October Jethro Tull Concert Set To Support Disabled Veterans and First Responders

Legendary progressive rock musician Ian Anderson, best known for decades for his work as Jethro Tull, will present “Ian Anderson and the Best of Jethro Tull for the Heroes” at the National Theater in Richmond, Virginia.

The October 5 performance has been organized by the Global Campaign Against Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), also a chief sponsor. The concert will, in part, benefit Operation Peer Support, an initiative of the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) that connects veterans who have lost their vision during the World War II, Korea, and Vietnam eras with the newly blinded who have been wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan as a result of IEDS, sniper fire, mortar- or rocket-propelled grenades, or combinations of other firearms.

Highlights of the event include VIP donor receptions both prior and after the show, a special opening performance by the Virginia Military Institute Commander’s Band, and a meeting of select veterans with Ian Anderson before the show with their attendance as special guests.

Also included will be a veteran art exhibit in the National Theater and Marriott Hotel lobbies that showcases art created by veterans as part of therapy to recover from the visible and invisible wounds of war.

“The funding goal for the concert and related events is $115,000 with a ‘stretch goal’ to fund key projects supporting veterans and first responders of an additional $60,000,” said Colonel Bob Morris (Ret), a 31-year veteran of the U.S. Army and founder of the Global Campaign Against IEDs.

The total funding goal of $175,000 will cover all event costs and provide resources for three key programs: training and equipment to help a member of BVA who was injured by an IED in Iraq achieve his Olympic dream and compete in the 2018 Korean Paralympic Biathlon; training, certifications, and job placement for up to 10 veterans in Virginia; and a campaign to increase the safety of children and their schools through a program to reduce school violence and the threat of IEDs therein.

More than 85 percent of all service member injuries and deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan have resulted from IEDs. No other single weapon in U.S. military history has been the cause of more injuries and deaths. IEDs are the cause of the four major injuries to veterans and active-duty military. These injuries are vision loss, hearing loss, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Traumatic Brain Injury (now also linked to vision loss and blindness).

Tickets for the concert will go on sale approximately July 21, but are available now to blinded veterans, their families, and the friends and supporters of BVA in recognition of their assistance and loyalty. They can be purchased at www.CampaignAgainstIEDs.org/Tull.

BVA is the only Congressional chartered Veterans Service Organization exclusively dedicated to serving America’s legally blind veterans. The organization was founded in 1945 by war-blinded veterans returning from World War II.

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BVA District Director Offers Perspectives on Proposed Legislation

by Dr. Tom Zampieri, BVA Director District 6

Veterans in both small communities and large cities throughout the country may have been listening to recent national cable news stories about the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). In some cases they may assume that these major stories have no relevance to or impact on their own VA facility, their doctor, or, in the case of a blinded veteran, their Visual Impairment Service Team (VIST) Coordinator.

However, recent congressional debate and media reports regarding the quality of VA health care services, waiting times, and the resignations of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and Under Secretary for Health Dr. Robert Petzel are all significant. Veterans should understand that there is more to these issues than a five-minute evening news story and that the consequences of current events are far-reaching.

A story by reporter Bryant Jordan posted on Military.com on June 3 sums up one of the more important issues currently up for debate in Congress.

Senators Push VA to Offer Private Sector Care

Four Republican senators on June 3 introduced legislation they say will improve veteran health care and restore accountability to a Department of Veterans Affairs rocked by allegations of mismanagement and manipulated patient schedules.

The Veterans Choice Act intends to eliminate lengthy wait times for veterans seeking care by letting them go to the private sector, with the VA picking up the tab. Although VA officials have that authority now, the VA mostly rejects outside care, Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said Tuesday.

“With … this proposal if a veteran wants to go to a health care provider and he has this Medicare and Tricare [alternative] then that veteran can choose that,” McCain said. “The veteran should have the choice of where he thinks he or she can get the best treatment. That’s what this is all about.”

The bill is the second filed in less than a week in the Senate aimed at making it easier for veterans to get the health care and for the VA secretary to more easily dismiss senior managers for not performing.

The other bill, the Restoring Veterans’ Trust Act of 2014, was filed Monday by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. But the Sanders bill would also expand veterans’ access to federal and community health centers and medical facilities that receive Defense Department and Indian Health Service funds. It also authorizes the VA to lease 27 new health facilities in 18 states.

This last provision, along with others, was drawn from an omnibus VA bill that Sanders failed to get passed in February. These provisions include extending the period of health care eligibility for combat veterans from five years to 10, giving in-state tuition status for all vets, restoration of a 1 percent cut in retirement cost-of-living adjustments, and expanded services to victims of military sexual assault.

