VA Response to 62nd National Convention Resolutions

 

RESOLUTIONS ADOPTED BY

THE BLINDED VETERANS ASSOCIATION

 62ND NATIONAL CONVENTION
ON AUGUST 18, 2007 IN ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO, AND THE DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS RESPONSES THERETO

 

RESOLUTION 2-07

BE IT RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association, in convention assembled in Albuquerque, New Mexico on this 18th day of August, 2007, hereby strongly urges the Department of Veterans Affairs to take prompt, positive action to provide funding for Full-Time Coordinators of all remaining VIS Teams presently not so funded in the Department of Veterans Affairs and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Director of Blind Rehabilitation Service, Department of Veterans Affairs Headquarters, should concur in the selection, placement and assignment of staff personnel filling the positions of VIS Team Coordinators.

VA Comment

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) concurs.  Funding has been provided to increase 9 Veterans Impairment Service Team (VIST) Coordinators from part-time to full time and to fund additional VIST Coordinators at two sites.  The locations for these increases are:

Asheville, NC
Columbia, MO
Daytona Beach, FL
Honolulu, HI
Mountain Home, TN
Pensacola, FL
Ponce, PR
Reno, NV
Salem, VA
Tulsa, OK
Youngstown, OH

 

RESOLUTION 5-07

BE IT RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association, in convention assembled in Albuquerque, New Mexico on this 18th day of August, 2007, urges DVA to insure that all visually-impaired and blind employees have reasonable accommodations, including necessary training on essential access technology

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that DVA establish an aggressive outreach program to hire more disabled individuals, especially disabled veterans.

VA Comment

All of VA’s 3,439 permanent employees with targeted disabilities are guaranteed reasonable accommodation with regard to employment, under section 504 of the rehabilitation act of 1973.  The Department has had a reasonable accommodation process in place since May 2002 (VA Directive 5975.1, Processing Reasonable Accommodations Request from Employees and Applicants).  Through the Department’s partnership with the Department of Defenses’ Computer and Electronic Accommodation Program, VA employees, several of whom are blind, received a total of $315,741 worth of accommodations in calendar year 2007.  During the first quarter of calendar year 2008, VA employees received an additional $210,247 worth of accommodations.  VA continues to work diligently to fulfill the accommodation requests of blind veterans, as well as others with disabilities (as required by law).

Resolutions Adopted by the Blinded Veterans Association at the 60th National Convention held on August 14-19, 2007 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

 

RESOLUTION 7-07

BE IT RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association, in convention assembled in Albuquerque, New Mexico on this 18th day of August, 2007, that these veterans shall not be innocent victims of indiscriminate budget-cutting efforts by attempting to change the method for service-connected compensation for injury or disease to performance of duty

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the current line of duty approach shall remain as the standard applied to veterans’ claims.

VA Comment

VA administers the disability compensation program in accordance with the laws passed by Congress.  There has been significant discussion in recent years about the nature and composition of benefits for disabled veterans, and VA has contracted for a study of compensation for earnings loss, quality of life impairment and transition.  However, VA has not proposed legislation that would tie service connection only to actual duty performance.

VA supports the finding of the Veterans Disability Benefits Commission that there should be no change to the current standard regarding line of duty. 


Resolutions Adopted by the Blinded Veterans Association at the 60th National Convention held on August 14-19, 2007 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

 

RESOLUTION 11-07

BE IT RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association, in convention assembled in Albuquerque, New Mexico on this 18th day of August, 2007, strongly urge the Veterans Health Administration and Congress to do the following:

Instruct Blind Rehab Service to formulate and implement an organized method of researching and testing new technological innovations in the field of Blindness Rehabilitation using actual blinded veterans as part of the test for the viability of training and issuance of the new devices to blinded veterans.  The testing procedure should include review of usage of new technology by agencies and organizations dealing with sight loss outside the Department of Veterans Affairs,

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the VHA explore partnering with the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) Technology Center in Huntington West Virginia to achieve the goals outlined in this resolution.

