BVA’s Government Relations team is a consistent presence on Capitol Hill. We work to educate congressional leaders on the needs of our blinded veterans, their families and caregivers. We regularly visit with congressional members and staffers to ensure they are up to date with the views of our membership.
Legislative Priorities for 116th Congress
Bills BVA Supports
FY 2020 Congressional Requests
The Government Relations team of BVA continuously pushes for the support of the Blinded Veterans.
BVA supports many bills that are forwarded onto Congress on a yearly basis.
The Government Relations team is continually advocating for it’s members and veterans.
Legislative Priorities for 116th Congress
The Government Relations team of BVA continuously pushes for the support of the Blinded Veterans.
Bills BVA Supports
BVA supports many bills that are forwarded onto Congress on a yearly basis.
FY 2020 Congressional Requests
The Government Relations team is continually advocating for it’s members and veterans.
Here’s the recent testimony of the Joint Hearing of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees.
May 1, 2019 Testimony to DAMA Subcommittee
BVA 73rd Resolutions
Every year at BVA’s National Convention, the Membership votes on proposed resolutions to send to the VA, regarding issues that affect blinded veterans’ health care in the VA system, and recommending changes to address them. The VA responds to the resolutions, explaining what changes they will be able to make. Below you can find links to resolutions going back several years.
Resolutions 74th Convention 9.2019
WHEREAS, fundamental to the comprehensive rehabilitation of veterans who are severely visually impaired, or blind is the development of wholesome and healthy attitudes about blindness, the acquisition of adaptive skills to overcome the handicap of blindness and reintegration into the family and community; and
WHEREAS, the Department of Veterans Affairs ((VA) pioneered the comprehensive residential Blind Rehabilitation Center (BRC) approach to the delivery of such comprehensive services to facilitate adjustment to and acceptance of sudden and traumatic loss of vision; and
WHEREAS, the VA BRC model has evolved to include the comprehensive rehabilitation of veterans whose visual impairment and blindness may be associated with aging; and
WHEREAS, the VA is internationally recognized as the premier provider of comprehensive blind rehabilitation services; and
WHEREAS, non-VA blind rehabilitation programs have recently begun to seek referral of visually impaired and blinded veterans away from VA Blind Rehabilitation Services (BRS) in an effort to obtain VA contract funding; and
WHEREAS, America’s visually impaired and blinded veterans have earned the right to have access to the highest quality blind rehabilitation services available; and
WHEREAS, only in rare instances would referral to a non-VA BRC be appropriate; NOW
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association in convention assembled in Tulsa, Oklahoma on this 16th day of August 2019, request that visually impaired and blinded veterans only be referred to VA BRC’s for comprehensive residential blind rehabilitation service; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that should it ever be necessary to refer a visually impaired or blinded veteran to a non-VA facility, that non-VA facility should be accredited by either the National Accreditation Council (NAC) for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped or the Commission for Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF); and should employ Blind Rehabilitation Specialists Certified by the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals (ACVREP).
WHEREAS, current law provides that service-connected veterans rated less than 50 percent who retire from the Armed Forces on length of service do not receive disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in addition to full military retired pay; and
WHEREAS, these disabled veterans must therefore surrender retired pay in an amount equal to the disability compensation they receive; and
WHEREAS, this offset is unfair to veterans who have served faithfully in military careers inasmuch as these veterans have earned their retired pay by virtue of their long service to the Nation and wholly apart from disabilities due to military service; NOW
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Blinded Veterans Association in convention assembled in Tulsa, Oklahoma on this 16th day of August 2019, supports legislation to repeal the offset between military longevity retired pay and VA disability compensation.
