REPORT OF BVA 68TH NATIONAL CONVENTION BYLAWS AND RESOLUTIONS COMMITTEE
RESOLVED, that the National President shall send letters of appreciation to those organizations and individuals contributing to the success of the 68th National Convention, as well as to those other individuals and organizations assisting and supporting the 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 aged 65 and over is eight times the rate for those under 65, and 50% of all visually-impaired persons in the United States are over the age of 65, AND
WHEREAS, 70-80% 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 Spokane, Washington on this 23rd day of August, 2013, 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 Blind Instructors and Orientation & Mobility professionals who work with blind persons has in some instances caused a shift to service provision by allied health personnel without vision rehabilitation 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 Spokane, Washington on this 23rd day of August, 2013, 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
FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that the 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 (DVA) 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 Spokane, Washington on this 23rd day of August, 2013, urges DVA to insure that all visually-impaired and blind employees have reasonable accommodations, including 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, the Blinded Veterans Association in Convention assembled in Spokane, Washington on this 23rd day of August, 2013, 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 veteran’s 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, the Blinded Veterans Association in convention assembled in Spokane, Washington on this 23rd day of August, 2013, 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 thirteen (13) VA Regional Blind Rehabilitation Centers (BRC) 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 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 Spokane, Washington on this 23rd day of August, 2013, urges 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 and request that VHA support this change for catastrophically disabled veterans as legislative requested to Congress in 2014.
WHEREAS, U.S. Military Operations in Afghanistan (OEF) and Iraq (OIF) have resulted in numerous eye injured casualties, AND
WHEREAS, National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) FY 2008 mandated that because DoD and VA does not have a centralized system in place to track eye casualties, AND
WHEREAS, DoD reports 197,000 worldwide eye injuries since October 2001 and VHA reports 130,890 service members have received eye injuries in these operations, AND
WHEREAS, DoD and VA are committed to assuring a Seamless Transition from the DoD to VA, AND
WHEREAS, service members eye injured in OEF & OIF are not being placed into the NDAA mandated Defense Veterans Eye Injury Vision Registry (DVEIVR), AND
WHEREAS, severely injured and blinded service members are not receiving the information and support from the VA designed to facilitate acceptance of and adjustment to loss of vision, AND
WHEREAS, the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) the only Congressionally Chartered Veterans Service Organization (VSO) exclusively dedicated to assisting blinded veterans and their families, advocates facilitating the Seamless Transition, THEREFORE BE IT
RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association in convention assembled in Spokane, Washington on this 23rd day of August, 2013, urge the DoD and VA to fully implement the mandated joint eye injury registry and 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
FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that the Secretary of VA ensures fulltime staffing for the NDAA mandated Vision Center of Excellence with continued funding and support to meet the requirements and the intent of Congress when it established the Vision Center of Excellence.
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, the Department of Veterans Affairs ((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, the 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 Spokane, Washington on this 23rd day of August, 2013, that visually impaired and blinded veterans only be referred to VA BRC’s 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 (NAC) the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped 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 wheelchair and those who require transportation by ambulance, AND
WHEREAS, Veterans Transportation Service have active plans to expand healthcare access for veterans. It has expanded the Veteran Transportation Network which is now active at eighty-seven (87) VA sites. A mobility manager who coordinates scheduling as well as identifying and joining with community partners is in place in facilities as the program expands. The program is also working closely with VA’s Office of Rural Health to improve the network of transportation services that connect rural veterans and those veterans who, because of disability or infirmity, need transportation assistance to access VA services. This service provides for continuity of care for those physically infirm or disabled Veterans who often have complex medical conditions requiring healthcare services, AND
WHEREAS, blind veterans have significant problems with obtaining transportation to VA appointments, AND
WHEREAS, the disability of blindness causes significant barriers in transportation similar to those who must use a wheelchair. VA proposed legislation to extend a recently enacted provision, 38 USC & 111A that authorized VA to transport any person to or from a VA facility or other place in connection with vocational rehabilitation or counseling required by the Secretary pursuant to Chapter 34 or 35 of Title 38 or for the purpose of examination, treatment or care, AND
WHEREAS, this authority was enacted in January 2103 under Public Law 112-260, Section 202 of the Dignified Burial and Other Veterans’ Benefits Improvement Act of 2012 and expires one year after the data of enactment. This proposal is supported by BVA and would extend the VA authority for an additional five years,THEREFORE BE IT
RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association in convention assembled in Spokane, Washington on this 23rd day of August, 2013, request that the VA Veterans Travel Program (VTP) in conjunction with VHA ensures that blindness be included as a justification for VA to authorize transportation to local VA appointments when appropriate by VA mobility personnel and that VA vans, public transportation, DAV vans, or other contracted services be utilized to ensure all blinded veterans have access to local VA outpatient care and services.
