Commission on Care Releases Report (7/18/2016) 
   BVA News Commission on Care Releases Report July 2016

Commission on Care Releases Report


In Section 202 of the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014, Congress established the Commission on Care, charging it to examine veterans’ access to Department of Veterans Affairs health care and to examine strategically how best to organize the Veterans Health Administration, locate health resources, and deliver health care to veterans during the next 20 years.

The final report of the Commission on Care is now available and can be downloaded below, in both .docx and .pdf formats.


 Son of Irving Diener Visits BVA Office to Make Gift Supporting Diener Award (6/28/2016) 
   Blinded Veterans Association BVA Son of Irving Diener Visits BVA Office to Make Gift Endowing Diener Award

Son of Irving Diener Visits BVA Office to Make Gift Supporting Diener Award


Edward Diener receives BVA certificate of appreciation from executive director Al Avina

Edward Diener, shown at right with BVA Executive Director Al Avina, is the son of the late Irving Diener. Ed paid a visit to BVA National Headquarters on June 14 to provide additional financial support for the Association’s second most prestigious annual award, the Irving Diener Award. Recipients of the award are recognized at BVA National Conventions in August.

Ed presented the funds to BVA in honor of Irving Diener’s great grandson, Alexander Irving Diener, for whom a certificate was prepared by BVA Administrative Director Brigitte Jones prior to Ed’s visit. The additional funds will support the award for the next several years.

“My wife and I will be traveling to where Alexander Irving Diener lives and I will present him with this impressive certificate and encourage our son to continue supporting this award for the next several decades,” Ed said.

The Irving Diener Award seeks to honor the blinded veterans who have made an outstanding commitment to their BVA regional group and the organization as a whole.

A New York businessman, Irving Diener was a member of the BVA National Advisory Committee and continuously supported BVA. As an individual, he sought to empower those who were dedicated to the organization. With BVA’s blessing and support, he initiated the award in 1962. The tradition continued with Irving’s daughter, Eleanor Diener Metz. She generously continued to fund the award until her passing in 2004.


 From the VA: VA Secretary Provides Relief for Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injuries (6/28/2016) 
   Blinded Veterans Association BVA VA Secretary Provides Relief for Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injuries

VA Secretary Provides Relief for Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injuries


See below for an important press release from the VA. If you or a veteran you know may be affected by this announcement, please contact the BVA Field Service Resource Center.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald has granted equitable relief to more than 24,000 Veterans following a national review of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) medical examinations conducted in connection with disability compensation claims processed between 2007 and 2015.

This action by the Secretary allows the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to offer new TBI examinations to Veterans whose initial examination for TBI was not conducted by one of four designated medical specialists and provides them with the opportunity to have their claims reprocessed. Equitable relief is a unique legal remedy that allows the Secretary to correct an injustice to a claimant where VA is not otherwise authorized to do so within the scope of the law.

“Traumatic Brain Injury is a signature injury in Veterans returning from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and VA is proud to be an organization that sets the bar high for supporting these, and all, Veterans,” said Secretary McDonald. “Providing support for Veterans suffering from a TBI is a priority and a privilege, and we must make certain they receive a just and fair rating for their disabilities.”

To ensure that TBI is properly evaluated for disability compensation purposes, VA developed a policy in 2007 requiring that one of four specialists – a psychiatrist, physiatrist, neurosurgeon or neurologist – complete TBI exams when VA does not have a prior diagnosis.

Since 2007, medicine around TBI has been a rapidly evolving science. VA designated particular specialists to conduct initial TBI exams because they have the most experience with the symptoms and effects of TBI. As more research became available, VA issued a number of guidance documents that may have created confusion regarding the policy. VA has confirmed that its TBI policy guidance is now clear and being followed.

“We let these Veterans down,” Secretary McDonald said. “That is why we are taking every step necessary to grant equitable relief to those affected to ensure they receive the full benefits to which they are entitled.”

VA understands the importance of an accurate exam to support Veterans’ disability claims. The Secretary’s decision to grant relief will enable VA to take action on any new examinations without requiring Veterans to submit new claims. If additional benefits are due, VA will award an effective date as early as the date of the initial TBI claim.

VA will contact Veterans identified as part of this national TBI review to offer them an opportunity to receive a new examination and have their claims reprocessed. More than 13,000 of these affected Veterans are already receiving service-connected compensation benefits for TBI at a 10-percent disability evaluation or higher, which means that the diagnosis has already been established.


 U.S. Blinded Veterans To Host British Comrades At VA Blind Rehabilitation Center (6/17/2016) 
   Blinded Veterans Association BVA U.S. Blinded Veterans To Host British Comrades At VA Blind Rehabilitation Center

Blinded Veterans Association BVA U.S. Blinded Veterans To Host British Comrades At VA Blind Rehabilitation Center


Eleven Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF, Afghanistan) combat blinded American veterans will spend “Technology Week” June 19-26 with six British blinded veteran comrades establishing new friendships, sharing knowledge of adaptive technology for the blind and visually impaired, and exchanging insights and personal experiences regarding their adjustment to blindness.

The veteran members of the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) and its counterpart organization in the United Kingdom, Blind Veterans UK, will gather at the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Central Blind Rehabilitation Center in Hines, Illinois, just outside Chicago, one of 13 such residential centers nationwide. The Hines facility is the oldest of the VA blind centers, its history dating back to 1948 as a training facility for blinded World War II veterans.

The advocacy efforts of BVA in the late 1940s were responsible, in large part, to the establishment of the Hines Center.

