Veterans Day Events Offer Opportunities
by Al Avina
The Blinded Veterans Association has served on VA’s Veterans Day National Committee (VDNC) for more than 35 years. We serve with 25 other VSOs such as the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Ex-Prisoners of War, the Congressional Medal of Honor Society of the USA, Catholic War Veterans, Jewish War Veterans, and Vietnam Veterans of America. A full list can be found at http://www.va.gov/opa/vetsday/vdnc.asp
The mission of the VDNC is to promote and support Veterans Day. The Committee meets three times a year in Washington to plan Veterans Day activities. The planning includes the selection of a national Veterans Day poster, discussion of ways to recognize regional observances that will serve as model events to honor America’s veterans, and the putting together of the program for the national ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.
With VA support and assistance with logistics, one member of the Committee serves as the host organization (BVA last hosted in 2002) for the Arlington ceremony.
For many years the Committee has also published a resource guide that is distributed primarily to schools during the weeks leading up to Veterans Day. This year VA has invited Committee members to participate in an outreach initiative.
The initiative is a simple one: Military veterans often learn from other veterans through word of mouth. By providing opportunities for one-on-one discussion in an open house-type forum, VA hopes that VSOs across the country will team up and organize information sessions at local venues. The end objective is that all individuals who have honorably served are aware of current VA services.
BVA requests that your regional group host its own open house or that it partner with another participating VSO in your area. The idea is to hold these events in your own communities where veterans live and socialize. The specific locations do not necessarily have to be VA Medical Centers or Outpatient Clinics.
Although VA readily acknowledges that veterans have earned benefits through their service to the nation and that their mission is to provide such benefits, there is also a growing recognition within the Department that far too many vets are unaware of these benefits and how to access them. Residential blind rehabilitation is just one example of a service with which many, particularly the nonservice-connected, are simply unfamiliar.
Veterans Day and the month leading up to it present a unique opportunity to acknowledge the service and sacrifice of our veterans—and to then reach out to as many of them as possible. VA and the organizations represented on the VDNC share a common interest in reaching them and then helping them access the benefits they have earned with the friendly motto “Your Service, Your Benefits, Your Choice.”
VSO posts, regional groups, and chapters are encouraged to invite veterans from their communities to learn more about the organizations that are a part of the VDNC organizations and, at the same time, to become more aware of the full range of VA benefits and services. VA has promised to provide support with local counselors and materials upon request. VA will also provide printed and electronic resources to any group that is holding events and which promises to report that event to the VDNC between October 11 and November 11, 2013.
Riverfront Park’s famed Rotary Fountain features five 24-foot tall stainless steel columns supporting a 30-foot diameter ring containing 40 overhead jets. Eight geysers shoot water upward. The fountain also sports dozens of mists jets and five boulders that spray sideways. Photo courtesy of Ben Tobin, Visit Spokane.
Organizations that register to host, co-host, or otherwise participate in an event will be recognized for their efforts. BVA will provide fact sheets and other informational/promotional materials to local groups to share with their members so that they can be more effective at communicating the significant impact that BVA has had on the lives of veterans for more than 68 years.
During an event, members of a group could, for example, encourage eye exams and glaucoma testing. An eye care specialist could perhaps conduct such exams on the spot. BVA members could then talk about the significance of advocacy efforts in leading to the development of VA Blind Rehabilitation Service, the funding of VIST and BROS positions, the elimination of the “Co-Pay” for all nonservice-connected veterans who receive VA services, free adaptive devices and technologies, and current beneficiary travel legislation that seeks to help veterans in rural areas attend a blind center who would not otherwise be able to do so because of prohibitive travel costs.
We hope to have at least one BVA member at every function in every state. Ideally, our participating members would have at least some experience with VA BRS and could attest to its impact on their lives.
Complementing their effort would be the opportunity to work side-by side with VA facilities to strengthen public awareness of BVA on both a national as well as a local level. We would hope that new BVA members would also join our ranks as a result.
Additional information can be made available by sending an email to Christina Hitchcock at firstname.lastname@example.org
. Please provide your name and full mailing address. You will also be added to an email distribution list to receive periodic updates about events in your area and across the country. We will work with VA to track and promote these events by zip code.
Organizing Your Event
- Share this information with members of your regional group and chapter.
- Gauge member interest.
- Pick location(s) to host an event: local VSO posts, community centers, town halls, or a mall. Consider combining your information table within other established events in your communities (such as a local fair). You or your regional group may already be planning an activity for White Cane Day on October 15. Combine it with the Veterans Day initiative and draw in other VSOs.
- Register the event with VA. The VDNC Coordinator will track the event with others throughout the country and list it on the VA website by zip code.
- Request VA support and resources for the event.
- Prepare materials to educate the community about BVA and communicate interesting facts about our population (i.e, VA estimates more than 150,000 blind veterans across the country with only 49,000 having registered with VA BRS).