Of Note


ARVO, NAEVR Organize BVA Panel

The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) and the National Association for Eye and Vision Research (NAEVR) are teaming up to arrange a panel discussion involving BVA members on the subject of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and the need for additional research funding.

The discussion is scheduled for May 2 at the annual conference of ARVO, held this year in Denver.

“This is a rare and unique development in the world of vision trauma research to have a panel of veterans speak before a crowd of international researchers about their injuries and vision loss experiences and for the veterans to learn more about what is being learned as a result of such research,” said BVA Director of District 6 Dr. Tom Zampieri. “Many do not know what BVA is doing at this level of VA and DoD research, and we hope to have veterans there to recount their experiences and what they have faced as a result of their TBI.”

Nearly 20 percent of U.S. servicemen and servicewomen deployed since 2001 have reported personal incidents of TBI. Some 75 percent of all TBI patients experience short- or long-term visual disorders, including double vision, light sensitivity, difficulty reading print, and other cognitive impairments.

Research conducted by eye and vision scientists is uncovering important similarities between military blast TBI-related visual dysfunction and ocular pathology resulting from sports-related head injuries and age-related neurodegenerative diseases. 

The ARVO veterans session will present prominent researchers who will address the interface between TBI and visual function. Other sessions will examine traumatic injury to the brain and eye, damage to the visual pathway from TBI and its progress over time, afferent and efferent visual function in TBI, and acute and chronic effects of blast and impact neurotrauma and their mechanistic implications for the visual system.

Cleveland Earns CARF Three-Year Accreditation

CARF International, the accrediting body that evaluates and certifies organizations of and for the blind throughout the world, has announced that the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center has been accredited without recommendations for a period of three years for its comprehensive blind rehabilitation services. This is the first accreditation that CARF has awarded to the Cleveland BRC.

The decision represents the highest level of accreditation that can be awarded to an organization. The Cleveland score demonstrates the organization’s substantial conformance to CARF standards. It was the goal of the BRC’s first Director, Ellen Papadimoulis (see Around BVA), to attain such a level prior to her retirement.

An organization receiving a three-year accreditation has put itself through a rigorous peer review process. It has provided ample evidence to a team of surveyors during an on-site visit that there is genuine commitment to offering programs and services that are measurable, accountable, and of the highest quality. 

CARF is an independent, nonprofit accrediting body whose mission is to promote the quality, value, and optimal outcomes of services through a consultative accreditation process that centers on enhancing the lives of the persons served.

Unique Fitness Programs Free to Blinded Veterans

Having experienced vision loss himself, Martial Arts Sensei (Japanese for “Teacher”) Devin Fernandez has set out to help build physical strength and endurance, instill self-confidence, promote independence, and increase self-esteem among blind and visually impaired individuals through Third Eye Insight, an organization he founded in 2010 in West Islip (Long Island), New York.

Fernandez is especially interested in working with veterans with vision loss, providing blind and visually impaired veterans with free physical fitness classes that include instruction in the practice of Martial Arts and Self-Defense, Yoga, and Meditation.

Fernandez himself was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa in 2002. The diagnosis came just as he was becoming more deeply involved in his Martial Arts studies. Despite the adversity and challenges presented by his vision loss, he was determined to keep training and eventually achieved a Shodan Degree Black Belt in Ninpo Ninjutso.

In one of his meditations during the early days of his vision problems, Fernandez believes the vision for a full fitness center for the blind came to him, leading to the birth of Third Eye Insight and the means by which he could now better understand what his own blindness needed to teach him and how he could share his experiences with others.

Buck Knife Philanthropist Passes in Coeur d’Alene


Charles T. “Chuck” Buck, the third generation behind the Buck Knives company and most recently the company’s chairman, passed away February 6 of congestive heart failure.

Buck was a supporter of BVA and its mission, having sponsored events at national conventions. In August 2013 at the BVA 68th National Convention, Buck Knives, Inc. supported the Father Carroll Luncheon and other convention activities.

Retired Marine Graham Crutchfield, a close friend of Buck’s, presented all blinded veteran attendees at the Association’s 64th National Convention in Portland, Oregon, with a personalized commemorative Buck Knife following the convention’s Opening Business Session. Crutchfield coordinated the raising of the funds to purchase the knives at cost from Buck.

