkin and Sue Eyles. Alan Walker, an Army veteran who served in the Falkland Islands War in 1982, will also make the trip along with Blind Veterans UK Director of Research and Innovations Dr. Renata Gomes.

The program includes April 3 tours of Arlington National Cemetery, the Pentagon, and various other national memorials. The entourage will then be treated to the tactile tour of the U.S. Capitol and the British Embassy on April 4 followed by meetings at the renowned Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, on April 5 with the Director of the joint DoD/Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Vision Center Excellence and Chief Ophthalmology. On April 6, the groups from the two countries will meet with senior leaders and program directors at the VA Central Office on the official 100th anniversary of U.S. Expeditionary Forces’ entry into World War I. On April 7 there will be a tour of the National Museum of Health and Medicine and two educational sessions, one on the history of World War I injuries and the other on modern Traumatic Brain Injury caused by blast concussions-shell shock. The week will also include instruction in and practice of kayaking skills courtesy of Team River Runner.

Travel expenses for the British participants were made possible by an American Embassy London exchange grant related to the centennial commemoration of World War I. Team River Runner will supply local van transportation with Montgomery Police Department vans throughout the week. The American Academy of Ophthalmology has also supported Project Gemini through a grant to BVA’s Operation Peer Support program, which provides a pool from which Project Gemini participants are selected to participate.

Retired Army Ranger and Police Officer Joe Amerling will travel to Washington from Georgia to serve as a volunteer for the group. Amerling provided a similar service last June during Project Gemini’s week in Chicago. He has enlisted the involvement of the Fraternal Order of Prince George’s County Police and Montgomery County Police, both located in Maryland.

BVA and Blind Veterans UK together established Project Gemini in May 2011. Each year four U.S. blinded veterans are hosted at the Blind Veterans UK facility in Brighton, England, with four of their counterparts in the UK. Project Gemini seeks to raise public awareness of the issues facing war veterans with vision loss and help them individually to discover opportunities for their lives after blindness. On March 24 of this year, Project Gemini was recognized in the UK with the “Soldiering On Award 2017” in the International Category. The award acknowledges the outstanding achievements of those who have served their country. It also recognizes individuals and groups who successfully work together with the Armed Forces community in the United Kingdom.

“The vital relationship BVA has developed with Blind Veterans UK has blossomed to the point that our activities and opportunities continue to broaden and multiply,” Zampieri said. “Our week in DC is one more such opportunity to share knowledge and experience about blind rehabilitation services, vision trauma care, blast concussions and research, as we strengthen our relationship with veterans from the United Kingdom.”

Blind Veterans UK is a national charity, now 102 years of age, working on behalf of visually impaired ex-servicemen. Tracing its founding back to June 1915 in World War I, the organization now offers free and comprehensive support to all UK blinded veterans. For additional information, visit blindveterans.org.uk.

BVA’s earliest beginnings occurred March 28, 1945 when a group of World War II blinded servicemen convened in a formal meeting at Avon Old Farms Convalescent Hospital near Avon, Connecticut, for the purpose of establishing the Association. For more information, visit bva.org.


 BVA Initiative to Open Doors to Veteran Communication, Public Awareness (3/6/2017) 
   BVA Initiative to Open Doors to Veteran Communication, Public Awareness

BVA Initiative to Open Doors to Veteran Communication, Public Awareness


The Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) has launched blog.bvamedia.net as part of a national initiative to increase awareness among veterans and the general public about the organization itself and to empower and instill hope in blinded veterans during their personal quests to meet the challenges of vision loss.

The content of the blog emphasizes the services and benefits available to veterans through federal and local entities, communicated through personal success stories about BVA members and their families, information about current and pending legislation, and calendar items of upcoming BVA events.

A highlight of the new site is a previously untapped opportunity to produce podcasts, share BVA’s existing public relations efforts more effectively with its members, and utilize other digital communication methods in disseminating such news.

Throughout BVA’s 72-year-history, the ability to communicate with the blinded veteran community was at first limited to written communication and limited audio through phonographic records and audiocassettes sometime later.

The Internet has dramatically increased the number of accessible and inexpensive methods for individuals to interact and share information. Having already embraced social media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn, BVA formed an internal public relations committee in August 2016 in an effort to expand communication efforts through Podcasts and streaming Internet radio channels.

The launch of blog.bvamedia.net is among the first in a series of actions that have become part of the initiative. For more information, visit blog.bvamedia.net.


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