Voting in convention assembled at the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) 77th National Convention in Washington, DC on August 26, the organization’s membership elected to align its membership policies with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Blind Rehabilitation Service (BRS) Directive 1174, Blind and Visual Impairment Rehabilitation Continuum of Care. The alignment includes any future updates or revisions to Directive 1174.
There were no dissenting votes in the adoption of a newly constructed document containing the Association’s bylaws in their entirety, which includes the criteria for membership in Article 3, Section 1.
Votes were cast through delegates of regional groups in good standing representing blinded veterans across the United States. Individual BVA members who registered for the convention and attended the Closing Business Session cast single votes on their own behalf.
Any person having honorably served, or currently serving in the Armed Forces of the United States, qualifying for VA BRS, is now eligible for membership in BVA. Eligibility verification may be provided by an Optometrist, Ophthalmologist, Visual Impairment Services Team Coordinator, or Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialist.
Membership criteria with respect to vision was previously defined as legal blindness with central visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye with the use of a corrective lens and/or a limitation in the field of vision with the widest diameter being no greater than 20 degrees.
Qualifying conditions now include substantial visual impairment and/or low vision defined as significant loss of vision uncorrectable by conventional means such as eyeglasses, contact lenses, medicines, or surgery, negatively impacting the safety of the individual or restricting/impairing one or more Activities of Daily Living.
The National Board of Directors will review and adjudicate the membership status of borderline cases or those in which sight improves to such an extent that they no longer qualify. VA estimates the number of legally blind veterans at approximately 120,000. The number of low-vision veterans is approximately 1.1 million, thus expanding several-fold the potential BVA membership base.
Although membership is not required for legally blind or low-vision veterans and their families to receive benefits assistance, scholarship funds, and the quarterly BVA Bulletin, membership serves as the institutional means by which the women and men of BVA support and lift one another throughout all 50 states and U.S. territories.
BVA provides a community of fellowship with those who share experiences, needs, and hopes for the future. Through its regional groups and chapters, BVA also offers new opportunities for friendship, volunteerism to one another, and community service. Membership is therefore strongly encouraged and promoted.
One-time life membership dues are $50. Applications that can be submitted electronically, or printed and then sent via U.S. mail, are available here (CLICK HERE).