“Altogether, the bill would provide education, retirement security and other benefits for millions of veterans and their families,” Sanders said in a statement on the bill. “Virtually all of the provisions already have been approved by the Senate committee, many of them by unanimous votes during previous legislative markup sessions.”

Sen. Richard Burr, ranking member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and one of the co-sponsors of the bill filed Tuesday, acknowledged that the Veterans Choice Act is limited in scope.

“It’s choice, it’s transparency and it’s change,” he said. “It’s not encompassing everything that Congress would like to pass as it relates to VA legislation but it addresses the urgent things needed right now.”

Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma are also sponsors of the Choice Act. The two Senate bills were spurred by allegations that the VA Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona, maintained an unofficial secret list of veterans waiting for an appointment. According to some whistleblowers, up to 40 patients may have died before even getting an appointment.

Recent VA reports, including one by its Inspector General, confirmed the manipulation of appointments and found that similar practices were occurring across the country. Thus far, there has been no evidence that any patients died while waiting to see a doctor, the VA IG testified last month.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned on Friday after some of the allegations were confirmed through an audit and Sloane Gibson, named deputy secretary in February, was appointed to fill the top job until a permanent successor is named.

Only hours before he left, however, Shinseki endorsed the Sanders legislation. It was the first time he had publicly backed any increased authority to sack VA employees. He had testified he did not need increased authority to fire senior managers, and did not back the Department of Veterans Affairs Management Accountability Act filed by House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla.

Miller’s bill passed overwhelmingly in the House last month. A sister bill filed in the Senate by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has been stalled.

McCain said on Tuesday there are a number of Democrat senators interested in backing the Choice Act. If Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid fast-tracked the bill it would probably pass the chamber in a week, McCain said.

Under the Choice Act, all veterans enrolled for VA care would be given a card enabling them to get care from a non-VA provider if the VA can’t schedule an appointment within the required time frame or if the veteran lives more than 40 miles from a VA hospital or outpatient clinic.

The bill also requires that the VA use Medicare prices and that any co-pay a veteran might have to pay goes to the VA, not to the outside provider.

McCain also said the law would end via a sunset clause at the end of two years, and that an audit be done every two years after that to ensure that VA has not fallen down on getting care to veterans.

Louis Celli, legislative director for The American Legion, said the organization worked closely with McCain’s office on the bill.

“We wanted to ensure that the VA remains the main and primary source for health care for our veterans,” he said. “In cases of emergency as we have now … with veterans on this secret list that we need to eradicate, we support using all available resources to get veterans the help they need in as short a time as possible.”

He also said the bill includes directive language ensuring that any notes and diagnoses made by private sector doctors and providers are forwarded to the VA, so there are never any lapses in patient history. And the providers will be responsible for getting them to the VA, not the veteran patient.

Celli said they have found instances in the past where veterans had to pay to have their medical notes sent to the VA. This would not happen under the Choice Act, he said.”

Veterans in different areas of the country may be wondering how passage of S. 2450, the “Veterans Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014” now being considered by the Senate, may affect them. First, if those on waiting lists were sent to private doctors for health care, money would have to be taken out of general Veterans Health Administration (VHA) funds to pay for that care, thereby reducing the amount for veterans inside the system who may require specialized services or care. This is of concern to members of both BVA and Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA). Secondly, the effort to push veterans into community providers could decrease the possibility that a newly blind veteran receiving contracted ophthalmology services would, in consultation, be sent to a VA Blind Rehabilitation Service program. As an organization, BVA has expressed concerns regarding this in meetings during the past year with senior VA officials, Members of Congress, and current contracted managed care providers. We have indicated to them that if private, eye care doctors deal with visually impaired veterans, they should be made aware of the specialized VA rehabilitation care and services.

We fully expect a vote very soon, perhaps within a week, on the “Veterans Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014.” While BVA supports many aspects of this legislation, every officer and member of the organization should be aware that the recent problems can have an impact on the system of care for blinded veterans in the future. We must also let Members of Congress know that our legislation on Beneficiary Travel, S. 633, should be included in this omnibus bill. If this effort is about improving access to care and reducing wait times for all veterans, we can make the argument that including a provision for transportation to blind centers for our low-income, severely disabled veterans is essential.

