New BVA Membership Application!

BVA has updated and re-designed our membership application to be more accurate and easier to use. Below you can find the application in a variety of formats: .PDF, a modern Word document, and an old-format Word document. If you have any questions about this application, please email us at, or call 1-800-669-7079.

BVA Membership Application PDF

BVA Membership Application Word 97-2003

BVA Membership Application Word 2010

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Upcoming Changes to the Field Service Program

The Field Service Program is entering a period of transition to increase efficiency of services provided to blinded veterans.  The Blinded Veterans Association is creating a Field Service Program Resource Center to be a one stop shop for services provided by BVA.  The new FSP Resource Center will feature a dedicated toll free number which any blind veteran across the nation can call and receive services from any BVA National Field Service Officer regardless of where they live.  This will streamline services and provide consistency to all veterans.

Starting September 01, 2015 all Field service calls will be routed through the new Field Service Program Resource Center.  As part of this transformation, all of BVA’s National Field service Regional Offices will be relocating to the new Field Service Program Resource Center.  All Volunteer Offices will remain open.  The new Field Service Program Resource Center will be located in BVA Headquarters at 125 N West Street, Alexandria VA. To ensure all veterans have access, the toll free number 844-250-5180 is active and will be temporarily routed through the Headquarters receptionist until the resource opens.

As Volunteer National Service Officers (VSNO) are a valuable asset to the FSP program, BVA will begin offering VNSO specific Training at conventions starting August 2016.  The new VNSO specific training will be dedicated to provide training and support to VNSO’s whom are accredited with BVA and dedicating 1000 hours annually to help veterans with claims.

BVA Field Service Resource Center

125 N. West St, 3rd Floor

Alexandria, VA 22314

Phone: 844-250-5180 (Toll Free)

Fax: 202-371-8258


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Applicants Sought for immediate opening. BVA is looking for a self-directed and highly effective veteran to fill an immediate opening for a full-time position in our DC office. The Director of Government Relations will be a major part of BVA’s advocacy presence in Washington, DC and engages media on relevant Veteran Affairs (VA) and blindness issues.

Duties and responsibilities include but are not limited to the following:

Review federal laws, programs, and policies concerning individuals with disabilities.

Advise and assist in the development, administration, coordination, and execution of plans, policies, resolutions, and BVA procedures.

Participate in rulemaking and other activities in partnership with various federal agencies.

Possess a broad knowledge of, and serve as a key communicator of, BVA policies and programs and is a link between BVA, Congress, and other veterans’ and military service organizations.

Develop legislative initiatives, coordinate sponsors and co-sponsors of bills introduced in congress and educate BVA officers and membership on the status of legislation, regulations, and policy development.


  • Disabled veteran preference, some experience in advocacy, communications, working on Capitol Hill, or with/within the federal government, or in a related field.
  • Strong writing skills.
  • Blinded or visually impaired war veteran strongly preferred.
  • Excellent organization and leadership skills, ability to work on multiple tasks under pressure and tight deadlines
  • Ability to plan and execute successfully with limited oversight.
  • Commitment to the goals of BVA and able to communicate those effectively.
  • A background with public speaking and media experience are a plus.
  • Ability to travel

BVA is an equal opportunity employer.

Send the resume & cover letter by postal mail or email to:
Blinded Veterans Association
Attention: Mr. Al Avina
125 N. West St, 3rd Floor
Alexandria, VA 22314


Staff Emergency Physician Honors Fallen Friend by Dedicating Ironman Participation to Blinded Veterans

Dr. Robert Chen, a Staff Emergency Physician at the Carolinas Medical Center and a partner of Cabarrus Emergency Medicine Associates, will run, swim, and ride his bicycle in the renowned 140-mile Cairns, Australia, Ironman triathlon on June 14.

A retired U.S. Air Force Officer and a longtime avid runner, Dr. Chen is dedicating his efforts in memory of his close friend, U.S. Army Major Charles Robert (Rob) Soltes, O.D., the first Army optometrist to lose his life in action in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Major Soltes was killed by a vehicle-borne Improvised Explosive Device in northeastern Mosul in October 2004.