WHEREAS, U.S. Military Operations in both Afghanistan and Iraq continue and have resulted in numerous eye injuries, as well as blast-related traumatic brain injuries that impair vision, and
WHEREAS, DoD reports that there have been 197,000 eye injuries worldwide since October 2001 and the Veterans Health Administration Office of Public Health reports that from the second quarter of FY 2002 through FY 2015, 211,560) veterans were enrolled with eye disorders/ injuries and/or TBI visual dysfunction including 39,908 unique OEF/OIF/OND, veterans, and
WHEREAS, Congress has mandated the establishment of the DOD /VA Vision Center of Excellence (VCE) and that it shall include a joint Defense Veterans Eye Injury Vision Registry (DVEIVR) to be used to develop best practices, inform clinical policy, guide vision research, facilitate studies and clinical education, facilitate clinical care delivery and coordination including vision rehabilitation, and
WHEREAS, Congress passed legislation in December 2017 (H.R. 4909-SR.2943), the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2017, which expressed the specific intent of Congress to require the Secretary of Defense “to establish regional centers of excellence for the provision of specialty care to beneficiaries at major medical centers,” and further requires that the Defense Health Agency establish the new Joint Trauma System (JTS), and
WHEREAS, this legislation requires compilation of a comprehensive longitudinal, patient-centered medical record for each Post 9/11 service member detailing information such as medical and surgery interventions, diagnosis, treatments, clinical outcomes, eye notes, and coordinated rehabilitation services, which is to be entered into the DVEIVR by DOD and VHA credentialed personnel and that information in the DVEIVR will be made available to DoD and VHA credentialed providers to facilitate clinical care coordination including vision rehabilitation, and
WHEREAS, VCE data indicate that as of August 15, 2017, a total of only 28,000 records have been entered documenting unique eye injuries and /or TBI visual dysfunction disorders sustained by service members, and the status of VHA exchange of eye records that are not fully integrated into the registry and the DVEIVR, as mandated by the NDAA in 2008 is unknown, NOW
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association in convention assembled in Tulsa, Oklahoma on this 16th day of August 2019, strongly urges the Secretary of Defense to move the Vision Center of Excellence and Hearing Center of Excellence into the Defense Health Agency Joint Trauma Services (JTS) as mandated in NDAA 2017 within 180 days, recognizing these clinical trauma specialty COE’s for improving battlefield medical care and the evacuation system utilized to bring injured service members to specialized care facilities.” and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that BVA urges DoD and VA to immediately fully merge the medical, surgical, and rehabilitative clinical records of all Post 9/11 OIF/OEF/OND veterans with eye injuries or with TBI visual system dysfunction, into the mandated joint DVEIVR, in a manner that will ensure immediate and full interoperability within one Joint Trauma Registry so that entered data is merged as well as linked to the new DOD VA Joint Electronic Health Records, making it accessible to inform health-care policy and research.
WHEREAS, the Rehabilitation Act has been in effect since 1973; and
WHEREAS, the Rehabilitation Act requires that agencies of the federal government make such modifications in programs and policies as necessary to allow full participation by people with disabilities; and
WHEREAS, this law applies to employment offered by federal agencies and requires that those agencies make reasonable efforts to accommodate people with disabilities within their workforces; and
WHEREAS, blind and visually impaired individuals historically have experienced extreme difficulty in finding meaningful employment or advancing beyond entry level positions when employment is found; and
WHEREAS, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) employs disabled people, many of whom are blind or severely visually impaired, NOW
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association in convention assembled in Tulsa, Oklahoma on this 16th day of August 2019, urges the VA to ensure that all visually impaired and blind employees have reasonable accommodations, including necessary training on essential access technology.