To express your views about S. 633 to the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, go to http://www.veterans.senate.gov. Find the link that says “Contact Us” on the upper right portion of the webpage. A drop down menu will provide the following options: “CONTACT THE CHAIRMAN” and “CONTACT THE RANKING MEMBER.” From that point you will be able to enter comments either one, perhaps requesting that S. 633 (Beneficiary Travel) now be inserted into S. 2450. The other option is to call the Senate Committee phone number, 202-224-9126, expressing the same views and emphasizing that the Beneficiary Travel legislation has a minimal cost of $3 million.

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Blinded Veterans Raise Critical Issues at House Subcommittee Hearing

Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) Director of Government Relations Glenn Minney today urged passage of H.R. 1284, a bill that would expand access to blind rehabilitation services for veterans with vision loss.

Testifying as part of a panel format with two additional BVA members before the House Veterans Affairs (VA) Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Minney told the Subcommittee that adding beneficiary travel benefits for nonservice-connected blinded veterans and spinal cord injured veterans would be a substantial cost saver in the long run.

“If only 10 percent of the current residents of state veterans homes who are there strictly because of their blindness could benefit from training at a VA Blind Rehabilitation Center in order to live independently, the savings could in turn pay for the entire H.R. 1284 Beneficiary Travel Program,” said Minney.

Terry Kebbel of Las Cruces, New Mexico and BVA’s Rio Grande Regional Group confers with Glenn Minney prior to Subcommittee hearing.

Terry Kebbel of Las Cruces, New Mexico and BVA’s Rio Grande Regional Group confers with Glenn Minney prior to Subcommittee hearing.

The panel also included Travis Fugate, Central California Regional Group, and Terry Kebbel, Rio Grande Regional Group. Fugate related his personal story in addressing BVA’s concern for the slow implementation of the Vision Center of Excellence (VCE) and the availability of electronic medical records that was to be part of a registry of veterans with eye injuries.

“The VCE that this Congress established in the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act is very critical to ensuring that all combat eye injured veterans, and those who experience Traumatic Brain Injury accompanied by visual impairments, are entered into a registry where the surgery records and treatments can be tracked from both military and VA eye care providers,” said Fugate.

Kebbel addressed BVA’s concerns that legally blind veterans are unable to access crucial health care and benefits information using VA webpages and other electronic documents due to noncompliance with Section 508 of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“Section 508 was enacted in the 20th century to ensure that all people with disabilities could access electronic and information technology,” his testimony stated. “The technology is available to solve these 508 compliance failures and there are many good examples of 508 compliant webpages—how much longer do we have to wait?”

A second panel of VA officials, Dr. Maureen McCarthy, M.D., Deputy Chief of Patient Care Services for the Veterans Health Administration, and Lorraine Landfried, Deputy Chief Information Officer for Product Development in the Office of Information Technology, followed the BVA panel and submitted a written statement for the Congressional Record. They were accompanied by Dr. Mary Lawrence, M.D., Deputy Director of the Vision Center of Excellence, and Pat Sheehan, Director of VA’s 508 Compliance Office.

A full text of the statements submitted is found at http://veterans.house.gov/hearing/assessing-inadequacies-in-va-data-usage-for-and-services-provided-to-visually-impaired. A video of the hearing can also be viewed athttp://www.ustream.tv/channel/hclive14#/recorded/48162248. Viewers must scroll the timer to 10:06 at the bottom of the screen

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“Across the Pond,” Fourth Annual Project Gemini Proves Big Hit

Armed with a full itinerary of educational and cultural activities planned for their U.S. counterparts in and around London during May 18-25, Blind Veterans U.K. hosted five American veterans and one active duty Army Engineer Captain with an abundance of warmth and hospitality.


Project Gemini Coordinator Dr. Tom Zampieri, left, with Fugate, Bogart, and Minney following check-in with British Airways at Dulles International Airport in Washington, DC. In center, British Airways customer service agent Diane who had moments before successfully helped the group troubleshoot an important issue.

On May 21, Dr. Tom Zampieri explained Project Gemini to Brigadier General John T. Quintas, Senior Defense Official and Defense Attaché for the United States in the United Kingdom. Based at the American Embassy, Brigadier General Quintas is the principal Department of Defense official there. As such, he represents the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Ambassador and the government of the U.K.

On May 21, Dr. Tom Zampieri explained Project Gemini to Brigadier General John T. Quintas, Senior Defense Official and Defense Attaché for the United States in the United Kingdom. Based at the American Embassy, Brigadier General Quintas is the principal Department of Defense official there. As such, he represents the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Ambassador and the government of the U.K.

