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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Devoted BVA Volunteers Offer Service to Veterans

The Blinded Veterans Association has been newly designated as a voting member of the National Advisory Council of the Department of Veterans Affairs Voluntary Service (VAVS) program. VAVS Representatives and Deputy Representatives working with BVA volunteers in their local VA facilities and within VAVS committees help develop programs and support blinded veterans at local VA Medical Centers and Outpatient Clinics.

According to Ed Eckroth, BVA Field Service Program Director, the distinction is a result of the VAVS Representatives and Deputy Representatives leadership, whom helped donate more than 41,000 hours to the VAVS program during BVA’s recent Fiscal Year 2013.  “BVA National Headquarters expresses thanks to all of its volunteers,” said Ed.

BVA’s Volunteer National Service Officers (VNSOs), he further explained, donate more than 20 hours per week at VA facilities as they provide claims assistance to blinded veterans.  “VNSOs are a great asset to both the Field Service Program and regional groups as they provide direct support to Regional groups.”

In addition to VA’s recognition of BVA as an organization that provides service opportunities resulting in quality assistance to fellow veterans, BVA in turn recognizes annually an individual volunteer whose recent efforts stand out above the rest. The David L. Schnair Award, typically presented at the national convention, is named after a revered BVA member, volunteer, and national leader on the organization’s Board of Directors whose volunteer spirit and service spanned five decades.

Carl Hytinen Receives Schnair Award at 2013 Convention

Carl Hytinen Receives Schnair Award at 2013 Convention

Honoring David L. Schnair’s legacy, BVA currently seeks nominees for the 2014 award. The recognition may be given to a BVA volunteer office, a BVA member, or a BVA Auxiliary member working in a BVA volunteer office. Candidates should have provided at least one year of consistent and outstanding service as BVA volunteers and have a solid understanding of the VA system. They should be an asset to the volunteer office and blinded veterans. Volunteers should also be involved in community activities, including the representing of BVA as spokespersons.

For an office or individual to receive the award, the maintaining of good regional group and volunteer service affiliation is extremely important. Consistency in submitting monthly reports is also essential. Activities conducted at the VA Medical Center, regional office, or within the community should also be taken under consideration.

Chiefs of Volunteer Services, District Directors, regional group presidents, Field Service Officers, and VIST Coordinators may make the nominations by writing letters of recommendation, specifically outlining the efforts taken and/or services provided to blinded veterans.  These letters should be submitted to the National Field Service Director for review but consultation will also occur with the appropriate regional group president and National Field Service Officer prior to submission to the panel for final selection.
Letters should be received at BVA National Headquarters, 477 H Street NW, Washington, DC 20001, by Monday, April 21, 2014, to be considered.

To learn more about the aforementioned awards programs, please visit http://bva.org/volunteer.html. Members wishing to become volunteers should email Edward Eckroth at eeckroth@bva.org or call 202-371-8881 and ask for the Field Service Department.

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Annual Hearing Offers Forum For BVA Legislative Priorities

Blinded veterans and spinal cord-injured veterans who are currently ineligible for travel benefits under a stipulation in the U.S. Code must pay for their own transportation to and from one of the 13 residential Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Blind Rehabilitation Centers (BRCs), BVA National President told Congressional Members and Staff of the Committees on Veterans Affairs.

Participating March 6 on a panel of nine representatives of Veterans Service Organizations, Mark urged passage of beneficiary travel legislation, H.R. 1284 and S. 633. He testified that hundreds of low-income veterans are precluded from much-needed independent living skills training because they cannot drive themselves and cannot afford the travel expenses associated with reaching a BRC.

“It makes little sense to have these outstanding blind rehabilitation services, world class in quality, when so many veterans cannot take advantage of them without financial assistance,” he said.

Representative Phil Roe (R-TN-1) welcomes Mark Cornell to Veterans Service Organization hearing. Mark testified before House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Members,  Staff, and a standing room only crowd behind him.

Representative Phil Roe (R-TN-1) welcomes Mark Cornell to Veterans Service Organization hearing. Mark testified before House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Members, Staff, and a standing room only crowd behind him.

