BVA traces its roots back to the end of World War II. The organization’s founders consisted of some 100 young men, mostly in their early 20s. Members of this unique group had recently lost their sight in the war and were recovering from their injuries at Avon Old Farms Army Convalescent Hospital near Avon, Connecticut.
On March 28, 1945, the group held a meeting at the facility with the express purpose of forming an organization to help their fellow blinded veterans. Thirteen years later, BVA was chartered by the U.S. Congress to speak and write on behalf of blinded veterans in national legislative affairs. Ever since, BVA officers and staff have worked tirelessly to fulfill the Association’s mission and uphold the ideals expressed in its Congressional charter. Throughout BVA’s history, Congress and the now Department of Veterans Affairs (formerly the Veterans Administration) have recognized BVA as the exclusive voice for blinded veterans nationwide.
Achievements in BVA History
- April 1946, The BVA Bulletin became the official journal of the Blinded Veterans Association.
- November 1946, BVA officially recognized by the Veteran’s Administration as a Service organization
- March 1947, BVA adopted resolutions in assembled conventions calling for the establishment of a comprehensive residential Blind Rehabilitation Center (BRC).
- July 1948, the first BRC was opened in Chicago, Illinois due to BVA efforts.
- August 1958, the 85th Congress formally incorporated the Blinded Veterans Association. The Act made BVA eligible to participate in state funds for veterans’ service work that were only available to Congressionally chartered organizations.
- March 1967, BVA played an instrumental role in the establishment of the Visual Impairment Service Team (VIST) Program.
- March 1978, BVA urged VA to make VIST positions full-time. VA responded by establishing six full-time VIST Coordinator positions.
- February 1995, BVA advocates for more full-time BROS positions. Congress enabled BRS to establish 15 Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialists (BROS) full time positions.
- January 2007, BVA recommends a full continuum of vision rehabilitation services be established. The Secretary of Veterans Affairs approved the establishment of a full continuum of vision rehabilitation care.
The Blinded Veterans Association’s Congressional Charter
On August 27, 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed into law an Act of the 85th Congress that formally codified into law Blinded Veterans Association status as Congressionally Chartered, adding to BVA’s prestige and enabling BVA to secure state funds for veterans’ service work that were only available to Congressionally chartered organizations.
Representative T.A. Thompson of Louisiana originally introduced the Bill to incorporate BVA on June 21, 1957. “The worthy efforts of the membership of the Blinded Veterans Association deserve no less than recognition by the Congress of the United States,” he stated.
The Bill was passed by the House of Representatives on August 4, 1958 and approved by the Senate on August 18. Much of the credit for BVA’s success in achieving the charter status belongs to Irvin P. Schloss and Melvin J. Maas. Able assistance also came from William W. Thompson, who had just previously been appointed National Executive Director; Carleton F. Steep, then Secretary of the District of Columbia Regional Group; Kathern F. Gruber of BVA’s National Advisory Committee; and John E. Mattingly, Past National President. The newly elected National President at the time was Robert A. Bottenberg.
The Act of Congress making possible the charter listed by name and city some 164 members of BVA, and is worded in such a way as to include all others who were members in good standing on the date of enactment, thus making the entire Association a “body corporate” in the eyes of the law.
A piece in the September-October 1958 BVA Bulletin summarized as follows both the privileges as well as the responsibilities resulting from the charter: “There is no question but what it also provides recognition by all of the States and gives BVA increased stature with other organizations. However, the Act is quite plain in stating that BVA shall be non-political in nature and cannot support any political party or candidate for public office. It can raise funds, hold property, pay salaries to its employees, and reimburse the expenses incurred by employees and elected officers. The charter further empowers BVA to contribute to the aid of those blinded as a result of service in the Armed Forces of the United States, and their widows and children. A report of the financial condition of BVA was to be made to Congress by March 1 of each year thereafter.”
Minor revisions to the Charter have been approved by Congress from time to time including removing the requirement for an annual report to Congress.
General—Except as otherwise provided, the financial statements of each corporation in part B of this subtitle shall be audited annually in accordance with generally accepted auditing standards by an independent certified public accountant or independent licensed public accountant, certified or licensed by a regulatory authority of a State or other political subdivision of the United States.
Take Action: Blinded Veterans Day March 28, 2020
The Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) encourages BVA National Officers, BVA District Directors, Regional Group Officers, and Chapter Leaders to contact their local, county, and state elected public officials with the following Blinded Veterans Day resolution.
Section 1. The name of this Association pursuant to Public Law 85‑769, 85th Congress, U.S. Code, Title 36, 851‑868 (72 Stat. 922‑927), August 27, 1958, shall be BLINDED VETERANS ASSOCIATION.
REGIONAL GROUP MANUAL
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