The week consisted of activities such as a London duck tour, museum and historical site visits, briefings about blind rehabilitation in the United Kingdom, archery and bowling competitions, dog racing, and the best in British cuisine.

Known officially as Project Gemini, a joint initiative of Blind Veterans U.K. and the Blinded Veterans Association begun in 2011, the annual gathering this year also hosted two legally blind veterans from South Africa.

“Project Gemini brings us together to share the many different facets involved in losing sight while serving in the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Simon Brown, one of the principal organizers of Project Gemini who also lost his sight in Iraq in 2006. “It’s an invaluable opportunity to share ideas about rehabilitation as well as our own experiences and emotions.”

On Monday morning, Project Gemini participants from both sides of the pond got a quick taste of London with an excursion through the sights and sounds of the city, thanks to the ever popular Duck Boat tour.

On Monday morning, Project Gemini participants from both sides of the pond got a quick taste of London with an excursion through the sights and sounds of the city, thanks to the ever popular Duck Boat tour.

This year’s Project Gemini activities attracted the attention of various British media outlets. Interviews with both British and American participants were aired by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and the British Forces Broadcasting Services (BFBS).

At “Firepower-The Royal Artillery Museum,” located in southeast London, BVA’s Project Gemini contingency poses with a World War I American artillery used in France.

At “Firepower-The Royal Artillery Museum,” located in southeast London, BVA’s Project Gemini contingency poses with a World War I American artillery used in France.

Glenn Minney braces for shot during U.S.-U.K.-South Africa archery competition. Brits won the tournament by a hair.

Glenn Minney braces for shot during U.S.-U.K.-South Africa archery competition. Brits won the tournament by a hair.

Listen to Interviews with Project Gemini Archery Contestants

Joe Bogart’s interview on BFBS Radio:


Simon Brown’s interview on BFBS Radio:


Simon Brown’s interview on BBC Radio:


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Blind Veterans UK to Host American Veterans in Brighton

Five Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) combat blinded American veterans, all of whom lost their sight and then became role models for others living with blindness, will share knowledge, insights, and friendship with their British war-blinded comrades in England.

The six-day exchange, known as Project Gemini, will occur May 18-25 at the Blind Veterans UK Brighton Centre. According to four-time Project Gemini Coordinator Dr. Thomas Zampieri, two South African war-blinded veterans will also join the group this year.

From BVA’s photo archives courtesy of Blind Veterans UK, U.S. and British participants from Project Gemini 2013 pose outside the renowned restored medieval Arundel Castle in West Sussex, England. Left to right: Tom Zampieri, Inderpal Kallah, Ivan Castro, Don Overton, James Nealey, Al Avina, Chris Nowell, Karl Parkinson, Simon Brown, Scott Wall, Sean Johnson, and Ken Facal.

From BVA’s photo archives courtesy of Blind Veterans UK, U.S. and British participants from Project Gemini 2013 pose outside the renowned restored medieval Arundel Castle in West Sussex, England. Left to right: Tom Zampieri, Inderpal Kallah, Ivan Castro, Don Overton, James Nealey, Al Avina, Chris Nowell, Karl Parkinson, Simon Brown, Scott Wall, Sean Johnson, and Ken Facal.

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 Washington, DC, and Blind Veterans UK. It seeks to heighten awareness within the two countries of the issues facing veterans with vision loss, resulting in improvements in services and benefits to them and their families.

British Airways is a major supporter of the 2014 program.

Project Gemini’s original purpose was the sharing of vision rehabilitation information. The scope of the program widened in May 2012 to include officials from the joint U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)/Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Vision Center of Excellence and the National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research. The exchange now shares vision research and battlefield eye injury management data experiences as well. In April 2013, British Surgeon General Air Marshal Paul Evans visited BVA in Washington as a follow-up to Project Gemini meetings held in May 2012 in London at famous Moorfield Eye Research Centre, and has followed the Project Gemini closely.

The 2014 exchange will again feature discussions regarding readjustment training, vision research, and adaptive technology for the blind. The Project Gemini group will also tour London and meet the senior military attaché to the American Embassy. On Tuesday, the participants will practice with air rifles, engage in blind archery, and compete in blind bowling. During the week they will visit with rehabilitation personnel and meet specialists that provide training to UK blind servicemembers in mobility, computer proficiency, living skills, and recreational sports.

Dr. Greg Goodrich of the VA Poly Trauma Center in Palo Alto, California, will also make the trip and address the group. He will meet with Professor Sir Peng Khaw at Moorfield Research Centre Monday afternoon. Dr. Goodrich is a leading authority on Traumatic Brain Injury as it relates to vision system impairments and has published and lectured on TBI vision dysfunction internationally.