VA Comment 

VA concurs.  A technology workgroup has been convened to evaluate technology as a part of the strategic planning for Blind Rehabilitation Service (BRS).  The Director of BRS has recommended that the Rehabilitation Research and Development Center on Vision Loss and Aging at the Atlanta VAMC partner with the AFB Technology Center, this partnership has resulted in a funded, merit reviewed project now shared between the two research organizations.

 

RESOLUTION 17-07

BE IT RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association, in convention assembled in Albuquerque, New Mexico on this 18th day of August, 2007, strongly request that VA make every effort to recruit qualified individuals with backgrounds in blind rehabilitation for the positions of management in a blind rehabilitation center. VA is encouraged to give special consideration to qualified blinded veterans for these positions, as they would serve as excellent role models.

VA Comment
  
VA concurs.  Every effort will continue to be made to recruit individuals who are appropriately credentialed to provide specialized services for blind and visually impaired veterans. 

 

RESOLUTION 18-07

BE IT RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association, in convention assembled in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on this 18th day of August, 2007, support the creation of additional VICTORS Programs and present this support in the testimony to Congress.

VA Comment

The Visual Impairment Center To Optimize Remaining Sight (VICTORS) programs served as the model for the 22 new Advanced Low Vision rehabilitation programs that are being implemented within the Continuum of Care for Visually Impaired Veterans this fiscal year.  These Advanced Low Vision programs are equivalent to the VICTORS programs and once operational should improve veteran access to outpatient low vision rehabilitation services.

 

RESOLUTION 19-06

BE IT RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association, in convention assembled in Albuquerque, New Mexico on this 18th day of August, 2007, urge the Veterans Health Administration Audiology & Speech Pathology Service direct Audiology Services throughout the VHA system to provide priority for visually impaired or blind veterans who are in need of evaluation for hearing aids.

Rationale for Hearing Aid Resolution:
Presently veterans are waiting an excessive amount of time to get hearing tests and receive hearing aids.  Blind and visually impaired veterans rely heavily on hearing to function safely in today’s environment. Whether traveling or just avoiding the many dangers involved with the environment these days, the loss of both vision and hearing makes it difficult and , in many instances, extremely dangerous. If blind and visually impaired veterans were given priority when receiving hearing aids, it would tremendously decrease the dangers involved with the loss of both of these senses.

VA Comment
  
Priority in the scheduling of appointments for outpatient medical services or hospital care may only be given to veterans with service-connected disabilities rated 50 percent or greater (based on one or more disabilities or unemployability) and veterans needing care for service-connected disabilities.  If a veteran has an urgent/emergent medical need, the veteran has priority access to care, consistent with the standard of care for medical emergencies.  Audiologists serve as members of the Visual Impairment Services Teams, and readily prioritize care for visually impaired veterans who require audiology services.

RESOLUTION 20-07

BE IT RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association, in convention assembled in Albuquerque, New Mexico on this 18th day of August, 2007, hereby supports HR 2514, the Assured Funding for Veterans Health Care Act of 2007.

VA Comment
  
VA has not developed views specifically on HR 2514.

VA’s position has been that the current discretionary budget status is the best suited for veterans’ health care needs because it allows for annual updates to stay current with the changes in medical practice, technology, and the needs of the veteran population. The switch to a mandatory status would eliminate these annual updates and replace them with a fixed formula update. As a discretionary program, VA Medical Care has enjoyed significant funding increases over the period from FY 2001 to FY 2008.

The uncertainties of moving to mandatory funding, the potential for unanticipated, unintended consequences, and the permanent nature of such a move, provide serious cautions about considering any move to mandatory funding. VA favors the current discretionary funding process using actuarial-based budget estimates to project future health care needs for enrolled veterans.

 

RESOLUTION 21-07

BE IT RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association, in convention assembled in Albuquerque, New Mexico on this 18th day of August, 2007, work with VA to allow BVA Field Service Representatives to be able to access needed medical information via remote access technology.

VA Comment

VA cannot concur on this resolution without further understanding the specific details of this request.  There are potential implications relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) rights for patients.