WHEREAS, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is currently authorized to provide transportation to VA appointments for veterans confined to wheelchair and those who require transportation by ambulance; and
WHEREAS, Veterans Transportation Service has active plans to expand healthcare access for veterans. It has expanded the Veteran Transportation Network which is now active at eighty-seven (87) VA sites. A mobility manager who coordinates scheduling as well as identifying and joining with community partners is in place in facilities as the program expands. The program is also working closely with VA’s Office of Rural Health to improve the network of transportation services that connect rural veterans and those veterans who, because of disability or infirmity, need transportation assistance to access VA services. This service provides for continuity of care for those physically infirm or disabled Veterans who often have complex medical conditions requiring healthcare services; and
WHEREAS, blind veterans have significant problems with obtaining transportation to VA appointments; and
WHEREAS, the disability of blindness causes significant barriers in transportation similar to those who must use a wheelchair. VA proposed legislation to extend a recently enacted provision, 38 USC & 111A that authorized VA to transport any person to or from a VA facility or other place in connection with vocational rehabilitation or counseling required by the Secretary pursuant to Chapter 34 or 35 of Title 38 or for the purpose of examination, treatment or care; and
WHEREAS, this authority was enacted in January 2013 under Public Law 112-260, Section 202 of the Dignified Burial and Other Veterans’ Benefits Improvement Act of 2012 and expires one year after the date of enactment. This proposal is supported by BVA and would extend the VA authority for an additional five years; NOW
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association in convention assembled in Tulsa, Oklahoma on this 16th day of August 2019, request that the VA Veterans Travel Program (VTP) in conjunction with VHA ensures that blindness be included as a justification for VA to authorize transportation to local VA appointments when appropriate by VA mobility personnel and that VA vans, public transportation, DAV vans, or other contracted services be utilized to ensure all blinded veterans have access to local VA outpatient care and services.
WHEREAS, many of the veterans who utilize the services of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are blind or visually impaired, and
WHEREAS, these veterans receive vital correspondence including, but not limited to information about their benefits, appointment reminders, surgical preparation and treatment instructions only in standard print, which they cannot read, and
WHEREAS, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, PL. 93-122, requires federal agencies to make their programs and services, including communications, accessible to people with disabilities, NOW
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association in convention assembled in Tulsa, Oklahoma on this 16th day of August 2019, urges the Department of Veterans Affairs to insure that efforts to modernize the VA’s IT and communications infrastructure provide VA Central Office as well as VA hospitals, medical centers and other facilities nationwide with the capability to send correspondence and other currently written communications to veterans with visual impairments in accessible formats, including but not limited to braille, large print, e-mail, and audio format, and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this organization urges the VA to ensure all web content posted by the VA and its facilities is compliant with Section 508 accessibility standards, and
FINALLY, BE IT RESOLVED, that this organization requests that the VA dedicate specific funding streams to Section 508 compliance separate from general IT operational funding and increase staffing of Section 508 compliance efforts to allow timely evaluation and technical assistance to be provided to those developing and managing content for VA’s internet and intranet websites, beginning with those 20 sites that have been identified by VA as used most frequently by veterans.
WHEREAS, VA is facing a potential shortage of highly qualified health care professionals as the result of the high percentage of “Boomers near retirement”; and
WHEREAS, VHA Blind Rehabilitation Service (BRS) is also confronting the potential loss of a large percentage of its workforce; and
WHEREAS, the NPC positions are critical in providing education, training and oversight for full-time Visual Impairment Service Team (VIST) Coordinators and Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialists (BROS); and
WHEREAS, many long time VIST Coordinators are retiring and many new BROS positions have been established; and
WHEREAS, the need for the NPC positions is even more critical; and
WHEREAS, Veteran Integrated Service Networks (VISN) and Facilities are reluctant to fill vacant positions, NOW
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association in convention assembled in Tulsa, Oklahoma on this 16th day of August 2019, strongly urge the Under Secretary of Health to require Network and Facility Directors to begin recruitment and training programs for succession for VIST, BROS; and other vision rehabilitation staff; and continue to fill the NPC positions in a timelier matter.
WHEREAS, the VA established a policy prohibiting national training programs of more than fifty personnel; and
WHEREAS, the VA Blind Rehabilitation Service has conducted a national training program for Visual Impairment Team Coordinators (VIST) and Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialist (BROS) for twenty years in conjunction with the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) National Convention; and
WHEREAS, VA Blind Rehabilitation Service has expanded services to visually impaired and blinded veterans over those years; and
WHEREAS, many professionals hired by the Blind Rehabilitation Service to provide high quality comprehensive services to America’s visually impaired and blinded veterans are new to the VA Healthcare system; and
WHEREAS, national training is essential to ensure these professionals possess appropriate competencies to deliver high quality services; and
WHEREAS, VA economically benefits from holding this national training program in conjunction with BVA’s National Convention; and
WHEREAS, at least one third of VA Blind Rehabilitation Service professionals are eligible for retirement; and
WHEREAS, failure to provide adequate training for new hires unfamiliar with the VA Healthcare system will result in visually impaired and blinded veterans not receiving essential services; NOW
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association in convention assembled in Tulsa, Oklahoma on this 16th day of August 2019, urges the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs to reinstate the Blind Rehabilitation (VIST and BROS) national training program to continue on an annual basis.