During the exchange, both groups of veterans will also share helpful hints about coping with blindness and the “war stories” that are part of the adjustment processes. They will compare the British veterans’ health care system with that of the American system operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs and its hundreds of component medical centers, outpatient clinics, and veterans’ homes throughout the country.

Retired Army Major and veteran Dr. Tom Zampieri, legally blind himself, will accompany the veterans. Participants include active duty Army Captain Joe Bogart, First Sergeant Daniel Wallace (Ret.), Specialist Mark Wilson (Ret.), and Corporal Travis Fugate (Ret.), all of whom were injured in Iraq. BVA Director of Government Relations and retired Navy Corpsman Glenn Minney, also injured in Iraq, will travel with the group.

Three of the Project Gemini OIF BVA veterans return to Washington DC during the Memorial Day weekend. On May 26 at Arlington National Cemetery they will participate in the Memorial Day ceremony, joining other Veterans Service Organization representatives in placing a BVA wreath at the Tomb of Unknowns following the President’s speech.

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 recently with opportunities to interact with men and women who have led happy and prosperous lives despite their blindness and who can serve as role models and mentors. In 2008, BVA sponsored for the first time the participation of three service members from across the Atlantic at its 63rd National Convention in Phoenix.

Blind Veterans UK traces its founding back to 1915 with the outbreak of World War I. BVA traces its earliest beginnings to March 28, 1945 when a group of war-blinded servicemen met at Avon Old Farms Convalescent Hospital near Avon, Connecticut.

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BVA Awarded Grant from Delta Gamma for Veterans to Attend Blind Rehab

BVA is very pleased to announce that the Delta Gamma Foundation has chosen to award a grant of funds for veterans’ travel expenses to VA Blind Rehab Centers. Veterans who have lost sight later in life due to diseases such as diabetic retinopathy or macular degeneration often struggle to afford travel to one of the VA regional Blind Rehab Centers. BVA firmly believes that attending Blind Rehab is an important step in empowering blinded veterans to overcome the challenges posed by vision loss.

The grant will allow BVA to assist veterans with limited means and non-service-connected blindness to travel to their regional Blind Rehab Center or VA Medical Center to receive training, resources, and technology that will assist them in living with sight loss. As with all BVA programs, this travel assistance is available to any blinded veterans in need, regardless of whether they are BVA members or not. If you are or know of a veteran in need of travel funds for attending Blind Rehab, please contact BVA at 1-800-669-7079 or email bva@bva.org.

BVA is very grateful to the Delta Gamma Foundation for supporting this vital program, which will allow us to help more veterans than ever before!

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New BVA Webpage Planned

The Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) National Headquarters has announced the upcoming redesign and launch of its organizational website, www.bva.org.

According to Executive Director Al Avina, the redesigned site will provide current BVA members and Affiliates with the tools to make their online experience both productive and enjoyable.

“The new site will offer previously unavailable resources, tools and other sources of information,” he said. “It will also allow our constituents to efficiently update records, register for events, and gain access to the assistance they may be seeking for themselves or other veterans who have experienced vision loss.”

Launch of the newly redesigned bva.org is projected for Autumn 2014.

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Happy Volunteer Week!

A message from Ed Eckroth, the Director of our Field Service Program and volunteer coordinator:

“I want to start by saying THANK YOU to all our volunteers.  Your hard work and dedication is what makes BVA great.  We want everyone to know how greatly they are  appreciated.  Please thank yourself and all volunteers we meet this week for doing such a great job.

Please do not forget the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) is currently soliciting nominees for the 2014 David L. Schnair Award, to honor and to recognize outstanding contributions of volunteers. BVA established this award in 1994 in memory and in honor of David L. Schnair, a BVA Board Member and BVA Volunteer for nearly five decades.  David L. Schnair was one of the earlier members of the Blinded Veterans Association; he was BVA’s Director of District I for many years and was an outstanding volunteer.

Nominations should be mailed to the attention of the National Field Service Director at the BVA National Headquarters, 477 H Street, North West, Washington, DC 20001, and must be received by Monday, April 21, 2014, to be considered.  Get those nominations in right away, and have a great Volunteer Week!”

