Opening Business Session Highlights Early Convention Events
“We will continue to find new and better ways to
improve the quality of life for blinded veterans,” said VA Secretary
Eric K. Shinseki as he offered keynote remarks at the BVA 66th National
Convention in Las Vegas August 17.
Speaking at the gathering’s Opening Business Session, Secretary
Shinseki referred specifically to recent progress by both VA and the
Department of Defense (DoD) in coordinating services to those who have
lost their vision either during or after service to their country.
Two new permanent office facilities of the joint DoD/VA Center of
Excellence, he said, will be in operation by September 30. A pilot
application of the joint Defense and Veterans Eye Injury and Registry
will also be tested this fall.
Blinded veteran Edgar Penaloza, Oregon Columbia Regional Group, confers
in BVA Exhibit Hall about low vision simulators with Marshall Flax,
Certified Low Vision Specialist and owner of Fork in the Road Vision
Rehabilitation Services, LLC
“Since 2009, VA has also established 35 new Blind Rehabilitation
Outpatient Specialist (BROS) positions to serve veterans in their homes
and communities,” he reported. “We’ve hired 11 new Visual Impairment
Service Team (VIST) Coordinators and provided funding to ensure that
every VA Blind Rehabilitation Center has a full-time psychologist or
creative arts therapist on staff.”
The BVA convention has registered a total 193 blinded veterans and an
additional 220 family members, friends, exhibitors, presenters. The
organization’s Operation Peer Support initiative is hosting 17 recently
blinded service members and veterans at the convention this year,
including three special guests from the British Forces.
Left to right following a heart-stopping 45-mile-per-hour leap from the Las Vegas Stratosphere, BVA National Secretary Mark Cornell, Director of District 6 Roy Young,
British Operation Peer Support participant Rob Long, and Northern Arizona Regional Group member Michael Kanitsch.
Other highlights of the first two days of the gathering included a
first-ever caregiver panel discussion, two large rooms filled with
high-tech exhibits, the usual training seminars for Operation Peer
Support participants, the traditional President’s Reception and dinner,
the Bylaws and Resolutions Committee meeting, and a Wednesday evening
open invitation to sky jump the equivalent of 108 stories in 17 seconds
from the top of Las Vegas’ renowned Stratosphere.