Blinded Veterans To Present Annual Congressional Testimony (3/20/2017) 
   Blinded Veterans To Present Annual Congressional Testimony

Blinded Veterans To Present Annual Congressional Testimony


Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) National President Dale Stamper will join representatives of seven other Military and Veterans Service Organizations at the witness table at a joint hearing of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees scheduled for March 22 in the Nation’s Capital.

The annual hearing, originating this year from Room 50 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building, will be streamed live at veterans.senate.gov beginning at 10 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

Stamper and officials from the Jewish War Veterans, Fleet Reserve Association, Air Force Sergeants Association, Military Order of the Purple Heart, American Ex-Prisoners of War Organization, The Enlisted Association, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, and Military Officers Association of America will each outline their respective organizations’ legislative priorities for the upcoming fiscal year. Their oral testimony will be limited to approximately five minutes.

A question and answer session moderated by Committee Chairmen Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Phil Roe (R-TN) and Ranking Members Jon Tester (D-MT) and Tim Walz (D-MN) will follow the oral remarks.

In addition, each participating organization submitted in advance for the Congressional Record a much longer and detailed written testimony document that will be accessible at veterans.senate.gov soon after the hearing.

Already in town for the Association’s annual early spring meetings, the National Board of Directors will also attend the hearing.

Priorities for national legislation included in this year’s BVA testimony are the modernization of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) information technology and communications infrastructures to become more accessible to veterans with vision loss. Also included is a request for improved access to information about prescription drugs for blinded veterans; funding for research into the prevention, diagnosis, or treatment of penetrating eye blast injuries; and greater oversight of efforts to more fully establish the joint VA-Department of Defense Vision Center of Excellence.

Now in its 72nd year of service, BVA is the only Veterans Service Organization chartered by the U.S. Congress (1958) to represent the needs of blind and visually veterans. For more information about BVA and its services, call toll-free 800-669-7079 or visit bva.org


 VA Issues Criteria for Expanded Beneficiary Travel Benefits (3/6/2017) 
   VA Issues Criteria for Expanded Beneficiary Travel Benefits

VA Issues Criteria for Expanded Beneficiary Travel Benefits


The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has outlined new eligibility guidelines for travel benefits for catastrophically disabled, nonservice-connected blind and visually impaired veterans seeking rehabilitation at VA facilities. The criteria apply similarly to amputees and individuals with spinal cord injuries.

In a memorandum to all VA Network Directors dated March 2, the VA Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Operations and Management included the following groups in the expanded beneficiary travel coverage:

  • Veterans with vision impairment who receive care at all inpatient Blind Rehabilitation Centers (BRCs) which provide care on an inpatient basis or when VA also provides temporary lodging. Programs affected include vision impairment services in outpatient rehabilitation, intermediate and advanced low vision clinics, and vision impairment centers to optimize remaining sight.
  • Veterans with double or multiple amputations who receive inpatient care at all regional amputation centers and veterans who receive care from other programs on an inpatient basis or when VA also provides temporary lodging.
  • Veterans with Spinal Cord Injury or Disorder who receive care at corresponding “Hub Centers” and those who receive care at “Spoke Sites” when such care is provided on an inpatient basis or when VA also provides temporary lodging.

The expanded eligibility, effective October 1, 2016, resulted from passage of Section 250 of Public Law 114-223 as part of the Congressional Continuing Resolution in late September 2016.

A priority in BVA’s advocacy efforts for several years, the legislation was originally introduced in the House and Senate by Representative Julia Brownley (D-CA-26) and Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), respectively. Both the original bills and the final legislation supported a key Veterans Health Administration (VHA) strategic principle to ensure access, continuity, and quality in special emphasis services of VHA where VHA has unique expertise.

For further information, contact BVA National Field Service Program Director Ed Eckroth at 202-371-8880 or email at eeckroth@bva.org.


 BVA Initiative to Open Doors to Veteran Communication, Public Awareness (3/6/2017) 
   BVA Initiative to Open Doors to Veteran Communication, Public Awareness

BVA Initiative to Open Doors to Veteran Communication, Public Awareness


The Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) has launched blog.bvamedia.net as part of a national initiative to increase awareness among veterans and the general public about the organization itself and to empower and instill hope in blinded veterans during their personal quests to meet the challenges of vision loss.

The content of the blog emphasizes the services and benefits available to veterans through federal and local entities, communicated through personal success stories about BVA members and their families, information about current and pending legislation, and calendar items of upcoming BVA events.

A highlight of the new site is a previously untapped opportunity to produce podcasts, share BVA’s existing public relations efforts more effectively with its members, and utilize other digital communication methods in disseminating such news.

Throughout BVA’s 72-year-history, the ability to communicate with the blinded veteran community was at first limited to written communication and limited audio through phonographic records and audiocassettes sometime later.

The Internet has dramatically increased the number of accessible and inexpensive methods for individuals to interact and share information. Having already embraced social media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn, BVA formed an internal public relations committee in August 2016 in an effort to expand communication efforts through Podcasts and streaming Internet radio channels.