The knives were presented at the same convention to Operation Peer Support participants in a special meeting that recognized their sacrifice and service.

According to Crutchfield, although Buck has supplied the knives to literally thousands of service members, veterans, and families who have experienced the wounds of war from 2005 to the present, he was well aware of BVA’s mission and work—and mindful of the knives presented to veterans with sight loss.

“The presentations to the blinded veterans were important to him,” said Crutchfield. “As a Navy veteran he understood something of the sacrifices that had been made and what these brave men and women—and their families—have gone through.”

Buck included with every Buck knife a message from the Buck family addressing the growth of Buck Knives and the determination to make God their Senior Partner.

“I have worked with both Graham and Chuck in the past on projects to get out the Buck Knives to veterans,” said BVA National Vice President Dale Stamper. “Chuck was a great advocate for veterans and we will miss him greatly.”

The first celebration of his life was held on February 13 at Real Life Ministries in Post Falls, Idaho, and a final memorial will be held in San Diego, California, on May 13, the date on which he would have turned 79.

Veterans Workshop Offers Opportunity

A new enterprise begun in 2011 and registered as a nonprofit 501(c)3 in August 2014 aims to reach out to veterans and their spouses, teaching them how to become salesforce administrators and work from home as such.

“I am totally blind and have been for some time now—although I am lucky enough to be working from home for the Veterans Workshop,” said T.J. McElroy of the Indiana Regional Group.

In a five-day-per week, 14-16 week course, veterans teach veterans how to make calls for deaf veterans. All of the learning is done online and at home. After the trainee becomes certified, he/she can also work from home.

A stable Internet connection and a computer are the requirements to receive the training.

“I use JAWS but other types of assistive technology can also be utilized,” said T.J. “Our instructors are veterans just like us and their goal is to get other veterans certified with the equipment needed to use their computers.”

For more information, please call 888-398-7481 or visitwww.vetsworkshop.org.

Golden Age Games Now on Horizon

VA is now accepting applications from veterans interested in competing in the 2015 National Veterans Golden Age Games. The week-long, national multi-event sports and recreational competition for senior veterans will occur August 8-12 in Omaha, Nebraska.

According to Val Duffy, VIST Coordinator at the Boise VA Medical Center, three of the many events will have a specific “visually impaired” division: bowling, shuffleboard, and horseshoes.

“There will also be what they are calling an exhibition sport for the visually impaired this year, which is disc golf,” she said. “However, there will be no medals awarded for this event.”

This year’s games will be hosted by VA’s Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System, which serves more than 55,000 veterans from 101 counties in Nebraska, western Iowa, and portions of Missouri and Kansas.

The Golden Age Games encourages participants to make physical activity a central part of their lives and supports VA’s comprehensive recreation and rehabilitation therapy programs. Competitive events include air rifle, badminton, bowling, cycling, dominoes, golf, horseshoes, nine ball, shuffleboard, swimming, table tennis, and track and field. 
Applications can be completed online at www.veteransgoldenagegames.va.gov and will be accepted through May 15. Veterans age 55 and older who are enrolled for VA care are eligible to participate.

Nearly 800 athletes are expected to compete. VA research and clinical experience verify that physical activity is important to maintaining good health, speeding recoveries and improving overall quality of life. The games also serve as a way for participants to continue in local senior events in their home communities.

The Golden Age Games can also be followed on Facebook and Twitter at, respectively, www.facebook.com/vaadaptivesports and @VAAdaptiveSport.

National TEE Tournament Still a Hit in Iowa City


The National Veterans TEE (Training, Exposure, Experience) Tournament provides legally blind and otherwise eligible disabled veterans with an opportunity to develop new skills through adaptive golf and bowling events, kayaking, and horseback riding.

Previously a local program, the 21st annual event will occur September 7-10 in Iowa City, Iowa. Participation is open to U.S. military veterans with visual impairments, amputations, traumatic brain injuries, psychological trauma, certain neurological conditions, and spinal cord injuries that are cared for in any VA health care facility.

The TEE Tournament uses a therapeutic format to promote rehabilitation, fellowship, and camaraderie among participants. Participation demonstrates that having a visual or other physical disability need not be an obstacle to an active, rewarding life.

For more information, contact a VIST Coordinator at a local VA medical facility or event director Kirt Sickels at 319-358-5963.