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BVA Celebrates Anniversary on March 28th

Friday, March 28, 2014, will be the 69th anniversary of BVA’s founding in 1945 by a group of war-blinded World War II veterans. The first meetings were held in Avon Old Farms, CT, at a school that had been converted to a war-time hospital for wounded soldiers. At the time, there was no organization that served solely the needs of blinded veterans, and to this day BVA remains the only veterans group specifically dedicated to serving them. The group grew quickly, and received a Congressional Charter to advocate for blinded veterans in 1958.

The building that housed a World War II army convalescence hospital in Avon Old Farms, CT

The building that housed a World War II army convalescence hospital in Avon Old Farms, CT

Since our founding, BVA has worked closely with the Department of Veterans Affairs at all levels to make sure the needs of blinded veterans are met. On an individual level, BVA’s Field Service Program has served veterans by assisting them in filing VA claims and accessing the benefits which they have earned. Field Service Officers also assist veterans in finding support groups, attending adaptive sporting events, and finding employment. On a national level, BVA works closely with both Congressional and VA leadership to advocate for blinded and visually impaired veterans. One of BVA’s signature accomplishments was the creation of the VA Blind Rehab Centers, of which there are now thirteen, as well as the creation of Vision Impairment Service Team and Blind Rehab Outpatient Specialist staff positions. More recently, BVA was instrumental in the creation of the Vision Center of Excellence, which studies vision trauma and works to ensure a seamless transition for veterans from the Department of Defense to the VA health care systems.

BVA Staff celebrate our anniversary

BVA Staff celebrate our anniversary at our Washington, DC headquarters

To mark the occasion, BVA staff and members gathered to enjoy pizza and cake at our headquarters in Washington, DC. Next year, 2015, will be the 70th year of the organization.

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BVA National Headquarters Proclaims “Neftali Sanchez Day”

Through his example of faith and courage, longtime Blinded Veterans Association National Chaplain Neftali Sanchez has taught not only his fellow blinded veterans, but hundreds of fellow Americans, how to overcome adversity. He has exemplified the enjoyment of life to the fullest how to look forward to the future with brightness of hope and optimism.

Chaplain Sanchez served BVA as National Chaplain from 1979 until his retirement in 2011.

On March 22, 2014, BVA recognized Chaplain Sanchez through a proclamation by National President Mark Cornell declaring the day “Neftali Sanchez Day” in honor of his 80th birthday. The proclamation was sent to him at his Riverside, California home.

Chaplain Sanchez’s life changed abruptly on July 11, 1953 in Korea when he was just 19 years old. On patrol that day as an Army corporal, he was wounded by an exploding grenade that caused the loss of both of his eyes and both of his arms below the elbows. Instead of languishing in self-pity and despair, Chaplain Sanchez refused to abandon his hope in the future and the full life that he had envisioned for himself before his injury.

Whether improving his technical proficiencies and independent living skills in blind rehabilitation programs, studying for examinations on the way to both a Bachelor’s Degree and a Master’s Degree at the University of Pepperdine, obtaining a second Bachelor’s Degree in theology from University College of Bible Studies, or contributing as a member of the BVA Board of Directors in the 1960s and serving as BVA’s spiritual leader for 32 years from 1979 to 2011, Chaplain Sanchez has been relentless in pursuing the personal goals that would best prepare him to give of himself and effectively serve others with compassion and empathy.

The explanation for the remarkable life of Chaplain Sanchez is undoubtedly rooted in the formation of his character at a young age, exemplified in a November 13, 1953 news article in the El Paso Herald Post. The article quotes Chaplain Sanchez’s mother, who had just visited him for the first time since his injuries. The place of that meeting was a hospital in San Antonio, Texas. “If Neftali was discouraged, he never showed it,” she said. “He seemed happy and full of plans for the future.”

Long time BVA Chaplain Neftali Sanchez speaking at a BVA Convention

Long time BVA Chaplain Neftali Sanchez speaking at a BVA Convention

Chaplain Sanchez attended 31 of the 32 BVA National Conventions during his chaplaincy. He served seven years longer than BVA legend Father Thomas J. Carroll, personally revered by Chaplain Sanchez and in whose honor he delivered luncheon addresses in 1979 and again 2001.

“NOW THEREFORE, I, MARK CORNELL, NATIONAL PRESIDENT OF THE BLINDED VETERANS ASSOCIATION, by virtue of the authority vested in me through the election by the duly elected delegates at the BVA 68th National Convention on August 23, 2013, do hereby proclaim March 22, 2014 as CHAPLAIN NEFTALI SANCHEZ DAY throughout the Blinded Veterans Association in honor of his eightieth birthday,” the proclamation read.

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