Opening Business Session Highlights Early Convention Events


We will continue to find new and better ways to improve the quality of life for blinded veterans,” said VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki as he offered keynote remarks at the BVA 66th National Convention in Las Vegas August 17.

Speaking at the gathering’s Opening Business Session, Secretary Shinseki referred specifically to recent progress by both VA and the Department of Defense (DoD) in coordinating services to those who have lost their vision either during or after service to their country.

Two new permanent office facilities of the joint DoD/VA Center of Excellence, he said, will be in operation by September 30. A pilot application of the joint Defense and Veterans Eye Injury and Registry will also be tested this fall.


Blinded veteran Edgar Penaloza, Oregon Columbia Regional Group, confers in BVA Exhibit Hall about low vision simulators with Marshall Flax, a Certified Low Vision Specialist and owner of Fork in the Road Vision Rehabilitation Services, LLC
Blinded veteran Edgar Penaloza, Oregon Columbia Regional Group, confers in BVA Exhibit Hall about low vision simulators with Marshall Flax,
a Certified Low Vision Specialist and owner of Fork in the Road Vision Rehabilitation Services, LLC

“Since 2009, VA has also established 35 new Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialist (BROS) positions to serve veterans in their homes and communities,” he reported. “We’ve hired 11 new Visual Impairment Service Team (VIST) Coordinators and provided funding to ensure that every VA Blind Rehabilitation Center has a full-time psychologist or creative arts therapist on staff.”

The BVA convention has registered a total 193 blinded veterans and an additional 220 family members, friends, exhibitors, presenters. The organization’s Operation Peer Support initiative is hosting 17 recently blinded service members and veterans at the convention this year, including three special guests from the British Forces.

Left to right following a heart-stopping 45-mile-per-hour leap from the Las Vegas Stratosphere, BVA National Secretary Mark Cornell, Director of District 6 Roy Young, British Operation Peer Support participant Rob Long, and Northern Arizona Regional Group member Michael Kanitsch.
Left to right following a heart-stopping 45-mile-per-hour leap from the Las Vegas Stratosphere, BVA National Secretary Mark Cornell, Director of District 6 Roy Young,
British Operation Peer Support participant Rob Long, and Northern Arizona Regional Group member Michael Kanitsch.


​ Other highlights of the first two days of the gathering included a first-ever caregiver panel discussion, two large rooms filled with high-tech exhibits, the usual training seminars for Operation Peer Support participants, the traditional President’s Reception and dinner, the Bylaws and Resolutions Committee meeting, and a Wednesday evening open invitation to sky jump the equivalent of 108 stories in 17 seconds from the top of Las Vegas’ renowned Stratosphere.