REPORT OF BVA 69TH NATIONAL CONVENTION BYLAWS AND RESOLUTIONS COMMITTEE
RESOLVED, that the National President shall send letters of appreciation to those organizations and individuals contributing to the success of the 69th National Convention, as well as to those other individuals and organizations assisting and supporting BVA during the past year.
WHEREAS, visual impairments are the third most prevalent factor in limiting the activities of individuals, AND
WHEREAS, the prevalence of visual impairments of those aged 65 and over is eight times the rate for those under 65, and 50 percent of all visually-impaired persons in the United States are over the age of 65, AND
WHEREAS, 70-80 percent of individuals over age 65 currently classified as legally blind can be helped to perform daily living functions by low vision or vision rehabilitation services, AND
WHEREAS, financial resources are often a key factor in receiving such assistance, AND
WHEREAS, under current law, vision rehabilitation services and aids for the blind are excluded from coverage by Medicare or Medicaid, THEREFORE BE IT
RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association, in convention assembled in Sparks, Nevada, on this 21st day of August, 2014, supports coverage under Medicare and Medicaid programs of vision aids for visually-impaired persons eligible for Medicare and Medicaid.
WHEREAS, federal funding for stipends and fellowships for students in personnel training programs to be teachers of the visually handicapped, orientation and mobility instructors, rehabilitation teachers, and counselors for the blind have been reduced each year since 1976, AND
WHEREAS, the reduction of funding has caused many professional preparation programs to reduce faculty positions, has closed many programs, and has frustrated development of high caliber personnel, AND
WHEREAS, these reductions in funds have forced the programs to reduce the number of students accepted, and the reduction in stipends has made it difficult to recruit applicants for study in numbers equal to program capacity, AND
WHEREAS, the incidence of blindness and visual impairment is expected to dramatically increase over the next fifteen (15) years, while the number of qualified graduates continues to decrease, AND
WHEREAS, the shortage of qualified Blind Instructors and Orientation & Mobility professionals who work with blind persons has in some instances caused a shift to service provision by allied health personnel without vision rehabilitation education who have no knowledge of the unique needs of blind persons, AND
WHEREAS, the only certain means of assuring stipends and fellowships for students to alleviate the shortage is through categorical funding, THEREFORE BE IT
RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association, in convention assembled in Sparks, Nevada on this 21st day of August, 2014, urges the U.S. Congress to enact legislation to fund categorical programs for professional preparation of education and rehabilitation personnel serving people who are severely visually impaired and blind, AND FURTHER BE IT
RESOLVED, that BVA encourage the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Academic Affairs to explore partnering with University Preparation Programs to assure an adequate supply of professionally trained Vision Rehabilitation specialists.
WHEREAS,the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law in July 1990, AND
WHEREAS, blind and visually-impaired individuals historically have experienced extreme difficulty in finding meaningful employment or advancing beyond entry level positions when employment is found, AND
WHEREAS, the provisions of ADA require reasonable accommodations for disabled persons, AND
WHEREAS, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) employs disabled people, many of whom are blind or severely visually impaired, THEREFORE BE IT
RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association, in convention assembled in Sparks, Nevada on this 21st day of August, 2014, urges VA to ensure that all visually impaired and blind employees have reasonable accommodations, including necessary training on essential access technology.
WHEREAS,members of the Armed Forces of the United States of America are on duty 24 hours a day and may be subject to multiple hazards, hostile environments, and unknown health conditions as a matter of course during their tours of duty in the Department of Defense, THEREFORE BE IT
RESOLVED, the Blinded Veterans Association, in Convention assembled in Sparks, Nevada, on this 21st day of August, 2014, that these veterans shall not be innocent victims of indiscriminate budget-cutting efforts by attempting to change the method for service-connected compensation for injury or disease to performance of duty; AND BE IT FURTHER
RESOLVED, that the current line of duty approach shall remain as the standard applied to veterans’ claims.
WHEREAS,urrent law provides that service- connected veterans rated less than 50 percent who retire from the Armed Forces on length of service do not receive disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in addition to full military retired pay, AND
WHEREAS, these disabled veterans must therefore surrender retired pay in an amount equal to the disability compensation they receive, AND
WHEREAS, this offset is unfair to veterans who have served faithfully in military careers inasmuch as these veterans have earned their retired pay by virtue of their long service to the Nation and wholly apart from disabilities due to military service,NOW THEREFORE BE IT
RESOLVED that BVA, in National Convention assembled in Sparks, Nevada, on this 21st day of August, 2014, supports legislation to repeal the offset between military longevity retired pay and VA disability compensation.