Mark’s oral testimony, based on a more detailed written document submitted for the Congressional Record, also addressed overall funding of VA programs for blinded veterans, adequate staffing of the joint Department of Defense-VA Vision Center of Excellence, funding for combat eye injury research, and technology accessibility issues associated with VA compliance with Section 508 of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

He emphasized the importance of timelines and fulfillment of promises inherent in the implementation of legislation already passed. He said that timelines are not always created and promises not always kept.

Left to right, Representative Tammy Duckworth (D-IL-8), Mark Cornell, and Glenn Minney. Prior to her election to Congress in 2012, Duckworth served as VA Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs (2009-12). A disabled Iraq War veteran, Duckworth is a longtime advocate for veterans and their issues, having also served as the Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs from 2006 until 2009.

Left to right, Representative Tammy Duckworth (D-IL-8), Mark Cornell, and Glenn Minney. Prior to her election to Congress in 2012, Duckworth served as VA Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs (2009-12). A disabled Iraq War veteran, Duckworth is a longtime advocate for veterans and their issues, having also served as the Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs from 2006 until 2009.

“We appreciate, for example, the fact that both of these Committees have requested VA briefings and required updates on the status of its efforts to comply with 508 access requirements,” he said. “This lack of accessibility problem, however, has still not been fixed within the Veterans Health Administration and the Veterans Benefits Administration as some 184 Information Technology barriers came to light in 2012 testing.”

The testimony is an annual event typically held in late winter and made possible by BVA’s Congressional charter established in 1958. The charter designates the Blinded Veterans Association as the exclusive representative of blinded veterans before Congress.

Joining Mark at the witness table were National Presidents, National Commanders, and Government Relations leaders from the National Guard Association of the United States, the National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs, Vietnam Veterans of America, Jewish War Veterans of the USA, AMVETS, Military Order of the Purple Heart, The Retired Enlisted Association, and the Military Officers Association of America.

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VA Seeks Greater Efficiency in Claims and Benefits Processing

The VA is working to make applying for benefits an easier and faster process through an initiative known as eBenefits. Although paper documentation will still be accepted, electronic submissions will result in quicker and more efficient responses for both veterans and the services officers who represent them.

It is becoming more important for veterans to obtain an eBenefits account, which allows them to submit their own claims or work with a Veterans Service Organization that can submit claims and all needed evidence electronically on their behalf. BVA’s Field Service Officers can work with veterans on their claims in this way. The claims are dated from the time they are submitted. This eliminates “lost in the mail” problems. Once submitted, veterans can check on their claim or appeal status easily without waiting on the phone for hours to talk with someone via the VA toll free number.

Veterans with computer access can secure an eBenefits account by visiting the following website: https://www.ebenefits.va.gov/ebenefits-portal/ebenefits.portal Veterans without computer access may apply for an account by calling toll free 1-800-827-1000.

There are two levels of access: Level 1 and Level 2. The basic access, or Level 1, allows veterans to access only the information they have provided.  Level 2 allows them to access VA and DoD records, obtain a copy of their military records such as the DD-214, apply for claims, and check the status of such claims.  Education benefits and insurance information are also linked into the eBenefits system along with applying for changes in direct deposit and requesting Certificates of Eligibility for VA loans.  An abundance of informational topics can also be accessed and researched.

The Veterans Benefits Administration and Veterans Health Administration have joined forces to train staff within the VA Medical Centers to better assist veterans as they apply for Level 1 and 2 eBenefits and secure their personal “My HealtheVet” accounts.

Please speak with the “My HealtheVet” staff at your facility to become enrolled with eBenefits.  BVA recommends enrollment for all veterans. We also recommend that our blinded veterans speak with a Computer Access Training instructor at the nearest Blind Rehabilitation Center to express interest in being trained to use eBenefits.

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BVA Mourns Loss of Stalwart Member and Advocate

Buddy Brown Spivey, longtime active supporter and member of the Blinded Veterans Association, passed away January 9, 2014 in North Little Rock, Arkansas.

His obituary was published in the January 13 edition of the Arkansas Online newspaper.

In 1973, Field Service Representative for the Midwestern Region Buddy Spivey, second from left; National Field Service Director Dr. Dennis R. Wyant, far left; Western Representative Robert Utley; and Northeastern Representative Don Garner. Photo courtesy of Dr. Dennis Wyant, Gainesville, Florida.