WHEREAS, Section 110, Title 38, United States Code, now provides for the protection of all disability compensation evaluations that have been continuously in effect for 20 or more years; and
WHEREAS, permanency should be conceded for disability compensation ratings which have been in effect for 10 years without change in evaluation with no further examination scheduled; NOW
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association in convention assembled in Tulsa, Oklahoma on this 16th day of August 2019, supports amendment of Section 110, Title 38, United States Code to provide that disability compensation evaluations continuously be in effect and protected at the same evaluation rate after a period of 10 years.
WHEREAS, members of BVA served their country during time of war in order to preserve the rights and privileges of life in this land of the free; and
WHEREAS, one of the most precious of those rights is the right to vote; and
WHEREAS, the United States Congress and the President’s Administration have failed to fulfill their obligation to our Nation’s blind veterans, providing inadequate funding for veterans’ benefits and health care; and
WHEREAS, the United States Congress and the President’s Administration have targeted veterans’ programs for unwarranted spending cuts and reductions under the mistaken and misguided theory that veterans do not base their vote on veterans’ issues; and
WHEREAS, the failure of blind veterans to register and vote will result in the perpetuation of this theory; and
WHEREAS, because of their disabilities, blind veterans have more difficulty than their non-blind peers in complying with some of the stricter requirements in voter registration laws; and
WHEREAS, there exists an urgent need for veterans, their families and all Americans concerned about veterans’ issues to make their voice heard by becoming registered voters and exercising their vote in local, state; and federal elections; NOW
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association in convention assembled in Tulsa, Oklahoma on this 16th day of August 2019, encourages 100 percent of our members to become registered to vote and thereby strengthen our organization’s ability to preserve and improve our system of veterans’ benefits and services; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that all BVA Regional Groups initiate and operate voter registration drives targeted at increasing voter registration among veterans and their families; and
FINALLY, BE IT RESOLVED, that all BVA Regional Groups; and members are encouraged to ensure that all veterans and their family members are able to get to polling locations to vote or vote by mail in absentee ballots.
WHEREAS, the United States Supreme Court, by a 5-4 decision, has ruled that public desecration of the American Flag, as a form of free speech and expression, is legal and permissible; and
WHEREAS, the American Flag—“Old Glory”—is our National Ensign, the proud and beautiful symbol of our country’s precious, free heritage; and
WHEREAS, this symbol, in the form of our irreplaceable “Stars and Stripes,” has been carried and defended in battle, revered and cherished by its citizens; and viewed as a beacon of hope and fulfillment by all the world since it was first unfurled at the birth of our Nation; and
WHEREAS, the Constitutional First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech was not intended by our Founding Fathers to enable individuals—who do enjoy unfettered freedom to express their views, no matter how abhorrent, in both oral and written form—to publicly and contemptuously desecrate our beloved flag, NOW
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association in convention assembled in Tulsa, Oklahoma on this 16th day of August 2019, goes on record as condemning any individual or group who shall at any time publicly and willfully desecrate the flag of the United States.
WHEREAS, all members and associate members of the Blinded Veterans Association are legally blind or visually impaired; and
WHEREAS, most members of the Blinded Veterans Association travel from time to time by air; and
WHEREAS, a significant impediment (barrier) to independent travel by airplane occurs when a blind or visually impaired member must traverse the distance between the arrival curb outside of the terminal building and the airline counter inside the terminal; and
WHEREAS, currently there does not exist a person or device to effectuate traversing the distance from curb to counter by the disabled person; and
WHEREAS, the Federal Aviation Administration is currently gathering comments about the adoption of additional rules and/or regulations regarding assisting our members and others who are disabled in traversing the distance between the arrival curb and the airline counter; and
WHEREAS, the lack of accessibility to the airline counters from the arrival curb is a current and extensive barrier to independent airline travel by blind, visually impaired or other disabled person; NOW
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association in convention assembled in Tulsa, Oklahoma on this 16th day of August 2019, does hereby request the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to adopt a rule(s) or regulations requiring the elimination of the existing barrier to accessibility for blind and other disabled individuals to obtain independent access to their proposed airline counter from their arrival curb at the airport.
