by Roy Kekahuna
Happy 65th Birthday, Blinded Veterans Association! A banner, hung in late March above the front door of our national headquarters building, reminds passersby of this wonderful milestone. I hope all of our members and other Bulletin readers remembered BVA on March 28.
As we celebrate the amazing landmark anniversary of our beloved organization throughout 2010, I would hope that the banner could serve as a sort of symbol of an unforgettable “banner year” for us.
In that spirit, we should strive to make attendance by our members and families at this convention the best we’ve ever experienced. We should also demonstrate pride in our Nation’s Capital by taking advantage of all it has to offer us during our stay. The wonderful sites will most assuredly complement the outstanding program put on by BVA. Our staff has been very hard at work to make this a super event. Now we just need as many of you as possible to get there!
BVA national officers, staff, and guide dogs gather outside Congressional hearing room in Cannon House Office Building following presentation of Dr. Kekahuna’s oral testimony March 4.
As BVA members, we also have a responsibility to support our membership and those who work so hard for us by nominating them for the Association’s very prestigious awards: Certificates of Appreciation, the Maas and Diener Awards, the Long Employment Award, and the Schnair Award.
It is definitely “Showtime” for those who have served us so well and made a true difference in the lives of blinded vets! Nominations were due on April 23. By the time you receive this issue of the Bulletin, we hope to have received many nominations from which to choose. The awards will be presented at the convention’s closing banquet on the evening of August 28.
As I mentioned in the last issue, our Legislative Committee made its way to Capitol Hill in early March. We seem to have garnered substantial support from members of Congress and their staffs. We have been fortunate in seeing many of our bills passed and other priorities realized. Nevertheless, we must continue our efforts to assure that blinded veterans and veterans in general receive the benefits they have rightly earned as a result of their service.
I was able to include, in our last issue, some remarks about our Legislative Committee meetings, mid-winter Board meetings, and Congressional testimony just before it went to press. Each of the aforementioned events took place during the first week in March. To recap again the highlights of our legislative priorities for the year, I based my oral presentation on several key items.
- “Seamless Transition” of blinded veterans from DoD to VA care, the importance of which is emphasized by our advocacy of the Vision Center of Excellence and its Eye Trauma Registry.
- Advance appropriations for VA in 2011 and 2012.
- The critical need for Congressional funding of vision research.
- Elimination of disabled veteran co-payments for blinded veterans attending BRCs.
- Naming of the new BRC after Major Soltes.
A final point I emphasized was our position that VA’s world-class, second-to-none vision rehabilitation services should not be sacrificed for contracted services provided by other organizations. As a graduate of multiple VA BRCs and as a participant in research projects in other countries, I can unequivocally state that the VA centers are second to none.
I wish for all of our members and other Bulletin readers an enjoyable spring and summer, and I look forward to seeing all of you in Washington.