As an additional motivation for his Ironman challenge, Dr. Chen has already donated $1,400 to the Operation Peer Support initiative of the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA), a commitment of $10 for each mile. He challenges all interested parties to commit any possible amount per mile for the 140 miles he plans to complete.

The “Chen Challenge” seeks to heighten public awareness of the issues facing vision loss by supporting BVA’s efforts to assist newly blinded veterans. The organization began Operation Peer Support in 2006, bringing together veterans of recent conflicts who have lost their sight during the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts with those of the Vietnam, Korea, and World War II eras.

“Physical and emotional isolation can be a huge issue for those who have only recently lost their eyesight,” said BVA Director of District 6 Dr. Tom Zampieri, who has provided much of the impetus for Operation Peer Support during the past nine years. “Opportunities to connect with and mentor those who have faced these obstacles and overcome them, both at our conventions and in other settings, have brought some wonderfully positive results.”

Dr. Chen has been training for the Cairns Ironman for 18 months. He swam 2.5 miles on a lake two times during the past two weeks and within four days he completed two rides of more than 100 miles each.

Headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, BVA is an educational, charitable nonprofit (501c3) organization. The tax identification number for BVA is 530214281. The Association’s earliest beginnings occurred March 28, 1945 when a group of World War II blinded servicemen convened in a formal meeting at Avon Old Farms U.S. Army Convalescent Hospital near Avon, Connecticut, for the purpose of establishing an organization that would advocate on behalf of veterans who had lost their sight.

For more information about the Chen challenge or to make a pledge to support Dr. Chen, see the online flyer provided by the accompanying link or visit

A second event, also made possible by a close friend of Major Soltes and his family, will simultaneously honor the Army optometrist while helping blinded veterans in a fashion similar to that of the Chen Challenge. Tom Clarke of Irvine, California, annually organizes the Major Rob Soltes Memorial Golf Tournament. The event, to be held this year on October 12 in Irvine, also donates proceeds to Operation Peer Support. For more information about the Soltes Memorial Golf Tournament, call 949-438-0140 or again visit

Chen Challenge Flyer

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Intense BVA Week in Nation’s Capital Culminates in Wreath Laying

Flanked by the traditional guided assistance provided by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, BVA Executive Director Al Avina, National Field Service Director Ed Eckroth, and National Field Service Training Coordinator Wade Davis marched forward in unison toward Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknowns as they presented the Blinded Veterans Association’s wreath on May 25.

National Service Officer and Training Coordinator Wade Davis, left, and Field Service Director Ed Eckroth represented BVA in the Parade of Colors at the beginning of the amphitheater ceremony. Ed carried the U.S. flag in the procession while Wade marched with the BVA flag.

National Service Officer and Training Coordinator Wade Davis, left, and Field Service Director Ed Eckroth represented BVA in the Parade of Colors at the beginning of the amphitheater ceremony. Ed carried the U.S. flag in the procession while Wade marched with the BVA flag.

The Memorial Day event joined BVA with dozens of other service organizations with similarly decorated floral wreaths honoring men and women who have defended the United States in uniform and have ultimately given their last full measure of devotion as they gave of their lives in service.

The wreath laying followed the 147th annual Memorial Day Observance at the Cemetery, which for several decades has occurred in the Memorial Amphitheater situated immediately behind the Tomb of the Unknowns. The solemn observance ceremony featured a Memorial Day address by President Barack Obama and remarks by Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey. Musical selections were provided by the United States Marine Band.

As part of the ceremony, President Obama also laid a wreath at the Tomb prior to his address as dozens from his official party and heads of military and veterans organizations, including Al Avina, looked on.

“So on this day, we honor the sacrifice of the thousands of American service members—men and women—who gave their lives since 9/11, including more than 2,200 American patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan,” he said as he referred to this Memorial Day as the first in 14 years that the United States was not involved in a major ground operation.