WHEREAS, these veterans who are blind or visually impaired utilize the services of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA),AND
WHEREAS, these veterans receive correspondence including, but not limited to information 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 Spokane, Washington on this 23rd day of August, 2013, collaborate with other organizations serving blind and visually impaired veterans and communicate with the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Honorable Eric K. Shinseki and provide that all web content within VA agencies, hospitals and VBA facilities to be provided using Section 508 standards for accessible formats including but not limited to, large print, Braille, recorded format, computer disk or e-mail, BE IT FURTHER
RESOLVED, request that funding for Section 508 be separate from other general IT operational funding and staffing be increased to address those internet and intranet sites requiring program repairs. In August 2012 VA identified 20 of the most frequented sites used by veterans and asks for a time table to repair those sites.
WHERE AS, VA is facing a potential shortage of highly qualified health care professionals as the result of the high percentage of “Boomers near retirement”, AND
WHEREAS, VHA Blind Rehabilitation Service (BRS) is also confronting the potential loss of a large percentage of its workforce, AND
WHEREAS, the NPC positions are critical in providing education, training and oversight for full-time Visual Impairment Service Team (VIST) Coordinators and Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialists (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 (VISN) and Facilities are reluctant to fill vacant positions, THEREFORE BE IT
RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association in convention assembled in Spokane, Washington on this 23rd day of August, 2013, strongly urge the Under Secretary of Health to require Network and Facility Directors to begin recruitment and training programs for succession for VIST, BROS, and other vision rehabilitation staff, and continue to fill the NPC positions.
WHEREAS, the VA established a policy prohibiting national training programs of more than fifty personnel, AND
WHEREAS, the VA Blind Rehabilitation Service has conducted a national training program for Visual Impairment Team Coordinators (VIST) and Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialist (BROS) for twenty years in conjunction with the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) National Convention, AND
WHEREAS, VA Blind Rehabilitation Service has expanded services to visually impaired and blinded veterans over those years, AND
WHEREAS, many professionals hired by the Blind Rehabilitation Service 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 Blind Rehabilitation Service 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 Spokane, Washington on this 23rd day of August, 2013, urges the Secretary of the Department of VA to reinstate the Blind Rehabilitation (VIST and BROS) national training program at least on a bi-annual basis.
WHEREAS, on July 30, 2009, the United States signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The CRPD is the first treaty to address disability rights globally. While the Convention does not establish new human rights, it describes the obligations of countries to promote, protect and ensure the rights of persons with disabilities, AND
WHEREAS, on June 2013, the Convention has 113 ratifications and 153 signatures. Key US allies such as Australia, Canada, France, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, South Korea, United Kingdom and Germany already have ratified the treaty, AND
WHEREAS, on May 17 2012, the Obama Administration transmitted its CRPD treaty package for Senate consideration following an extensive three year inter-agency review of the treaty and U.S. legislation. The review determined that the majority of provisions of the treaty are consistent with current US ADA legislation. For the limited cases where existing US law may not be consistent with the CRPD, the treaty package recommends reservations, understanding, and a declaration (RUDS) that ensures that no change in U.S. law and no additional costs are required in order to ratify the CRPD, AND
WHEREAS, ratification of the CRPD would present the opportunity for a reaffirmation of the values in our ADA legislation, and provide the forum to advance these values worldwide, AND
WHEREAS, the U.S. Senate led by a bipartisan group of seven U.S. Senators received the CRPD treaty package for their advice and consent, and now 21 major veterans and military service organizations and over 165 disability organizations announce their support for U.S. ratification of the CRPD in the Senate, THEREFORE BE IT
RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association in convention assembled in Spokane, Washington on this 23rd day of August, 2013, urges the U.S. Senate to ratify the CRPD treaty.