From the Field Service Staff 

by Claudia Perry

During February 11-13, I had the privilege of meeting with the devoted members of BVA's Southern Arizona Regional Group. The group is led by President Ronald Morales (USMC), Treasurer Jeanne Bishop (USAF), Secretary Dan Curtis (USMC), and Administrative Assistant Alicia Amons.

Douglas Brooks, Claudia Perry, and Daniel Johnson, BVA National Service Officers for Regions III, II, and IV, respectively.
Douglas Brooks, Claudia Perry, and Daniel Johnson, BVA National Service Officers for Regions III, II, and IV, respectively.

The regional group opened a very impressive BVA resource center that has been in operation for a little more than a year now. These hard-working and dedicated Volunteer Service Officers work long hours and man the office six days a week. This office is not your standard 9 to 5, Monday to Friday, type of place. The services they provide include benefits assistance, transportation to appointments, and outreach.

The resource center's most recent outreach was to the Tohono O'odham Nation Reservation. The Tohono O'odham Nation is a federally recognized tribe located in southwestern and central Arizona. Tohono O'odham translates as "desert people" (www.tonation-nsn.gov).

In answer to VA's attempt to provide care to Native American veterans, many challenges have been identified. Since most of these individuals live in rural areas, for example, services are often non-existent. I was pleased that Ron would invite me to experience firsthand what this is like and then to learn what services the BVA resource center provides to the veterans of the Tohono O'odham Nation Reservation. We did this through an already scheduled meeting that also involved the American Red Cross and AmeriCorps.

The roughly four-hour meeting began in the late afternoon. The Red Cross and AmeriCorps provided assistance for veterans on the verge of homelessness. VA's Native American Coordinator, Phyllis Spears, discussed services that VA offers to veterans. Ron Morales discussed the benefits and assistance that BVA would offer to these veterans. To my surprise, there were no other service organizations at this outreach attempt! 

Ron expressed to me the urgent need for Native American veterans to receive the benefits they have earned. He noted that, to date, only BVA has gone on these outreach events. It was apparent that Native American veterans on reservations are not receiving the services that they should. We did assist a young Marine veteran who had an injury while on active duty. He expressed relief that we had come and that we were able to provide some assistance in the name of the Blinded Veterans Association.

The Southern Arizona Regional Group consists of extraordinary BVA volunteers whose service is above and beyond that which most Veterans Service Organizations provide. The group embodies the mission of BVA as its members strive to be positive role models and productive members of society. Their community service benefits not only blinded veterans but also our Native American veterans in general who are, in many cases, in desperate need of the benefits and services they have earned.

It was a pleasure and an honor to have worked with such a wonderful group of blinded veterans and volunteers.