Of Note


WRBH-FM Reading Radio Offers Unique Service


A local FM radio station based in New Orleans is having an impact on the lives of the blind and visually impaired not only within the city’s metropolitan region but all over the world.

WRBH-88.3 FM turns the printed word into the spoken word so that the listener receives the same ease of access to current information as those who read it. More than 200 volunteers make possible 24 hours of programming seven days a week and 52 weeks a year. The station is the only full-time reading service on the FM dial in the United States and one of only three worldwide.

WRBH began as the dream of a New Orleans mathematician, Dr. Robert McClean, who was blind himself. McClean envisioned a reading radio station that would operate on the FM dial rather than on sideband frequencies that require special radios to pick up the signal. He wanted strong programming content that would change and improve the lives of blind and visually impaired persons who desired productive, fulfilling lives in their communities. He first leased airtime from WWNO, then bought the 88.3 FM signal and rented space from the Lighthouse for the Blind in New Orleans.

In 1982, WRBH became a 24-hour station and moved on to purchase a house in uptown New Orleans, where the studios operate today. McLean’s dream was fully realized in 2000 when WRBH began streaming audio to the Internet.

The station offers the reading of The Wall Street Journal, The Times-Picayune, weekly and monthly magazines, listings of local events, grocery store ads, and both fiction and nonfiction books. Several shows are also hosted in the studio, including Writers Forum (an opportunity for local authors to discuss their work), The Chef Show, and programming in both Spanish and Vietnamese.

WRBH’s target listening audience includes the elderly who are beginning to experience loss of vision, the illiterate, those with dyslexia, and individuals who are not able to read for a time due to illness. It may also attract those who cannot afford to purchase print media and may not have transportation to a local library.

For access to WRBH audio streaming, visit the station’s website at www.wrbh.org.

Support Line to Assist Caregivers


VA has initiated a toll-free National Caregiver Support Line to provide information and help to family members and loved ones who provide care for veterans living with the effects of war, disability, chronic illness, or aging.

The line, housed at the VA Medical Center campus in Canandaigua, New York, began operating on February 1. It provides information on VA/community caregiver support resources and referrals to Caregiver Support Coordinators located in every VA Medical Center. Emotional support for the caregiver is also an integral component of the service.

At present, the support line is also available to respond to inquiries related to caregiver benefits associated with Public Law 111-163, the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010.

Calls are answered by VA employees who are licensed clinical social workers.

The National Caregiver Support Line is open for calls Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., and 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday. The toll-free number is 1-855-260-3274.

Golden Age Games Set for Hawaii


More than 700 “golden age” veterans from throughout the United States, including a handful of BVA members, will travel to Honolulu, Hawaii, to participate in the 25th National Veterans Golden Age Games May 26-31.

Sponsored by the VA Veterans Canteen Service and Help Hospitalized Veterans, the national event emphasizes recreational competition designed to improve the quality of life for all older veterans, including those with a wide range of abilities and disabilities. It is recognized among the most progressive and adaptive rehabilitative senior sports programs in the world.

“To have this year’s Golden Age Games in Hawaii has brought some logistical challenges to the event that took a fair amount of creativity between the sponsors and coordinators,” said Marilyn Iverson, director of Veterans Canteen Service. “But challenges like this are well worth the effort, and I believe that everyone will love the results.”

The Golden Age Games serve as a qualifying event for competition in the National Senior Games in several competitive events.

For more information about the National Veterans Golden Age Games and other national rehabilitation programs, visit VA’s website at www.veteransgoldenagegames.va.gov.

Medical Forms to Streamline Veterans Claim Process


VA has released three new disability benefits questionnaires for physicians of veterans applying for VA disability compensation and benefits. The initiative marks the beginning of a major reform of the physicians’ guides and automated routines that will streamline the claims process for injured or ill veterans.

The new questionnaires are the first of 79 disability benefits questionnaires that will guide veterans’ personal physicians, as well as VA physicians, in the evaluation of the most frequent medical conditions affecting veterans.

VA’s goal under Secretary Shinseki is to process all claims in fewer than 125 days with a decision quality rating no lower than 98 percent, a mark he has mandated to be met by 2015. The physician questionnaire project is one of more than three dozen initiatives actively underway at VA, including a major technology modernization that will lead to paperless claims processing.

2011 COLA Update


The Social Security Administration confirmed on December 30 that no Cost-of-Living Adjustments (COLAs) would be made to Social Security benefits in 2011 because the Consumer Price Index has not risen since 2008 when the last Social Security increase occurred.

Veterans, their families, and survivors will also not see a COLA to their compensation and pension benefits from VA in 2011. Under federal law, the COLAs to VA’s compensation and pension rates are the same percentage as for Social Security benefits.

Lions World Offers Services


Lions World Services for the Blind (LWSB) provides personal adjustment training, psychological testing and counseling, pre-vocational evaluation, and vocational training to individuals who are blind or visually impaired.

The program is housed in a complex of six buildings in a residential area near the campus of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Founded in 1939 by Roy Kumpe, an Arkansas lawyer who had been blind since the age of eight, LWSB originally trained and employed the blind to operate vending stands in government buildings.

Kumpe realized shortly after the founding of LWSB that the blind and visually impaired were not sufficiently independent to be successfully employed. In 1946, he persuaded the Little Rock Founders Lions Club to provide $10,000 toward financing the first rehabilitation center in the country under non-governmental auspices. It was incorporated as Arkansas Enterprises for the Blind.

In 1989, the name was changed to Lions World Services for the Blind to better reflect the range of services and international scope of the organization. The center is now the largest, most complete of its kind in the world. It is financed by the tuition paid by state rehabilitation agencies that purchase training services from LWSB for their clients, by the financial support of the Lions of Arkansas, surrounding states using the services, grants, and public donations.

Approximately 100 trainees are involved in the on-campus program at any one time. The average period of training is approximately six months. Other facilities include dormitory buildings, a full-service cafeteria, and a 1,200-foot greenhouse for clients training in the horticulture program.

For additional information, call 800-248-0734 or visit www.lwsb.org.

Action Plan Aims to Support Military Families


Joined by Cabinet members, administration officials, VSO representatives, and Dr. Jill Biden, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama unveiled on January 24 the administration’s action plan to strengthen military families.

The plan accompanied the release of the report “Strengthening Military Families: Meeting America’s Commitment.”

“Every day, U.S. service members—along with their families—make sacrifices that benefit all Americans,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis following the unveiling. “The President understands that providing necessary support strengthens not only these individuals but our nation as a whole.”

The report was prepared by an Interagency Policy Committee comprised of Cabinet staff and overseen by the National Security Staff and the Domestic Policy Council. The Committee then developed a government-wide plan that included components such as ending homelessness among veterans and their families, increasing career opportunities in the federal government and private sector, and reducing barriers to employment and services.