In 1973, Field Service Representative for the Midwestern Region Buddy Spivey, second from left; National Field Service Director Dr. Dennis R. Wyant, far left; Western Representative Robert Utley; and Northeastern Representative Don Garner. Photo courtesy of Dr. Dennis Wyant, Gainesville, Florida.

Born December 31, 1941 in Washington D.C., Buddy was considered a true American hero by all who knew him, including a wide circle of friends within the national BVA organization, the regional groups to which he belonged, and the countless blinded veterans he counseled and assisted as a BVA Field Service Representative during 1973-83. He became the first blinded veteran to serve as an Assistant State Director for Veterans Employment in Arkansas. For his distinguished professional accomplishments he was awarded BVA’s highest honor, the Melvin J. Maas Award for Professional Achievement, in 1989.

When asked how he was doing, Buddy always responded with an emphatic “OUT-STANDING!” His life story and character were remarkable. As a member of the United States Marine Corps, he was severely injured by an explosion in Vietnam on December 7, 1967. Most of his unit originally believed he had died that day.

He spent 18 months in the Philadelphia Naval Hospital. Although he was totally blind, lost his right leg, and suffered brain damage, he never lost his spirit and lived a full and fun-filled life after his injury.

Buddy earned two Purple Hearts and retired from the Marines at the rank of Captain.

After years of physical and blind rehabilitation, he returned to his beloved Alma Mater, the University of Arkansas, where he earned a Master’s Degree in Counseling (1971) and an Education Specialist Degree (1972).

Buddy worked a full career until he retired in 2007 as a VIST Coordinator at the Little Rock VA Medical Center. He served as a BVA Field Service Representative for ten years, traveling alone across 14 states counseling and helping other blinded veterans. He later worked as a counseling psychologist and social worker at the VA Hospital in Little Rock. Buddy rarely missed a day of work.

He was also an active member of the Disabled American Veterans Association.

Buddy was the DAV “Outstanding Disabled Veteran of the Year” in 1975. The award was presented to him by President Gerald R. Ford in the Oval Office and at the DAV National Convention in Hawaii. He received the DAV Department of Arkansas Achievement Award the same year.

In 1976, he received the Tau Kappa Epsilon National Achievement Award. He received the “No Greater Love Award” for Vietnam Veterans presented by Congressman John Paul Hammerschmidt in 1977. He was an Outstanding Young Men of America honoree in 1981. He also served as a board member for the State of Arkansas Division of Services for the Blind from 1975 to 2006.

Buddy was a gifted artist and musician. He was one of the all-time great Razorback fans. He loved telling people that he played in two Cotton Bowls and two Sugar Bowls during his time at the University of Arkansas. Most times (but not always) he would later admit that he actually played as a member of the Razorback Marching Band, which he affectionately referred to as, the “Stumbling 100.” He was a talented saxophone player.

Buddy loved being a part of something bigger than himself, whether it was the marching band, the Marine Corps, the Disabled American Veterans Association, the Blinded Veterans Association or even the Edsel Owner’s Club. He was also a member of Tau Kappa Epsilon, the American Legion, the First Marine Division, the Third Marine Division, the Marine Corps League, the Retired Officers Association, the National Order of Trench Rats, the Arkansas BVA Razorbacks Regional Group, the Military Order of the Purple Heart, and the First United Methodist Church in North Little Rock.

Buddy’s obituary recounts that as a person he was truly larger than life. He was the biggest personality in the room, regardless of his company. People were drawn to him–not only because of his personal story, but because of the way he told stories, and because of the way he loved and listened to others. He always wanted to know about other people and to hear their stories. He remembered every detail from them.

He knew “everything (pronounced by him EV-ry-thing) about tomato pie!!” from his days in Philadelphia, where his father, Joseph Spivey, worked as an FBI agent. Buddy danced on American Bandstand as a teenager. He loved cars and knew all about them. He collected hundreds of model cars. He lived in big cities like Washington D.C., Cleveland, and Philadelphia growing up, but he spent considerable time visiting in Arkansas, where his grandparents lived, and then made the Razorback state his permanent home.

Buddy attended the University of Arkansas and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Commercial Art prior to his military service. His artistic talents were broad. He painted remarkable portraits, landscapes, and abstracts. He also excelled at technical and commercial drawings. He loved designing cars. After graduation, instead of designing cars, he volunteered for the United States Marine Corps. As much as anything else, Buddy was a Marine.

