President's Page BVA President Norman Jones

by Norman Jones

In previous Bulletin issues I have attempted to write on topics that are associated with an event in which I have participated as your national president. I have determined to give this President’s Page a well-deserved twist from the norm.

As BVA members and officers, we claim quite frequently that the backbone of the organization is our Field Service Program. With this notion in mind, I wish to highlight the blinded veterans who work under that banderole. Space limitations prevent me from covering all of them in this issue but I will pick up where I leave off in the winter issue.

I begin out west with Larry Martinez. Any member who has had anything to do with BVA for the past 31 years knows of him. He is still going strong with the help of his lovely and devoted Elena. Larry’s office is located in Sacramento. The territory he covers is designated as Region VI-A. Blinded veterans living in Central and Northern California, Washington State, New Mexico, Arizona, Idaho, Alaska, Hawaii, and Northern Nevada can go to him for help.

In addition to Larry’s program duties, he is also our official Assistant Field Service Program Director. Has he set his sights on retiring? According to Elena, he most definitely has not. Larry can be contacted at 916-967-7222.

Heading south while still in California, we make a stop in the City of Angels at the office of Earl “The Pearl” Ivie. His wonderful and witty wife Dolores refers to him as the “bulldog” of service officers because, once he has bitten into a VA claim that is the least bit plausible, he never lets it go until it is approved. I’ve been told that VA approves his claims just to make him go away.

A warning to those who call Earl: Make sure you are prepared to stay the course. In other words, have your breakfast, lunch, and dinner at hand. Pay attention to his questions and answers since successfully following his instructions could mean extra dollars in your bank account.

Earl has worked as a service officer for 13 years. He currently covers Southern California, Southern Nevada, and Oregon. Blinded veterans who live in these areas and who need help with VA benefits should give Earl a call at 310-235-6125. Still one more thing about Earl: He loves to fish, but Dolores advises that no one mention the subject since Earl often plays with the truth when it comes to his fishing ventures. She knows this because of his rather legendary account of a 982-pound marlin that narrowly escaped from his 10-pound test fishing line.

Left to right, Steve Matthews, Dr. Norman Jones, Tom             Miller, and Travis Fugate with BVA Veterans Day wreath at Arlington National Cemetery. The wreath was presented to guards at The Tomb of the Unknowns moments later.
Left to right, Steve Matthews, Dr. Norman Jones, Tom Miller, and Travis Fugate with BVA Veterans Day wreath at Arlington National Cemetery. The wreath was presented to guards at The Tomb of the Unknowns moments later.

My next Field Service Program stop is in the mile-high city of Denver, where we visit with Dr. Robert Gold, or “Honest Bob.” With three years as a service officer now under his belt, he was trained under the superbly knowledgeable Peter Link. Bob is a retired optometrist who helped thousands with their vision problems even before joining our staff. We joke that for Bob the completion of a claim does not occur unless he also fits his client with eyeglasses—whether the client has vision or not!

Bob covers Colorado, Utah, Texas, Arkansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Montana. Feel free to call him at 303-914-5831. Together, Bob and Peter earned some $250,000 for blinded veterans in the aforementioned areas last quarter.

Bob has been thinking about obtaining a guide dog. He has told everyone that he would prefer to have a horse with 20/20 vision on which he could catch a ride to his office. His wife has indicated that such will not happen very soon. Maybe Bob is affected by the mile-high air. He does have the normal Colorado love of skiing and is also nuts about computers.

Our current Field Service Program journey now east takes us east to the famous brew town of Milwaukee to visit with Robert Malak. Bob’s office was in Chicago at one time but he is now comfortable in Milwaukee. I have known Bob for a long time and he has now worked for BVA for 14 years.

Bob is currently in charge of Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Blinded veterans living in one of the aforementioned states should not delay in calling Bob to solve all of their problems! The office number is 414-382-5123.

Just a few months ago, Bob helped a blinded veteran recoup approximately $300,000 in retroactive payments. He has it in his blood to secure every deserving penny and every piece of needed equipment if it will enhance the quality of life for a fellow veteran. Bob approaches his work with two lingering questions: First, who can I help and, second, how can I help?

Our BVA Field Service Representatives provide inspiration, encouragement, and practical assistance. They understand the complexities and emotions that are part of helping veterans overcome the challenges of blindness because they have been there themselves. They are effective role models in helping all of us find and follow the road to independence. I encourage you to contact Larry, Earl, and the two Bobs to become a beneficiary of this wonderful help and support.

Five other individuals in our Field Service Program have not yet been mentioned. Please find them by calling our National Headquarters or by locating their contact information on our website if you live in areas further east. Details on these equally dedicated people will be forthcoming!