WHEREAS, blinded veterans referred to one of the thirteen (13) VA Regional Blind Rehabilitation Centers (BRCs) for comprehensive residential blind rehab services must travel long distances to receive these rehabilitation services, AND
WHEREAS, certain blinded veterans because of their income level are not eligible for Beneficiary Travel Benefits, AND
WHEREAS, these veterans are required to pay their own travel to receive essential rehabilitation services, AND
WHEREAS, the expense of air transportation can be very high and serve as a strong disincentive for the veteran to take advantage of the VA BRC training, AND
WHEREAS, the Network hosting the BRC is reimbursed at the high or complex rate for these blinded veterans, THEREFORE BE IT
RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association, in convention assembled in Sparks, Nevada on this 21st day of August, 2014, urges the U.S. Congress to amend Title 38 USC section on Beneficiary Travel requiring VA to pay travel for all veterans meeting the VA definition of catastrophically disabled, and that they be accepted for care in one of the VA Special Disabilities Programs and request that VHA support this change for catastrophically disabled veterans as legislatively requested to Congress in 2014.
WHEREAS,U.S. Military Operations in Afghanistan (OEF) and Iraq (OIF) have resulted in numerous eye injured casualties, AND
WHEREAS, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of FY 2008 "Title 10, U.S.C. Section 1623" mandated that because DoD and VA had no centralized joint clinical record system in place to track all eye casualties, AND
WHEREAS, DoD reports post -9/11 worldwide eye injuries at 197,000 since October 2001 and the VHA Office of Public Health reports enrollment of 153,197 service members with eye injuries and/or TBI visual dysfunction conditions, including 39,908 unique OEF/OIF/OND, AND
WHEREAS, Congress has mandated the establishment of the DoD/VA Vision Center Excellence (VCE) and that it shall include a joint Defense Veterans Eye Injury Vision Registry (DVEIVR) to be used to develop best practices, inform clinical policy, guide vision research, facilitate studies and clinical education, facilitate clinical care delivery and coordination, including vision rehabilitation, AND
WHEREAS, post-9/11 service members’ medical and surgery interventions, diagnosis, treatments, clinical outcomes, eye notes, and coordinated rehabilitation services all are to have entry into a joint longitudinal patient centered medical record (DVEIVR) by DoD- and VHA- credentialed personnel with a Common Access Card (CAC) or Personal Identity Verification Card (PIVC) for clinical care records access, and information in the DVEIVR will be made available to DoD and VHA credentialed providers to facilitate clinical care coordination including vision rehabilitation, AND
WHEREAS, VCE staff have entered 30,000 unique eye injured and/or visual dysfunction disorder service member records as of August 15, 2014 but VHA has entered one "test" veterans record into the DVEIVR and Is now contracting and for the development/upgrade of a parallel VA “Military Eye Injury Registry” (MEVIR) resulting in higher costs, duplication, with risk of a unique separate VHA Registry with fewer or incompatible clinical data fields, and this may cause additional prolonged delays in fully developed patient centered integrated clinical registry records reflecting care received from both the DoD and VA providers in DVEIVR AND,
WHEREAS, the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) and all endorsers of the Veterans Service Organization Independent Budget (VSOIB) FY 2015 are concerned about this issue, THEREFORE BE IT
RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association in convention assembled in Sparks, Nevada, on this 21st day of August, 2014, strongly urge DoD and VA to immediately and fully implement the mandated joint VCE DVEIVR and that VHA enter the medical, surgical, and rehabilitative clinical records of all OIF/OEF/OND veterans with eye injuries or with visual system dysfunction in a manner that will ensure immediate and full interoperability with the existing VCE DVEIVR-entered data to develop best practices, inform clinical policy, guide vision research, facilitate studies and clinical education, facilitate proactive clinical care delivery and care coordination, including vision rehabilitation, by providing decision support and patient reports and by providing trend analysis, population views, benchmarks, and quality reporting AND FURTHER BE IT
RESOLVED, that the Secretary of VA ensure funding and staffing necessary for the mandated DVEIVR with full support to meet the requirements and the intent of Congress when it established the Vision Center of Excellence.