WHEREAS, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Prosthetics and Sensory Aids Service (PSAS) is charged with the provision of clinically prescribed Prosthetic and Sensory Aids to disabled veterans; and
WHEREAS, visually impaired and blinded veterans in their efforts to achieve acceptance of and adjustment to vision loss greatly depend on a vast variety of sensory aids to assist in overcoming the limitations of vision loss; and
WHEREAS, when visually impaired veterans demonstrate an ability to fully utilize and possess a demonstrated need for such devices, he/she is required to make such requests through Blind Rehabilitation Service (BRS), an essential program within the Department of Veterans Affairs Health Administration (VHA); and
WHEREAS, such requests are forwarded by BRS Clinicians/Visual Impairment Service Team Coordinators (VIST) to PSAS to order and provide these devices; and
WHEREAS, delays in ordering are frequently experienced due to heavy workloads on the PSAS purchasing agents having thousands of purchase orders to prepare; and
WHEREAS, the provisions of Remote Order Entry System (ROES) capability would substantially improve efficiency and timeliness in filling requests while reducing workloads for the purchasing agents; and
WHEREAS, the Denver Acquisition & Logistic Center (DALC) stocks many of the most commonly prescribed aids and appliances needed by visually impaired veterans; and
WHEREAS, the DALC does not have sufficient resources, both financial and personnel to develop such capability for BRS; NOW
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association in convention assembled in Tulsa, Oklahoma on this 16th day of August 2019, request that Congress provide additional funding to VA Information Technology enabling the DALC to hire sufficient qualified professionals to develop and provide BRS with the capacity to fully utilize ROES, and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that VA strongly supports the provision of the ROES to VA BRS to enhance the timely delivery of clinically appropriate aids and appliances to America’s visually impaired veterans and ensure each VA Medical Center PSAS has sufficient purchasing agents to manage purchase orders in a timely manner.
WHEREAS, the adaptive automobile grant has over the past 20 years been regularly increasing; and
WHEREAS, we are only allowed a one-time usage of said grant; and
WHEREAS, the viable life expectancy of the automobile or adaptive equipment has finite expected usage,
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association in convention assembled in Tulsa, Oklahoma on this 16th day of August 2019, request that the adaptive automobile grant be available for use by the veteran as it increases or at least every 10 years.
WHEREAS, the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) has operated at a deficit in its General Fund since fiscal year 2014, with losses exceeding over $800,000 in 2015; and over $1.2 million in 2016; and
WHEREAS, the fiscal year ending June 30, 2017 is projected with a loss exceeding one million dollars; and
WHEREAS, no organization can continually operate at a loss and remain operationally viable; NOW
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association in convention assembled in Tulsa, Oklahoma on this 16th day of August 2019, directs that the BVA National Board of Directors take steps to achieve and maintain a balanced budget in the General Fund by the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2022.
REQUIRE LOCAL CONTRACTED SERVICES WHEN BLIND SERVICES PERSONNEL (VIST & BROS) LACK THE EXPERTISE OR QUALIFICATIONS TO DETERMINE A VETERAN’S ABILITY FOR ADVANCED TRAINING OR WHEN UNABLE TO FULFILL POST BLIND REHAB CENTER TRAINING.