VFW Escort begins walk toward Tomb of the Unknowns with Wade Davis, Al Avina, and Ed Eckroth.

VFW Escort begins walk toward Tomb of the Unknowns with Wade Davis, Al Avina, and Ed Eckroth.

Al and Ed Eckroth were also invited guests at a White House breakfast hosted by the President immediately prior to the events at the cemetery.

Memorial Day in the Nation’s Capital fell just five days after BVA’s annual oral testimony before a joint session of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, hosted this year on the Senate side. Although National President Mark Cornell had remained in town five additional days following the midwinter Board meetings to represent the Association in the originally scheduled hearing March 5, a debilitating snowstorm postponed the hearing for more than 2½ months and Mark was forced to return to his native San Antonio, Texas, unable to deliver the testimony.

Busy with some of his own rehab training at the Biloxi, Mississippi, Blind Rehabilitation Center, Mark was unable to return in May to present the testimony. Director of Government Relations Glenn Minney filled in for him at the witness table on a Washington Day that could easily be labeled as the polar opposite of that of March 5. Not a cloud was visible in the sky as the BVA contingency reached the Senate Office Building. The high temperature for the day was 75 degrees.

Glenn Minney with Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Staff Director Eric Hannel.

Glenn Minney with Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Staff Director Eric Hannel.

Glenn shared his time in a panel format with the leaders of the Paralyzed Veterans of America, AMVETS, Military Officers Association of America, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Vietnam Veterans of America, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, and the Non Commissioned Officers Association. He had only five minutes to present BVA’s most important legislative priorities and then take questions from members of the Committee.

“With my limited time before the Committees, we decided to emphasize our Beneficiary Travel bills (H.R. 288 and S. 171), our petition that VA websites become compliant with Section 508 of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the need for VA to begin implementation of the already legislated scholarship program to employ additional blind rehabilitation specialists,” Glenn said following the hearing. “I think it was a productive presentation as we put forth our major concerns as succinctly as possible in the time we had available.”

Glenn sets for presentation, now just moments away.

Glenn sets for presentation, now just moments away.

Other BVA priorities were presented in a document submitted for the Congressional record. They include lack of progress with the Vision Center of Excellence, the need for Information Accessibility Officers to help blinded veterans access Veterans Health Administration and Veterans Benefits Administration documents and websites, research funding in the area of battlefield eye injuries, and general funding for VA Blind Rehabilitation Service programs. Both the written document and a video of the hearing can be accessed at

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Blind Veterans UK To Host American Veterans in England

Four Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) combat blinded American veterans will share knowledge, insights, and friendship with their British army war-blinded comrades in England May 30-June 7, 2015.

The seven-day exchange, now popularly known as Project Gemini, will be based at the Blind Veterans UK Brighton Centre outside London. Five members of Blinded Veterans UK and two South African war-blinded veterans will also join this year’s annual exchange.

Project Gemini, initiated in May 2011 and named for the transatlantic cable that connects the United States and the United Kingdom, is a joint initiative between the nonprofit organizations Blinded Veterans Association (BVA), headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, and Blind Veterans UK. The initiative seeks to heighten public awareness within the two countries of the issues facing veterans with vision loss, resulting in improvements in services and benefits for both them and their families. This year’s international airfare from Washington Dulles International Airport to London Heathrow International was donated by British Airways.

Project Gemini’s original purpose was the sharing of vision rehabilitation information among the veterans themselves. The educational scope of the program later widened to include visits and training sessions with officials of the Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs, and the National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research.

The 2015 exchange will again address the similarities and differences in vision research and the rehabilitation training programs offered to veterans within each of the three countries represented. Adaptive technology and sports for the blind will also be discussed and put to practical use during the week.

Other highlights are a tour of the Blind Veterans UK rehabilitation center, blind archery, and blind bowling competition. Visits to the Brighton Royal Pavilion, Hastings Castle, the Imperial War Museum, and other nearby sites will also be included. On June 4 the group will tour London, the focus of which will be a special Buckingham Palace Garden reception commemorating the 100th anniversary of Blind Veterans UK. That evening the group will meet the renowned Wellington Guards and share an official “mess” dinner.