Buddy was an immaculate dresser. He wore his suit and tie to work long after the rest of the world had moved to business casual. He was at times a flashy dresser. He loved bright colors with lots of flare. He enjoyed standing out from the crowd–as if he needed any help doing so.

He was a Methodist and devout Christian. He prayed for others all day, every day. He always told his friends and family how much he loved them and how proud he was of them. Buddy had unlimited compassion for others but never felt sorry for himself.

Buddy is survived by his wife, Jeanne Spivey; his son and daughter-in-law, Patrick and Elizabeth Spivey of Little Rock; his step-daughter, who Buddy thought of as a daughter, and son-in-law, respectively Michelle and Andrew Nichols of Oceanside, California; two grandchildren, Audrey and Adeline Spivey of Little Rock; his uncle, Calvin Spivey of Rogers, Arkansas; his aunt, Adeline Spivey of Rogers; and numerous cousins, all of whom Buddy loved dearly.

Funeral services for Buddy Spivey were scheduled for January 17, 2014, at the First United Methodist Church in North Little Rock at 11:00 a.m. Visitation was to be held at Griffin Leggett – Rest Hills in Sherwood Thursday, January16, 2014 from 6:00-8:00 p.m. He will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorials be made in Buddy’s honor to the Blinded Veterans Association, 477 H Street, Northwest Washington, DC 20001-2694 (www.bva.org); or the Marine Corps League Foundation at P.O. Box 3070, Merrifield, Virginia 22116-3070 (www.mclfoundation.org). See obituary and tributes at http://glhr.tributes.com/our_obituaries/Buddy-Spivey-97751021.

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Glenn Minney Named to BVA Government Relations Post

Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) Executive Director Al Avina has announced the appointment of Glenn Minney as the organization’s Director of Government Relations.

In his new role, effective January 6, Minney serves as BVA’s primary legislative liaison between blinded veterans nationally and the U.S. Congress. He will prepare legislative testimony, produce correspondence to elected representatives and senators, direct the Association’s research on legislative issues affecting blinded veterans, and represent BVA in advocating for blinded veterans at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Central Office. He will also participate in legislative policy development and analysis at BVA national conventions.

“Glenn brings to BVA a passionate desire to meaningfully serve his fellow veterans,” Avina said. “His many years of military service, coupled with the vast knowledge and skills he acquired during his employment with VA, make him a welcome addition to our headquarters staff and an effective representative of America’s blinded veterans.”

Glenn Minney, BVA's new Director of Government Relations

Glenn Minney, BVA’s new Director of Government Relations

Minney has most recently worked as a Patient Advocate and Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom Program (OEF/OIF) Specialist at the Chillicothe, Ohio, VA Medical Center. In this position he advocated for veterans rights and helped veterans secure the medical care and educational benefits they earned as a result of their service. He retired from the VA system after 20 years of service in several capacities.

A graduate of Adena High School in Frankfort, Ohio, Minney entered Naval Boot Camp at Great Lakes, Illinois, just months after his graduation. He attended Hospital Corps School in Great Lakes and the Naval School of Pharmacy in Portsmouth, Virginia. He was later assigned to the Naval Hospital in Newport, Rhode Island.

Minney served 21 years in the Navy on both Active and Reserve Duty. During his tenure, he attended the Cold Weather Mountain Survival School in Bridgeport, California; Navy Basic Dive School in Panama City, Florida; and the Israeli Counter Terrorism School in Israel.

Operations in which he was assigned include Operation Just Cause in Panama, Operation Desert Storm and Desert Shield in the Persian Gulf, and most recently Operation Iraqi Freedom. While serving with the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment’s Lima Company of Columbus, Ohio, he was assigned as Battalion Senior Corpsman in Haditha, Iraq.

A mortar explosion at the top of Haditha Dam on April 18, 2005 just 28 days before his planned retirement resulted in being sent by medevac to Germany, where he underwent five eye surgeries. The injuries left him totally blind in his right eye with severely limited vision in the left eye due to lattice and macular degeneration. The impact of the explosion also caused severe Traumatic Brain Injury with a loss of 25 percent of his optical lobe and parietal lobe.

“Working with and advocating for individual veterans one at a time at the VA Medical Center was very rewarding, but I believe that I can now as Director of Government Relations help a greater number of veterans at the same time,” Minney said. “This position has the potential to be 100 times more rewarding due to the new challenges set before me.”

