REPORT OF BVA 67TH NATIONAL CONVENTION BYLAWS AND RESOLUTIONS COMMITTEE
RESOLVED, that the National President shall send letters of appreciation to organizations and individuals contributing to the success of the 67th National Convention, as well as to other individuals and organizations assisting and supporting BVA during the past year.
WHEREAS, visual impairments are the third most prevalent factor in limiting the activities of individuals, AND
WHEREAS, the prevalence of visual impairments of those age 65 and over is eight times the rate for those under 65, and 50 percent of all visually impaired persons in the United States are over the age of 65, AND
WHEREAS, 70-80 percent of individuals over age 65 currently classified as legally blind can be helped to perform daily living functions by low vision or vision rehabilitation services, AND
WHEREAS, financial resources are often a key factor in receiving such assistance, AND
WHEREAS, under current law, vision rehabilitation services and aids for the blind are excluded from coverage by Medicare or Medicaid, THEREFORE BE IT
RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association, in convention assembled in Galveston, Texas on this 23rd day of August 2012, supports coverage under Medicare and Medicaid programs of vision aids for visually impaired persons eligible for Medicare and Medicaid.
WHEREAS, federal funding for stipends and fellowships for students in personnel training programs to be teachers of the visually handicapped, orientation and mobility instructors, rehabilitation teachers, and counselors for the blind have been reduced each year since 1976, AND
WHEREAS, the reduction of funding has caused many professional preparation programs to reduce faculty positions, has closed many programs, and has frustrated development of high caliber personnel, AND
WHEREAS, these reductions in funds have forced the programs to reduce the number of students accepted, and the reduction in stipends has made it difficult to recruit applicants for study in numbers equal to program capacity, AND
WHEREAS, the incidence of blindness and visual impairment is expected to dramatically increase over the next fifteen years, while the number of qualified graduates continues to decrease,AND
WHEREAS, the shortage of qualified professionals in work with blind persons has in some instances caused a shift to service provision by persons with general education who have no knowledge of the unique needs of blind persons, AND
WHEREAS, the only certain means of assuring stipends and fellowships for students to alleviate the shortage is through categorical funding, THEREFORE BE IT
RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association, in convention assembled in Galveston, Texas on this 23rd day of August 2012, urges the U.S. Congress to enact legislation to fund categorical programs for professional preparation of education and rehabilitation personnel serving people who are severely visually impaired and blind, AND
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that BVA encourage the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Academic Affairs to explore partnering with university preparation programs to assure an adequate supply of professionally trained Vision Rehabilitation Specialists.
WHEREAS, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law in July 1990, AND
WHEREAS, blind and visually-impaired individuals historically have experienced extreme difficulty in finding meaningful employment or advancing beyond entry level positions when employment is found, AND
WHEREAS, the provisions of ADA require reasonable accommodations for disabled persons, AND
WHEREAS, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) employs disabled people, many of whom are blind or severely visually-impaired, THEREFORE
BE IT RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association, in convention assembled in Galveston, Texas on this 23rd day of August 2012, urges VA to ensure that all visually impaired and blind employees have reasonable accommodations, including the necessary training on essential access technology.
WHEREAS, members of the Armed Forces of the United States of America are on duty 24 hours a day and may be subject to multiple hazards, hostile environments and unknown health conditions as a matter of course during their tours of duty in the Department of Defense, THEREFORE BE IT
RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association, in Convention assembled in Galveston, Texas on this 23rd day of August 2012, ensure 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.
WHEREAS, nonpayment of both retirement pay and veterans disability is an injustice to the veteran, AND
WHEREAS, retirement pay is for the time served in any military branch, AND
WHEREAS, veterans disability compensation is for a disability or injury while on active duty, NOW THEREFORE BE IT
RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association, in convention assembled in Galveston, Texas on this 23rd day of August 2012, earnestly seek appropriate legislative change to permit veterans' simultaneous receipt of disability compensation and military retirement pay without reduction of the retirement pay.