During the exchange, both groups of veterans will also share helpful hints about coping with blindness and the “war stories” that are part of their personal adjustment to blindness and subsequent rehabilitation. OIF participants are Army Staff Sergeant Jason Pepper, Army Sergeant Adam Rowland, Staff Sergeant Aaron Hale, and Marine Corporal Chris Rader. Major Tom Zampieri (Ret.), a legally blind veteran himself and member of the BVA National Board of Directors, will accompany the veterans as trip coordinator. BVA National President and Air Force veteran Mark Cornell of San Antonio, Texas, will also make the trip and experience Project Gemini for the first time.

Project Gemini is an outgrowth of Operation Peer Support, a BVA program begun in 2006 that brings together veterans of recent conflicts with those who have lost their sight during the Vietnam, Korea, and World War II eras. The objective of the program is to provide veterans who have lost their sight most recently with opportunities to interact with men and women who can, as a result of their experience, serve as natural role models and mentors.

Blind Veterans UK, formerly St. Dunstan’s, is the British national charity for visually impaired ex-servicemen and women. Tracing its founding back to 1915 during World War I, the organization now offers free and comprehensive support to all UK blinded veterans.

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Blinded Veterans Revitalize at Georgia Ranger Training Camp

Five members of the Blinded Veterans Association with unusually high levels of strength, stamina, endurance, and perhaps even some extra doses of courage left over from their days in the military recently participated in a long weekend of rigorous U.S. Army Mountain Ranger training.

The site of the training, held April 22-26, was Camp Frank D. Merrill Military Base in Dahlonega, Georgia, located in the northern part of the state. The base is the general meeting point for the 5th Ranger Training Battalion and a school for rangers.

With travel sponsored by BVA and the idea brought to fruition by the Association’s National Sergeant-At-Arms Danny Wallace of Union, Missouri, the trip to Camp Merrill and the subsequent training to be an Army Ranger was for the blinded veterans much like it is for actual ranger trainee recruits.

“We displayed our unstoppable drive not only to ourselves but to the elite U.S. Army Rangers,” Danny declared as the five-day experience came to an end.

Danny was accompanied in the training, conducted by his fellow rangers and overseen by the U.S. Army Mountain Ranger Association, by veterans who were injured in combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan within the last ten years: Steve Baskis of Veronia, Wisconsin; Lonnie Bedwell of Dugger, Indiana; Aaron Hale of Santa Rosa Beach, Florida; and Michael Malarsie of South Jordan, Utah.

Blinded veteran Lonnie Bedwell, already known in BVA circles for his kayaking exploits in the Grand Canyon, scales synthetic rock wall during Army Ranger training April 24. The group performed mountaineering feats at both the camp and at nearby Mount Yonah in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest of northern Georgia.

Blinded veteran Lonnie Bedwell, already known in BVA circles for his kayaking exploits in the Grand Canyon, scales synthetic rock wall during Army Ranger training April 24. The group performed mountaineering feats at both the camp and at nearby Mount Yonah in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest of northern Georgia.

Activities consisted of mountaineering training that included hiking up a rock-strewn trail toward cliffs they would later climb and repel. At the cliffs the Ranger cadre and instructors set up eight climbing stations at which each trainee could prove himself on the vertical rock. The instructors assisted them in tying knots and ascending the rock face. Later in the day they moved back to a base camp and climbed a synthetic rock wall and performed additional repelling.

“The trip to Camp Merrill was truly amazing and something I will never forget,” said Steve Baskis. “I felt an overwhelming sense of pride for the chance to work again with fellow comrades who served in the same war as I did.”

The five ranger trainees also conducted both a 5K and a 15K run. In addition, they were invited to the Gainesville, Georgia Police Department, where they shot live fire using shotguns, assault rifles, and pistols.