Transportation for the week to various Chicago area visits is being supported by the Cook County Sheriff’s Department under the direction of Sheriff Thomas J. Dart. Travel support to the British participants from London to Chicago is provided by British Airways. American Airlines will provide tickets for participants to see Major League Baseball’s Chicago Cubs take on the St. Louis Cardinals on the afternoon of June 22 at historic Wrigley Field. The airline will also provide a pizza dinner at the renowned Giordano’s following the game.

Behind this year’s Technology Week is BVA’s Operation Peer Support Committee, chaired by blinded veteran and Army First Sergeant Daniel Wallace (Ret.). Hines Center Director Denise Van Koevering has overseen organization of the week’s activities. Although 2016 is the fourth year that the center has hosted Technology Week for blinded veterans, it is the first year that British blinded veterans will be among the participants. Also attending as a participant will be BVA Executive Director Al Avina.

The group will share information about electronic mobile devices and readers. During site visits in the Chicago area, veterans will also test and work with innovative instruments such as talking computers, audible money identifiers and barcode scanners, bioptic telescopes used as eyeglasses, laptop video magnifiers, hand-held libraries of audible information, mobility aids for independent living, audible health monitoring devices, and portable Global Positioning System products.

They will also tour the VA Medical Center in which the Blind Rehabilitation Center is housed, visit historic sites, and participate in blind bowling and golf.

The exchange in Chicago has its roots in a joint initiative established in 2011 by the Blinded Veterans Association, headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, and Blind Veterans UK in London. Last month four U.S. blinded veterans were hosted at the Blind Veterans UK facility in Wales with five of their counterparts in the UK. Two blinded veterans from South Africa also participated.

In addition to its role as an exchange forum, Project Gemini seeks to heighten public awareness of the issues facing veterans with vision loss. The outreach of the program has widened to include sessions with officials of VA, the Department of Defense, National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research, Moorfields Eye Hospital Research Centre in London, the British Parliament, and senior UK military officials.

“The wonderful relationship BVA has developed with Blind Veterans UK has blossomed into numerous opportunities such as the upcoming Technology Week at Hines,” said BVA Director of District 6 Dr. Tom Zampieri. “It allows us to share so many of our personal ‘war stories’ related to coping with blindness and our subsequent rehabilitation.”

Blind Veterans UK is the British national charity for visually impaired ex-servicemen and women celebrating 101 years of service to blind veterans and families. Tracing its founding back to 1915 during 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.


 Project Gemini May 2016 (5/23/2016) 
   Blinded Veterans Association BVA Blind Veterans UK to Again Host American Veterans in British Isles

Blind Veterans UK to Again Host American Veterans in British Isles


Alexandria, VA (May 20, 2016)—Four Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) combat blinded American veterans will travel to the United Kingdom to share knowledge, insights, and friendship with five British war-blinded comrades and two additional war-blinded veterans from South Africa.

The May 21-28 exchange, jointly initiated and coordinated by Blind Veterans UK and the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA), has been popularly recognized by the two organizations as Project Gemini for the past six years. This year’s activities will be based for the first time at the Llandudno Centre of Blind Veterans UK in northern Wales. The two participants from the St Dunstan’s organization of South Africa will also be accompanied by two members of its rehabilitation staff.

Airfare for this year’s trip from Chicago to Manchester, England came from a generous donation by British Airways.

Dr. John Clark is the immediate past president of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO), will join the 2016 exchange in order to learn more about British veterans’ rehabilitation and research programs. Dr. Clark served as combat engineer in Vietnam and feels strong connection to and supports more vision trauma research for the blinded and visually impaired returning war veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan generation.

Dr. Clark’s participation stems from meetings conducted with Blind Veterans UK Chief Executive Officer Major General Nick Caplin (Ret.) at the recently concluded ARVO International Conference in Seattle, Washington, in which each pledged further cooperation in vision trauma research and new rehabilitation programs that will benefit current and future service members throughout the world.

This year’s exchange will again address topics related to contemporary research and rehabilitation programs that are offered to veterans in the United Kingdom, the United States, and this year South Africa. The veterans will also engage in adaptive technology activities and sports for the blind. Other highlights will include a tour of the Blind Veterans UK Rehabilitation Center and visits to other nearby historic sites.

During the week, the three groups of veterans will also share helpful hints about coping with blindness and the “war stories” that are part of their personal adjustment to blindness and subsequent rehabilitation. OIF participants from BVA are Army Sergeant Monaca Gilmore, Army Sergeant Joel Tavera, Marine Corps Sergeant Andrew Lessard, and Navy Petty Officer Scott Scieszinski.

Major Tom Zampieri (Ret.), a legally blind veteran himself, will also accompany the group as the trip coordinator. Major Zampieri is a member of the Operation Peer Support Committee and serves as the liaison to the Committee from the BVA National Board of Directors.

The joint May 2011 initiative that created Project Gemini sought to heighten public awareness of the issues facing veterans with vision loss, resulting in improvements in services and benefits for themselves and their families. It was also begun as a forum for the sharing of vision rehabilitation experiences among the veterans.

The educational scope of the program later widened to include visits and training sessions with officials of the Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research, the National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre at Moorfields Eye Hospital, and senior UK military officials.

Project Gemini is an outgrowth of Operation Peer Support, a BVA program begun in 2006 that brings together veterans of recent conflicts with those who have lost their sight during the Vietnam, Korea, and World War II eras.

Project Gemini is an outgrowth of Operation Peer Support, a BVA program begun in 2006 that brings together veterans of recent conflicts with those who have lost their sight during the Vietnam, Korea, and World War II eras. Blind Veterans UK, is the British national charity for visually impaired ex-servicemen and women celebrating 101 years of service to blind veterans and families. Tracing its founding back to 1915 during 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.


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