WHEREAS, blinded veterans referred to one of the ten VA Regional Blind Rehabilitation Centers (BRCs) for comprehensive residential blind rehab services must travel long distances to receive these rehabilitative services, AND
WHEREAS, certain blinded veterans because of their income level are not eligible for beneficiary travel benefits, AND
WHEREAS, these same blinded veterans are required to pay the Social Security co-payment and daily per diem rates to receive VA residential blind rehabilitation, AND
WHEREAS, these veterans are required to pay their own travel to receive essential rehabilitative services, AND
WHEREAS, the expense of air transportation can be very high and serve as a strong disincentive for the veteran to take advantage of the VA BRC training, AND
WHEREAS, the Network hosting the BRC is reimbursed at the high or complex rate for these blinded veterans, THEREFORE BE IT
RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association, in convention assembled in Galveston, Texas on this 23rd day of August 2012, urge the U.S. Congress to amend Title 38 USC Section on Beneficiary Travel requiring VA to pay travel for all veterans meeting the VA definition of catastrophically disabled, and that they be accepted for care in one of the VA Special Disabilities Programs.
WHEREAS, VA has agreed to provide access to VA electronic medical records at VA medical centers to BVA Field Service Representatives, AND
WHEREAS, currently this access is only available if a Field Service Representative goes to the medical center, AND
WHEREAS, this is an inefficient system wasting the time of the Field Service Representative by requiring unnecessary trips to the medical center, AND
WHEREAS, this is especially difficult since Field Service Representatives are not always located close to a medical center,NOW THEREFORE BE IT
RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association, in convention assembled in Galveston, Texas on this 23rd day of August 2012, work with VA to allow BVA Field Service Representatives to be able to access needed medical information via remote access technology.
WHEREAS, U.S. Military operations in Afghanistan (OEF) and Iraq (OIF) have resulted in numerous casualties, AND
WHEREAS, DoD does not have a centralized system in place to track eye casualties, AND
WHEREAS, an unknown number of service members have been blinded in these operations, AND
WHEREAS, DoD and VA are committed to assuring a Seamless Transition from DoD to VA, AND
WHEREAS, service members blinded in OEF and OIF are not being identified and provided to VA by DoD in a timely manner, AND
WHEREAS, severely injured and blinded service members are not receiving the information and support from VA designed to facilitate acceptance of and adjustment to loss of vision, AND
WHEREAS, BVA, the only Congressionally chartered Veterans Service Organization exclusively dedicated to assisting blinded veterans and their families, is not being effectively utilized by DoD and VA to facilitate the Seamless Transition, THEREFORE BE IT
RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association in convention assembled in Galveston, Texas on this 23rd day of August 2012, urge DoD and VA to develop a more effective method of identifying severely visually impaired and blinded service members returning from OEF and OIF, ensuring that these severely disabled service members receive the most appropriate information and support available, AND
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, the Blinded Veterans Association be notified and directly involved in the "Seamless Transition" process.
WHEREAS, fundamental to the comprehensive rehabilitation of veterans who are severely visually impaired or blind is the development of wholesome and healthy attitudes about blindness, the acquisition of adaptive skills to overcome the handicap of blindness and reintegration into the family and community, AND
WHEREAS, VA pioneered the comprehensive residential Blind Rehabilitation Center (BRC) approach to the delivery of such comprehensive services to facilitate adjustment to and acceptance of sudden and traumatic loss of vision, AND
WHEREAS, the VA BRC model has evolved to include the comprehensive rehabilitation of veterans whose visual impairment and blindness may be associated with aging, AND
WHEREAS, VA is internationally recognized as the premier provider of comprehensive blind rehabilitation services, AND
WHEREAS, non-VA blind rehabilitation programs have recently begun to seek referral of visually impaired and blinded veterans away from VA Blind Rehabilitation Services (BRS) in an effort to obtain VA contract funding, AND
WHEREAS, America's visually impaired and blinded veterans have earned the right to have access to the highest quality blind rehabilitation services available, AND
WHEREAS, only in rare instances would referral to a non-VA BRC be appropriate, THEREFORE BE IT
RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association, in convention assembled in Galveston, Texas on this 23rd day of August 2012, ensure that visually impaired and blinded veterans be referred only to VA BRCs for comprehensive residential blind rehabilitation services, AND
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that should it ever be necessary to refer a visually impaired or blinded veteran to a non-VA facility, that non-VA facility should be accredited by either the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC) or the Commission For Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), and that employ Blind Rehabilitation Specialists certified by the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals (ACVREP).