The act of participating in physical fitness, recreation, and sports can be a great recovery tool,” said Steve. “Communication skills, confidence, trust, and independence are only a few attributes that can be gained and refined by participating in a program like this.”

Steve’s comments were echoed by Michael Malarsie, who also lauded the program and overall experience.

“When I retired from the military, I assumed I’d miss the people I served with and all of the exciting things I was able to do, but I had didn’t expect to miss it as much as I do,” he said. “Being at Ranger Camp was a boost and a reminder of the things I love.”

Michael was as emphatic about his associations with fellow comrades as he was about the activities themselves.

“Not only was the rappelling, rock climbing, and shooting an absolute blast but the chance to spend so much time with people just like me was revitalizing,” he said. “I made amazing new friends and we’re already planning to meet up later this year—can’t thank enough BVA and the rangers for making this opportunity happen and for letting me be a part of it.”

In addition to the rigorous physical activity, the veterans were treated to a barbecue, a fish fry, and a critter cookout in the evenings.

“When I’ve heard about ranger training in the past, I’ve heard about a lack of food,” Steve joked. “In this case food was in high abundance with a store even across the street so there was no way we were going to be allowed to starve!”

The experience was sufficiently memorable and impactful that the veterans urged BVA to make its support an annual occurrence.

“I’m motivated and excited to get back to normal life and take it head on!” stressed Michael. “I sincerely hope this sort of event starts become a regular one on the BVA calendar.”

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Three blinded U.S. military veterans affiliated with the Blinded Veterans Association’s Operation Peer Support initiative will share their stories of vision loss as a result of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) suffered in combat situations as part of a special presentation and panel discussion May 2 in Denver, Colorado.

The session is free of charge and open to the public. Scheduled for the Colorado Convention Center’s Mile High Ballroom 1CD, the discussion is a preliminary event of the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO), the largest eye and vision research organization in the world.

The ARVO conference is the largest international gathering of eye and vision researchers, attracting more than 11,000 attendees from approximately 75 countries. Official dates of the conference are May 3-7.

Panelists are Navy Chief Petty Officer Glenn Minney (Ret.), current Director of Government Relations at the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) National Headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, severely injured in 2005 when an Iraqi mortar exploded 30 feet in front of him; Army Staff Sergeant Sean Johnson (Ret.), injured in the line of duty by a mortar blast in 2006; and Army Sergeant Shianti Lee (Ret.), injured in 2005 when the vehicle in which she was riding was hit by explosives while accompanying Special Forces on a mission in Taji, Iraq.

Following panelist participation and their stories of vision loss, a question and answer period will be open to participation by all attendees. Retired National Football League running back Terrell Davis, Most Valuable Player in Super Bowl XXXII (1998), a game in which he also experienced a concussion and temporary blindness, will be in attendance and present closing comments at the end of the session.

Each of the panelists is legally blind while retaining a minimal degree of vision. All experienced Traumatic Brain Injury among their multiple injuries. BVA first became acquainted with them and their stories when inviting them to attend a BVA national convention as part of Operation Peer Support, an initiative connecting combat-blinded veterans of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam with newly blinded veterans wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, most often by improvised explosive devices or sniper fire.

The session will open with presenters Ann C. Mckee, MD of Boston University (Retinal Pathology in Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy); Randy H. Kardon, MD, PhD of the University of Iowa (Visual Sensory Impairments and Progression Following Mild Traumatic Brain Injury); Glenn C. Cockerham, MD, PhD of the Palo Alto Veterans Health Care System (Afferent Visual Function in Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury); and Lee E. Goldstein, MD, PhD of Boston University (Traumatic Brain Injury and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in Athletes, Combat Veterans, and Experimental Models of Impact and Blast Neurotrauma: Implications for Ophthalmology and Vision Research).