Following his recovery, Minney was a participant in BVA’s Operation Peer Support initiative. He first became acquainted with the Association and its mission while attending the BVA 62nd National Convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 2007. His activities at the convention included a tandem skydive.

At BVA’s invitation, he also presented oral testimony on a number of occasions before the House and Senate Committees on Veterans Affairs, emphasizing the link between Traumatic Brain Injury and vision loss among OEF and OIF veterans and service members.

Minney is the recipient of the following military awards and honors: Purple Heart, Navy Commendation with “V”, Combat Action, Sea Service, Over Seas Service, Navy Unit Commendation, Marine Unit Commendation, Presidential Unit Commendation, FMF Ribbon, Iraqi Campaign, GWOT, Kuwait Liberation, Good Conduct, Expert Pistol and Rifle, and Fleet Marine Force Warfare Breast insignia.

He is a life member of BVA, American Legion Post 4, Disabled American Veterans Post 18, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 104, AMVETS Post 4, and the Masonic Lodge 309 of Frankfort, Ohio. He is the father of two daughters currently enrolled in college.

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Veterans Day’s Deeper Meaning

Newly elected BVA National President Mark Cornell, third from left, presented a wreath from the Blinded Veterans Association at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. He was accompanied by, left to right, Honorary Board Member Dr. Donald Gagliano, Executive Director Al Avina, Director of Government Relations Dr. Tom Zampieri, Director of District 3 Pete Davis, and Field Service Program Director Ed Eckroth. The wreath laying followed Mark’s participation in a White House breakfast and a ceremony the Cemetery Amphitheatre featuring remarks by Congressional Medal of Honor Society National President Harold Fritz, VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki, and President Barack Obama.

by Timothy Hornik

November 11 is more than a Federal Holiday or a chance to enjoy sales at various stores. The day is rather an opportunity to reflect upon what it means to selflessly serve our fellow man. Starting on November 11, 1918 we celebrated the end of the First World War, remembered the sacrifices of all those who took up the calling to bear arms in defense of our freedom, and laid to rest the remains of a Soldier atop a hill in Virginia overlooking the Potomac River and whose name in a place of high honor only the Almighty knows.

Beginning in 1954, President Eisenhower established this day, November 11, as the federal holiday we know today. On this day each year, we remember those who serve through community events and parades. We take the time to enjoy the company of friends and family. Most importantly, we remember those who died during their service through the laying of wreaths and flowers upon their resting places.

To me, this day possesses a much deeper meaning. Not until the day before I turned 25 did I begin to understand what it means to be a veteran who freely chooses to sacrifice himself or herself in defense of our freedoms.

On November 11, 2004, fate intervened in my life. While on patrol in Baghdad, Iraq, a sniper placed his enemy fire within millimeters of ending my life. Entering through the right temple and out the left, the bullet caused me to fall. I soon knew that I would never see the world the same again.

However life changing the event has been to me, what should have destroyed my future has allowed me to transcend blindness, equipped with a stronger sense of self. My freedom of choices laid a road to continue to serve my fellow veterans through various organizations.

From that day forward, Veterans Day has reinforced the strength of my belief that freedom is not free. The call to voluntarily join the Armed Forces is not one that any citizen or every citizen can necessarily answer. It is instead a calling for those who deeply believe internally that they possess the psychological and physical fortitude to withstand the inherent dangers that are so much a part of such service. For those who were drafted, it was a time for them to understand that they were about to face fierce struggles. They acknowledged that although powerless in the choice to serve at that time, they could indeed decide to trust in their Brothers in Arms during the bleakest moments.

Veterans Day is a day to celebrate what it means to be free to choose how to live. We freely speak our minds, select the object of our faith, and pursue the dreams we have that our lives will be rich and beautiful.

Winston Churchill stated: “We make a living by what we get but we create a life by what we give.” In this season let us honor those who gave some, or perhaps all.

About the Author

Timothy Hornik is a Licensed Social Worker, advocating for equality and rights for disabled veterans. His primary focus is directed to his role as the president of the Blinded Veterans Association’s Kansas Regional Group.