The launch of blog.bvamedia.net is among the first in a series of actions that have become part of the initiative. For more information, visit blog.bvamedia.net.


 Blinded Veterans Prepare To Traverse Bataan Memorial Death March (2/22/2017) 
   Blinded Veterans Prepare To Traverse Bataan Memorial Death March

Blinded Veterans Prepare To Traverse Bataan Memorial Death March


Five blinded veteran athletes will participate March 19 in the Bataan Memorial Death March, a challenging 26.2 mile full marathon march through high desert terrain in honor of the heroic service members who defended the Philippine Islands during World War II as they sacrificed their freedom, health, and, in many cases, their lives.

Steve Baskis, Lonnie Bedwell, Nate Gorham, Tim Hornik, and Dan Standage, all members of the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA), will join approximately 6,500 marchers from across the United States and several foreign countries 75 years after the historic march occurred on April 9, 1942. The venue for the event, as it has been since 1992, is the White Sands Missile Range near Las Cruces, New Mexico.

The athletes will be assisted by three sighted volunteer guides—Victor Henderson, Kevin Baskis, and Nancy Standage.

“I really look forward to getting the team together and taking on this challenge,” said Nate Gorham. “The event will foster camaraderie among the participants and serve as just one more example of what blinded veterans can accomplish.”

Participants and their guides will meet in Las Cruces, where they will enjoy the hospitality and encouragement of local resident blinded veterans, including BVA technology guru Terry Kebbel and his wife, Maryellen, who have previously engaged in similar physical and mental challenges.

“The graciousness of people like Terry and Maryellen, along with our trekking poles, decent footware, and considerable determination, will help us conquer the impending obstacles while supporting veterans everywhere and raising awareness of BVA and its misson,” said Nate.

United States and Filipino soldiers numbering 75,000 were surrendered to Japanese forces on that fateful April 9 after months of battling extreme climate conditions. The U.S. soldiers represented multiple branches of the military: Army, Army Air Corps, Navy, and Marines. Among those seized were members of the 200th Coast Artillery of the New Mexico National Guard. The captive soldiers were marched for days, approximately 65 miles through the scorching jungles of the Philippines.

Approximately 10,000 men, 9,000 Filipinos and 1,000 Americans, died in the march. Those who survived faced the hardships of prisoner of war camps and the brutality of their Japanese captors. The POWs would not see freedom until 1945 when U.S.-Filipino forces recaptured the lost territory.

The Army ROTC Department at New Mexico State University began sponsoring the Bataan Memorial Death March in 1989. The memorial march was to mark a page in history that included many native sons and affected several families in the state. In 1992, White Sands Missile Range and the New Mexico National Guard joined in the sponsorship and the event was moved to the White Sands Missile Range.

While it remains primarily a military event, many civilians also participate in the challenging march. Participants may choose between two courses: a 14.2-mile route or one of 26.2 miles. Marchers such as this year’s group of blinded veterans participate in the Bataan Memorial Death March for many reasons: personal challenge, the spirit of competition, or to foster esprit de corps.

A team must include exactly five people, and only finishes the race if all members finish together, on the principle that one does not leave teammates behind. The race continues all day, with the slowest marchers requiring more than 12 hours to complete the course.


 BVA Saddened by Passing of Roy Young (2/22/2017) 
   BVA Saddened by Passing of Roy Young

BVA Saddened by Passing of Roy Young


The Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) National Headquarters and its membership throughout the country today mourn the passing on February 19 of former BVA National Treasurer, Director of District 6, and Greater Houston Regional Group President Roy E. Young following an extended illness.

A Vietnam era veteran with vision loss due to both diabetes and the advanced stages of glaucoma, Roy became a member of the National Board of Directors in 2008 at the 63rd National Convention in Phoenix, Arizona, having been appointed first as an Interim District Director and then being elected by the blinded veterans of District 6.

At that same convention he was awarded both the Melvin J. Maas Award for Professional Achievement and the Irving Diener Award, the only blinded veteran in BVA history to receive both awards at the same time.

Roy served on the Board for five years until stepping down for health reasons in 2013. In 2012, under the direction of Roy and his wife, Annette, the Greater Houston Regional Group organized many of the activities associated with the 67th National Convention in the City of Galveston, Texas. Roy also helped generate much of the enthusiasm among the BVA membership to hold the convention in Galveston.

Prior to his service nationally and as president of his regional group, Roy fulfilled a number of other regional group and volunteer responsibilities. As a new member of the group, he told his fellow blinded veterans that he had made a promise both to himself and to God that he would forever make himself available to serve his fellow blinded veterans no matter the cost.

Roy was known for his almost unlimited energy, dedication, and creativity in organizing local activities in the Houston area that attracted positive image and extensive media coverage for BVA. He made a special effort to reach out to recently blinded veterans from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan).


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