WHEREAS, the Veterans Health Administration has established training and assessment protocols for blind and visually impaired veterans and provides them with assistive technology training; and
WHEREAS, the VA has established an outpatient training program that employs a multi-skilled and experienced Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialist (BROS) who teaches skills in the Veterans home environment and/or local Veterans Affairs medical center; and
WHEREAS, staff and supervisors within Blind Rehabilitation Services acknowledge that they are unprepared and unable to remain abreast of evolutionary advances in assistive technology for the blind; and
WHEREAS, enhancements of electronic assistive devices are continuously introduced; and
WHEREAS, blind and visually impaired veterans utilize assistive technology to accomplish tasks in manual skills, living skills, orientation-mobility, computing; and basic quality of life needs; and
WHEREAS, with the continuing influx of new and advanced technologies and aids for the blind, it is virtually impossible for the Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialist to keep totally abreast or obtain training in order to provide adequate outpatient services to the visually impaired veterans; NOW
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association in convention assembled in Tulsa, Oklahoma on this 16th day of August 2019, states that if the VA Blind Rehabilitation Services VIST and/or BROS are not familiar with training or functionality of a specific device issued by the VA or unable to determine a blind veteran’s ability to functionally use or be trained to use a specific device that there should be in place a policy where the veteran would receive local contracted training by a local certified adaptive technology vendor, or scheduled to attend the nearest BRC or VISOR program where instructors exist that can train or assess the veteran.
PROVIDE ACCESSABLE TRANSPORTATION FOR CATASTROPHIC DISABLED BLIND VETERANS TO THEIR SCHEDULED DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS MEDICAL APPOINTMENTS.
WHEREAS, because of service-connected disabilities, many Blind Veterans face mobility challenges when attempting to access Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care benefits and services; and
WHEREAS, VA is currently authorized to transport via “SPECIAL MODE” veterans who are not ambulatory or in wheelchairs; and
WHEREAS, the definition of “AMBULATORY” is to walk moving from place to place (Merriam Webster Dictionary). In order to ambulate from one point to another the other point must be visible. Therefore, by this definition a blind veteran by themselves from home to scheduled VA health care appointment should be considered non-ambulatory; and
WHEREAS, the Veterans Transportation Service (VTS) is intended to provide veterans with convenient and timely access to transportation services and to overcome barriers to receiving VA health care and services; and in particular to increase transportation options for veterans who need specialized forms of transportation to VA facilities; and
WHEREAS, wide variations in the eligibility for VTS transportation across the VA health care system is not consistent with overcoming barriers to receiving health care provided or purchased by VA to provide accessible transportation for catastrophic disabled blind veterans; and
WHEREAS, the VA Highly Rural Transportation Grant program provides grants to assist only veterans in highly rural areas through innovative transportation services to travel to VA medical centers and to otherwise assist in providing transportation services in connection with the provision of VA medical care to these veterans; and
WHEREAS, VA lacks a consistent and comprehensive transportation policy for all catastrophic disabled blind veterans across all established VA transportation and travel programs, benefits and services; NOW
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association in convention assembled in Tulsa, Oklahoma on this 16th day of August 2019, request that the VA operate an effective and efficient transportation program for all catastrophic disabled blind veterans to their scheduled department of veterans’ healthcare appointments even if it requires contracted or hired means of transportation.