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Announcing New Field Service Officer for Region 6-North

BVA is pleased to announce that Eileen Vasquez will begin serving this week as the new Field Service Officer for Region 6-North, which includes Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

Eileen is originally from Duluth, MN and currently lives in Saint Paul, MN.   She served in the US Navy for six years.  Her primary function was as a Nuclear Machinist Mate onboard the USS Enterprise (CVN 65).

Her service connected eye conditions were first diagnosed in December 2002, becoming legally blind in 2004. She is a lifetime member of the BVA, VFW, and an annual member of the American Legion, DAV, American Council for the Blind and the Optimist Club.  She enjoys participating in the Veterans TEE tournament annually since 2010. Team River Runners (TRR) has become a large part of her life this last year thanks to The Wounded Warrior Project (WWP). These groups have enabled her to develop new relationships and experiences including kayaking, bowling and hunting. She has received training from WWP and is a peer mentor for other disabled veterans.

Eileen met her husband Jon in the service and has been married since 2005 which has added a wonderful new dimension to her life; He is supportive of her and knew of her vision impairment and long term diagnosis when he married her.  Her family and friends have made life’s challenges and transitions easier.  She seeks out new challenges and believes that by sharing knowledge we can all live more enjoyable and successful lives.

Eileen attended Saint Catherine University working towards her degree in accounting with a minor in studio art. She was mentioned on the Dean’s list multiple times and is a member of the Business Honor Society.  She has taken a few classes thru Hadley and container gardening was a favorite.  At Hines Blind Rehabilitation Center she studied Braille, JAWS and learned about accessible fun new hobbies like wood turning, golf and tandem biking.  Enriching her own life and others has become paramount to achieving her goals in life, as she believes in improving everyone’s quality of life.

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Candidates Sought for Government Relations Director

BVA SEEKS CANDIDATES FOR
GOVERNMENT RELATIONS DIRECTOR

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.  Resumes and cover letter must be received by November 10, 2013.

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.

Qualifications:

  • 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
477 H Street NW
Washington, DC 20001

aavina@bva.org

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White Cane Day 2013 Proclamation

Presidential Proclamation
 Blind Americans Equality Day, 2013

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BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

Blind and visually impaired persons have always played an important role in American life and culture, and today we recommit to our goals of full access and opportunity. Whether sprinting across finish lines, leading innovation in business and government, or creating powerful music and art, blind and visually impaired Americans imagine and pursue ideas and goals that move our country forward. As a Nation, it is our task to ensure they can always access the tools and support they need to turn those ideas and goals into realities.

My Administration is committed to advancing opportunity for people with disabilities through the Americans with Disabilities Act and other important avenues. In June of this year, the United States joined with over 150 countries in approving a landmark treaty that aims to expand access for visually impaired persons and other persons with print disabilities to information, culture, and education. By facilitating access to books and other printed material, the treaty holds the potential to open up worlds of knowledge. If the United States becomes a party to this treaty, we can reduce the book famine that confronts the blind community while maintaining the integrity of the international copyright framework.

The United States was also proud to join 141 other countries in signing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2009, and we are working toward its ratification. Americans with Disabilities, including those who are blind or visually impaired, should have the same opportunities to work, study, and travel in other countries as any other American, and the Convention can help us realize that goal.

To create a more level playing field and ensure students with disabilities have access to the general education curriculum, the Department of Education issued new guidance in June for the use of Braille as a literacy tool under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. This guidance reaffirms my Administration’s commitment to using Braille to open doors for students who are blind or visually impaired, so every student has a chance to succeed in the classroom and graduate from high school prepared for college and careers.

We have come a long way in our journey toward a more perfect Union, but we still have work ahead. We must fulfill the promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and expand the freedom to make of our lives what we will. On this day, we celebrate the accomplishments of our blind and visually impaired citizens, and we recommit to building a Nation where all Americans, including those who are blind or visually impaired, live with the assurance of equal opportunity and equal respect.

By joint resolution approved on October 6, 1964 (Public Law 88-628, as amended), the Congress designated October 15 of each year as “White Cane Safety Day” to recognize the contributions of Americans who are blind or have low vision. Today, let us recommit to ensuring we remain a Nation where all our people, including those with disabilities, have every opportunity to achieve their dreams.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim October 15, 2013, as Blind Americans Equality Day. I call upon public officials, business and community leaders, educators, librarians, and Americans across the country to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies, activities, and programs.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this eleventh day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.

BARACK OBAMA

 

 

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