 

RESOLUTION 22-07

BE IT RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association, in convention assembled in Albuquerque, New Mexico on this 18th day of August, 2007, requests VA to authorize the provision of at least .5 FTEE GS 4/5 clerical support for all full time GS-12 VIST Coordinators with a caseload of 300 or more blinded veterans and 1.0 FTC for programs having both a full time VIST Coordinator with a minimum of 300 caseload and a GS – 12 Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialist (BROS)

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that VISN Directors be required to provide funding to local facilities to support these positions,

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the VIST and BROS handbooks and documents pertaining to VIST and BROS contain language supporting the intent that such support is to be provided.

VA Comment

VA cannot concur on this resolution without further analysis and review.  VA must evaluate the need for additional positions on the basis of our personnel and workload review, and assessment of the staffing model through established workforce management policies and procedures.

 

RESOLUTION 23-07

BE IT RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association, in convention assembled in Albuquerque, New Mexico on this 18th day of August, 2007, partner with BRS to encourage VA to review the staffing levels of nursing at residential blind rehabilitation centers to determine the correct number of nurses needed at each site and to ensure that corrective action is taken at those sites found to be lacking adequate staffing levels,

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this be made a national priority for BVA to ensure that corrective action is taken by VA if a review reveals inadequate staffing does exist,

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this issue be placed on the agenda of the BVA/BRS Strategic Work Group and presented in the annual testimony to Congress.

VA Comment

Nursing requirements at VA inpatient Blind Rehabilitation Centers (BRCs) are determined by a Technical Advisory Group (TAG) on Nurse Staffing Levels.  The health and well-being of veterans throughout the United States who receive inpatient blind rehabilitation services is of paramount importance. To provide the highest standard of care and safety for all veterans who attend inpatient BRC training programs, the following minimum safe staffing level for nursing is recommended by the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) on Nurse Staffing Levels:

  1. All BRCs (regardless of capacity) should provide a minimum staffing level of 1.0 FTE Registered Nurse (RN); and 1.0 FTE additional nurse staff member who may be an Registered Nurse (RN), Licensed Practicing Nurse (LPN) or an otherwise suitable professional healthcare nursing service provider as determined by the Chief of the each BRC field station and the Chief Nurse Executive at the facility.
  2. This minimum safe nurse staffing level should be maintained at all BRCs throughout the entire 24-hour day, including day shifts, evening shifts, night shifts, as well as all weekends and holidays.
  3. Using these guidelines for minimum safe nurse staffing levels, each BRC should make public the target goal and actual staffing pattern for nurse staffing levels.  Furthermore, all BRCs should ensure that Blind Rehabilitation Service program office is provided annually with the target goal and actual staffing pattern for nurse staffing levels in a timely and accurate manner.
  4. In addition to the minimum safe nurse staffing levels detailed above, it is further recommended that nursing staff within BRCs may require additional staff to address variations in acuity levels of the patient population as determined by the Chief of each BRC and the Chief Nurse Executive at the facility.

RESOLUTION 24-07

BE IT RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association, in convention assembled in Albuquerque, New Mexico on this 18th day of August, 2007, that VACO BRS in partnership with BVA work together to bring about corrective action,

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVEDthat the BVA/BRS Strategic Work Group be used for the purpose of such problem solving,

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVEDthat the use of subject matter expert consultants from outside VA be explored as a viable resource in the problem solving and training process to help analyze, develop national standards and provide training for those VA staff providing computer instruction.

VA Comment

VA concurs.  National standardization is required for computer access training for inpatient BRC programs, community based agencies, and individual providers of this service to visually impaired veterans.

 

RESOLUTION 26-07

BE IT RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association, in convention assembled in Albuquerque, New Mexico on this 18th day of August, 2007, urges BVA to meet with top management of VA Ophthalmology, Optometry and the Director of the BRS to encourage the development of a plan of action to train eye care professionals in blind and low vision,

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVEDthat BVA be a full partner and as such be included as a member of a team planning and enacting such training.

Blinded Veterans Association Comment: This Resolution attempts to alleviate the existing shortage of Eye Care Professionals trained in Blind and Low Vision within VA.

VA Comment

VA concurs.  Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Blind Rehabilitation, Ophthalmology and Optometric Services will meet with BVA to discuss training plans for VA eye care professionals in blind and low vision.