WHEREAS, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has determined that only dogs would be classified as service animals under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and has promulgated regulations reflecting this fact; and
WHEREAS, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) dog access policy contains language in lockstep with regulations described under the ADA for purposes of developing and employing policies governing service dog teams in VA facilities; and
WHEREAS, the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) enjoys a rich heritage based on our working alongside the Department of Veteran Affairs, and in doing so, has contributed to the leadership in the nurturance of VA Blind Rehabilitation into the premier system providing those services which empower blind veterans while enhancing the lives and lifestyles of the blinded veteran experience, as well as impacting the experience of the global community of persons living with blindness; and
WHEREAS, Experiences of blind veterans who have encountered a variety of serious problems in the form of aggressive animals posing serious danger for their guide dogs indicates that there is both a lack of knowledge demonstrated by VA Police and, at best, a very inconsistent application of VA policies; and
WHEREAS, reports establish the fact that a large number of untrained or out-of-control dogs instigate incidents with legitimate guide dog teams and that these incidents are either ignored or mishandled by VA Police indicating that they possibly lack the proper tools and training which would enable them to respond more appropriately; and
WHEREAS, it appears that the VA Police should and could be the most appropriate element of the VA to enforce policies related to service dog behavior on VA facilities; as well as to be in the position (with sufficient knowledge upon which to base conclusions) to evaluate the legitimacy of the dog presented as a service dog, and
WHEREAS, action of VA Police barring ineligible or out-of-control dogs from entering VA facilities increases safety where they often pose dangers to blind veterans with guide dogs and other veterans and individuals who are often caught in the confusion of an aggression incident; NOW
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association in convention assembled in Tulsa, Oklahoma on this 16th day of August 2019, strongly urges executive management within the Department of Veterans Affairs to establish an advisory committee to research the myriad facets of the ADA related to service dogs, with the goal of revising existing VA policies on this subject; enabling a consistent interpretation of the policies accompanied by consistent application of said policies by the VA Police; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this organization strongly urges that educational materials be developed which can be widely shared with VA staff and visitors, leading to an elimination of harmful incidents of aggression against legitimate guide dogs and their blind handlers by untrained, illegitimate or out-of-control dogs; and
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that this organization strongly encourages that these efforts include participation by representatives from the Blinded Veterans Association, at least two guide dog schools accredited by the International Guide Dog Federation, and a representative from each of the consumer advocacy groups dealing with guide dogs.
WHEREAS, the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) has joined with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) in a partnership over the 72-year history of their coexistence, and
WHEREAS, BVA’s input to the VA has contributed significantly to the development of the premier quality Blind Rehabilitation Services (BRS) available today, and
WHEREAS, that input has often been provided through resolutions adopted annually by attendees of BVA’s national convention and submitted to the VA following their adoption, and
WHEREAS, BVA has benefited from the guidance often contained in VA’s responses to these resolutions, and this, in turn, has enabled BVA to insure that its resolutions are well informed, and
WHEREAS, the VA has not responded to BVA’s resolutions in recent years, which has limited dialogue on important issues and deprived BVA of the opportunity to obtain valuable guidance and increased understanding of VA’s perspective, to inform our resolution process, and
WHEREAS, BVA’s resolutions are the means by which the membership gives direction to their officers and staff and determines the organization’s legislative and policy agendas each year, NOW
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association in convention assembled in Tulsa, Oklahoma on this 16th day of August 2019, strongly urges the VA to resume its policy of years past and submit responses to resolutions submitted by BVA each year following its annual convention, in order to provide much-needed information and perspective to BVA, thereby increasing the likelihood that resolutions will be beneficial to the VA and further BVA’s role as a partner in VA’s effort to provide the best services possible to America’s blind veterans and veterans in general.
RESEARCH ON AGENT ORANGE/DIOXIN EFFECTS ON VIETNAM VETERANS CHOROIDAL MELENOMA EYE CANCER
WHEREAS, numerous previous scientific studies have revealed significant harmful effects of exposure to the ingredients of Agent Orange/Dioxin as well as other herbicides and toxic substances on humans and animals. Continued research is needed to fully understand the entire range of the possible effects of such exposure on eye cancer in Vietnam veterans, and
WHEREAS, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) review of scientific information indicated there are a number of studies that need replication in order to reach a scientifically accepted standard of significant association, and
WHEREAS, data for the years 2007-2011 indicate that approximately 2,000 veterans per year received diagnoses of Choroidal melanoma eye cancer, and in each case, these veterans had previously reported exposure to toxic substances such as Agent Orange during their service in the armed forces, and
WHEREAS, by contrast, there were 1,000 cases diagnosed among the civilian population of the United States in 2010, and
WHEREAS, extrapolating from the percentage of veterans to civilians in the U.S. population, there should be about 115 veterans diagnosed with this form of cancer in any given year, rather than the 1,550 to 2,000 noted above, and
WHEREAS, BVA is concerned that these data require full VA research review, both internally and in joint partnerships, with NIH, National Eye Institute (NEI), National Academy of Science Institute of Medicine (IOM), as well as VHA medical surveillance systems examinations, NOW
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Blinded Veterans Association in convention assembled in Tulsa, Oklahoma on this 16th day of August 2019, requests that the U.S. Congress, and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and other appropriate federal agencies initiate, and Congress support an independent comprehensive health study on Vietnam War era veterans with eye cancer, which includes determination of the delayed effects of exposure to the ingredients in Agent Orange/Dioxin and other toxic chemicals used primarily in Vietnam. This research which bases its decision on scientifically accepted standards, i.e.: Standard Mortality Ratios (SMRs) determines significant associations for diseases currently recognized by the VA as related
to herbicide exposure, and this research be reported to Congress.