BVA was established in March of 1945 when a small but close-knit group of World War II blinded veterans gathered together in Avon, Connecticut. The founders hoped to help newly blinded veterans adjust to life without sight and to regain their confidence and independence. This dedication has continued for 70 years. Eligibility for assistance does not require that a veteran’s blindness be service connected. There is no charge for any BVA service. For further information, call BVA at 800-669-7079 or visit the organization’s website,


Winter Sports Clinic Offers Veterans New Hopes, Heights

Some 350 veterans from across the United States, all of whom have been challenged in their lives with at least one disability that in several cases includes vision loss, have converged this week on Snowmass Village, Colorado.

The purpose of their trip, the 29th annual National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic held March 29-April 3, consists of five days of physically demanding competition, training, instructional workshops, rehabilitative recreation, leisure activities that offer participants new opportunities for camaraderie and the attainment of new personal heights.

Co-sponsored and organized by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Disabled American Veterans (DAV), the clinic is the largest rehabilitative program of its kind in the world today.

BVA Region 6 National Claims Officer for veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation New Dawn

BVA Region 6 National Claims Officer for veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation New Dawn

Activities in 1987, its inaugural year, were primarily adaptive Alpine and Nordic skiing. They have grown over the years to curling, scuba diving, fly fishing, wheel chair golf, wheelchair self-defense, wheelchair fencing, amputee volleyball, rock wall climbing, sled hockey, trap shooting, blues harmonica instruction, dog sledding, kayaking, and even goal ball for the blind and visually impaired.

The clinic targets disabled veterans with spinal cord injuries, amputations, neurological disorders, and visual impairments. It seeks to enable veterans to re-discover their lives after facing a new disability and encouraging them to reject the limits that society poses on them because of such a disability. The long-term goal is to help the disabled veteran achieve higher levels of self-actualization and empower him/her to live a happier, healthier, and more productive lifestyle.

Although expenses such as lift tickets, meals, and equipment are covered by the event, attendees pay for their own transportation and hotel rooms. The balance of the event budget, approximately 80 percent, is taken care of by donations and sponsorships.

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Blinded Veterans Association Celebrates 70th Anniversary

The Blinded Veterans Association (BVA), the only Congressionally chartered Veterans Service Organization exclusively dedicated to promoting the welfare of the nation’s blinded veterans and their families, will commemorate 70 years of such service on March 28.

Veterans blinded during World War II established the Blinded Veterans Association at Avon Old Farms Army Convalescent Hospital just outside Avon, Connecticut, on March 28, 1945. The founders of the new organization hoped to help newly blinded veterans adjust to life without sight and regain their confidence and independence through education, rehabilitation, and camaraderie. Through BVA’s advocacy during its 70 years of service, blinded veterans enjoy unprecedented access to world-class Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) residential rehabilitation programs, technology, and the benefits and compensation that they have rightly earned as a result of their service.

Since 2010, the Association and its constituents and friends have referred to March 28 as Blind Veterans Day. The designation stems from House Joint Resolution 80 of the 111th Congress, authored by then Representative Debbie Halvorson of Illinois. The resolution, which acknowledged the Association’s humble beginnings and called upon all Americans to remember blinded veterans on March 28 in future years, was also passed by the Senate on March 18, 2010 and signed by President Barack Obama on April 7 of that same year.

All BVA members share a common bond as legally blind veterans. As members, they resolve to assist others in understanding and receiving the rightful benefits they earned by virtue of their service and to learn how to live and work independently. BVA also represents the interests of all legally blind veterans before the legislative and executive branches of government and encourages them to participate in VA rehabilitation programs.

BVA’s Field Service Program provides emotional support and counsel to blinded and visually impaired veterans. It also links them with VA benefits and serves as an advocate for them in the VA claims process. Eligibility for assistance is not dependent on service-connected blindness. Loss of sight may result from macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, or other conditions of the eyes.

Recent VA research estimates that there are now approximately 132,000 legally blind veterans in the United States. BVA seeks to locate the more than half of these men and women not yet identified or enrolled in VA Health Care programs.

There is no charge for any BVA service and membership is not a prerequisite for assistance. For further information, call BVA at 800-669-7079 or visit the BVA website at

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