WHEREAS,fundamental to the comprehensive rehabilitation of veterans who are severely visually impaired or blind is the development of wholesome and healthy attitudes about blindness, the acquisition of adaptive skills to overcome the handicap of blindness and reintegration into the family and community, AND
WHEREAS, the Department of Veterans Affairs ((VA) pioneered the comprehensive residential Blind Rehabilitation Center (BRC) approach to the delivery of such comprehensive services to facilitate adjustment to and acceptance of sudden and traumatic loss of vision, AND
WHEREAS, the VA BRC model has evolved to include the comprehensive rehabilitation of veterans whose visual impairment and blindness may be associated with aging, AND
WHEREAS, VA is internationally recognized as the premier provider of comprehensive blind rehabilitation services, AND
WHEREAS, non-VA blind rehabilitation programs have recently begun to seek referral of visually impaired and blinded veterans away from VA Blind Rehabilitation Services (BRS) in an effort to obtain VA contract funding, AND
WHEREAS, America’s visually impaired and blinded veterans have earned the right to have access to the highest quality blind rehabilitation services available, AND
WHEREAS, only in rare instances would referral to a non-VA BRC be appropriate, THEREFORE BE IT
RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association, in convention assembled in Sparks, Nevada on this 21st day of August, 2014, that visually impaired and blinded veterans be referred only to VA BRCs for comprehensive residential blind rehabilitation services, AND BE IT FURTHER
RESOLVED, that should it ever be necessary to refer a visually impaired or blinded veteran to a non-VA facility, that non-VA facility should be accredited by either (NAC) the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped or the Commission For Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), and should employ Blind Rehabilitation Specialists Certified by the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals (ACVREP).
WHEREAS,the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is currently authorized to provide transportation to VA appointments for veterans confined to a wheelchair and those who require transportation by ambulance, AND
WHEREAS, Veterans Transportation Service has active plans to expand health care access for veterans. It has expanded the Veteran Transportation Network which is now active at eighty-seven (87) VA sites. A mobility manager who coordinates scheduling as well as identifying and joining with community partners is in place in facilities as the program expands. The program is also working closely with VA’s Office of Rural Health to improve the network of transportation services that connect rural veterans and those veterans who, because of disability or infirmity, need transportation assistance to access VA services. This service provides for continuity of care for those physically infirm or disabled veterans who often have complex medical conditions requiring health care services, AND
WHEREAS, blind veterans have significant problems with obtaining transportation to VA appointments, AND
WHEREAS, the disability of blindness causes significant barriers in transportation similar to those who must use a wheelchair. VA proposed legislation to extend a recently enacted provision, 38 USC & 111A that authorized VA to transport any person to or from a VA facility or other place in connection with vocational rehabilitation or counseling required by the Secretary pursuant to Chapter 34 or 35 of Title 38 or for the purpose of examination, treatment or care, AND
WHEREAS, this authority was enacted in January 2013 under Public Law 112-260, Section 202 of the Dignified Burial and Other Veterans’ Benefits Improvement Act of 2012 and expires one year after the data of enactment. This proposal is supported by BVA and would extend the VA authority for an additional five years, THEREFORE BE IT
RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association in convention assembled in Sparks, Nevada, on this 21st day of August, 2014, request that the VA Veterans Travel Program (VTP), in conjunction with VHA, ensure that blindness be included as a justification for VA to authorize transportation to local VA appointments when appropriate by VA mobility personnel and that VA vans, public transportation, DAV vans, or other contracted services be utilized to ensure that all blinded veterans have access to local VA outpatient care and services.
WHEREAS,these veterans who are blind or visually impaired utilize the services of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), AND
WHEREAS, these veterans receive correspondence including, but not limited to information about their benefits, appointment reminders, surgical preparation, and treatment instructions only in standard print, THEREFORE BE IT
RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association, in convention assembled in Sparks, Nevada, on this 21st day of August, 2014, collaborate with other organizations serving blind and visually impaired veterans and communicate with the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs and provide that all web content within VA agencies, hospitals, and VBA facilities be provided using Section 508 standards for accessible formats, including, but not limited to, large print, Braille, recorded format, computer disk or e-mail, BE IT FURTHER
RESOLVED, that funding for Section 508 be separate from other general IT operational funding and that staffing be increased to address those internet and intranet sites requiring program repairs. In August 2012 VA identified 20 of the most frequented sites used by veterans and asks for a timetable to repair those sites.