Supporting the AbilityOne Employment Programs to Ensure Continued Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Contracting Opportunities for Ability One Industries, August 2019
WHEREAS, for more than 80 years, the AbilityOne® public-private partnership, has provided job and career opportunities to individuals who are blind. In 1971, Congress expanded the law to include people with severe disabilities; and
WHEREAS; each year, the AbilityOne Program provides sustainable employment for more than 45,000 people who are blind or severely disabled, including more than 3,000 wounded, ill, or injured disabled veterans; and
WHEREAS, the Veterans First Contracting Program (established by the Veterans Benefits, Health Care, and Information Technology Act of 2006 or the “VBA”) and the AbilityOne® Program (established through the JWOD Act, which serves people who are blind or with significant disabilities) serve different, but complementary missions, creating opportunities for two underserved populations; and
WHEREAS, BVA believes these programs can co-exist while meeting their respective objectives; and
WHEREAS, the Veterans First Contracting Program does not require participating veteran-owned companies to hire or promote veterans, as it is not designed to be an employment program, but rather solely an effort to promote veteran-owned businesses; and
WHEREAS, Congress and VBA must ensure disabled veterans have access to employment programs for our Nation’s disabled veterans; the intent of Congress in the VBA of 2006 was to encourage the Department to award more contracts to Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (“SDVOSBs”) using competitive procedures by prioritizing SDVOSBs over other for-profit small businesses, but not to accomplish meeting the goals of the VBA by removing work from qualified Non-Profit AbilityOne agencies employing people who are blind or severely disabled performing mandatory AbilityOne Procurement List contracts; and
WHEREAS, Congress has affirmed its support of the AbilityOne Program and the JWOD Act; and
WHEREAS, BVA believes providing through the AbilityOne Program meaningful employment opportunities for people who are blind or have severe disabilities, many of whom are veterans, is crucial to increasing their personal and economic independence; and
WHEREAS, the Blinded Veterans Association further believes that the VA must cease attempting to take away any current AbilityOne Procurement List contracts from Non-profit organizations employing people who are blind or severely disabled as that is not consistent with the intent of Congress; and
WHEREAS, it is also crucial to the stability of AbilityOne agencies, particularly when making significant capital investments in adaptive technologies necessary for contract performance, that there is confidence in the VA’s acquisition process; and
WHEREAS, sufficient, timely, and predictable funding could be achieved by reforming the VA budget process, either by changing VA health care funding from discretionary to mandatory, or by approving an advance appropriation process; NOW
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED; that the Blinded Veterans Association in convention assembled in Tulsa, Oklahoma on this 16th day of August 2019, takes the position that unless and until a product or service has been removed from the Procurement List through the APA process, it is unacceptable for the VA to take any action required as part of competitive acquisition planning, which would include market surveys, the issuance of sources sought notice, requests for information, requests for quotes or proposals, or to take any steps associated with an intent to source work to an entity other than an AbilityOne agency, and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that BVA requests that the VA Procurement department take appropriate action to cease all such activity across the VA and all of its Veterans Integrated Services Networks and support AbilityOne current contracted programs; and
FINALLY, BE IT RESOLVED, that BVA strongly urges the VA to clarify its support for the coexistence of the AbilityOne Program and the Veterans First Contracting Program in their service of veterans and persons who are blind or have severe disabilities, and to issue policy guidance affirming that goods and services on the Procurement List shall be purchased from AbilityOne Program agencies.