WHEREAS, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is currently authorized to provide transportation to VA appointments for veterans confined to a wheelchair and those who require transportation by ambulance, AND
WHEREAS, blinded veterans have significant problems with obtaining transportation to VA appointments, AND
WHEREAS, the disability of blindness causes barriers in mobility similar to those who must use a wheelchair, THEREFORE BE IT
RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association, in convention assembled in Galveston, Texas on this 23rd day of August 2012, request that the membership direct BVA National Headquarters to advocate in Congress that blindness be included as a justification for VA to authorize transportation to VA appointments when appropriate.
WHEREAS, veterans who are blind or visually impaired utilize VA services, AND
WHEREAS, these veterans receive correspondence about their benefits, appointment reminders, surgical preparation and treatment instructions only in standard print, THEREFORE BE IT
RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association, in convention assembled in Galveston, Texas on this 23rd day of August 2012, collaborate with other organizations serving blind and visually impaired veterans in communicating with the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Honorable Eric K. Shinseki, of the urgent need for all web content within VA agencies, hospitals and facilities to be provided as soon as possible using Section 508 standards for accessible formats, including but not limited to large print, Braille, recorded format, computer disk or e-mail.
WHEREAS, VA is facing a potential shortage of highly qualified health care professionals as a result of the high percentage of "Boomers near retirement", AND
WHEREAS, VHA BRS is also confronting the potential loss of a large percentage of its workforce, AND
WHEREAS, three BRS National Program Consultants (NPCs) are scheduled to retire by the end of September 2012, AND
WHEREAS, the NPC positions are critical in providing education, training and oversight for full-time VIST Coordinators and BROS,AND
WHEREAS, many long time VIST Coordinators are retiring and many new BROS positions have been established, AND
WHEREAS, the need for the NPC positions is even more critical,AND
WHEREAS, Veteran Integrated Service Networks (VISNs) and facilities are reluctant to fill vacant positions, THEREFORE BE IT
RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association, in convention assembled in Galveston, Texas on this 23rd day of August 2012, strongly urge the Under Secretary for Health to require network and facility Directors to rapidly recruit and fill the NPC positions.
WHEREAS, VA established a policy prohibiting national training programs of more than fifty personnel, AND
WHEREAS, VA BRS has conducted a national training program for VIST Coordinators and BROS for twenty years in conjunction with the BVA National Convention, AND
WHEREAS, VA BRS has expanded services to visually impaired and blinded veterans over those years, AND
WHEREAS, many professionals hired by BRS to provide high quality comprehensive services to America's visually impaired and blinded veterans are new to the VA Healthcare system, AND
WHEREAS, national training is essential to ensure these professionals possess appropriate competencies to deliver high quality services, AND
WHEREAS, VA economically benefits from holding this national training program in conjunction with BVA's National Convention,AND
WHEREAS, at least one-third of VA BRS professionals are eligible for retirement, AND
WHEREAS, failure to provide adequate training for new hires unfamiliar with the VA Healthcare system will result in visually impaired and blinded veterans not receiving essential services,THEREFORE BE IT
RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association, in convention assembled in Galveston, Texas on this 23rd day of August 2012, urges the VA Secretary to reinstate the Blind Rehabilitation (VIST and BROS) national training program on at least a bi-annual basis.