Disabled American Veterans
Blind Veterans National Chapter
OFFICERS OF THE BLIND CHAPTER
Commander Eddie Humphrey
Senior Vice Commander Floyd Britting
1st Junior Vice Commander Dan Holden
2nd Junior Vice Commander Dennis O’Connell
3rd Junior Vice Commander Paul Kaminsky
4th Junior Vice Commander Dave May
Judge Advocate Gerard Boucher
Chaplain Tony Martino
THANKS TO DAVE MAY FOR THE FOLLOWING MEMBERSHIP INFORMATION
BVNC has 1 member in the 30-39 age group.
5 members in the 40-49 age group.
25 members in the 50-59 age group.
29 members in the 60-69 age group.
23 members in the 70-79 age group.
34 members in the 80-89 age group.
5 members in the 90-99 age group.
1 member who is 100 years old.
I've found 10 DAV BVNC members who are deceased which are listed below as of July 1, 2008 to June 11, 2009. Some might have been mentioned earlier in a newsletter.
Percy L. Barfield Lindsborg KS
Westle Jackson Oroville CA
Ernest Melinger Shawnee OK
Paul J. Meray Warren MI
Sterling P. Molloy Branson MO
Theodore Romig Binghamton NY
Wilson D. Rouke North Eastham MA
Lonnie F. Thompson Columbia SC
George W. Tye Lady Lake FL
Clyde C. Wyant Destin FL
THE FOLLOWING BVNC1 MEMBERS WERE ELECTED AS DELEGATES OR ALTERNATES FOR THE 2009 DAV NATIONAL CONVENTION BEING HELD IN DENVER, CO
Richard Holden, Paul Kaminsky, Floyd Britting and Tony Martino
Gerry Boucher, Dennis O’Connell and Joe Wallace
MORE SUPPORT FOR CAREGIVERS OF VETERANS NEEDED
Washington, D.C. – On Thursday, June 4, the House Veterans’ Affairs Health Subcommittee, led by Chairman Michael Michaud (D-ME), held a hearing to assess how the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) meets the needs of family caregivers of veterans and to identify any gaps in supportive services for family
Chairman Michaud provided the following statement to begin the hearing: “Clearly, the family caregivers of our veterans have made great sacrifices. I have
heard from family members who gave up their jobs, delayed their schooling, or made other significant life-changing sacrifices in order to be by their loved
one’s side. This raises questions about the VA’s current efforts to help these family caregivers and whether there are sufficient supportive services
in place. Additionally, there are concerns about the lack of coordination of caregiver benefits when the service member transitions to veteran status.
In other words, supportive services that family caregivers may have depended on during military service are suddenly discontinued when the wounded warrior
transitions to the VA system.”
VA does not collect data on caregivers of veterans. As such, the number of family members who provide care for veterans is unknown. However, a July 2007
report released by the Dole-Shalala Commission found that of the 1,730 injured OEF/OIF veterans surveyed, about 21 percent of active duty, 15 percent of
the reserve, and 24 percent of retired/ separated service members had friends or family who gave up a job to be the caregiver.
Witnesses identified unmet needs for families of the severely injured and offered recommendations to address these shortfalls. Currently VA does not replace
family caregiver loss of income or medical insurance coverage, does not assist in preparing home and family for veteran’s arrival, or offer suitable long-term
care options for younger veterans. Caregivers recommended providing in-person support or a reference book to provide guidance at time of injury. Also
cited was a need for emotional and mental health support for the caregiver, education regarding treatment options, and a standardized, certified training
program so they have the skills to perform their job well.
Legislation to address the needs of caregivers has been introduced in the House of Representatives. Congressman John Salazar (D-CO) introduced H.R. 667,
a bill to direct the VA to establish a training and certification program for family caregivers of veterans and service members suffering from traumatic
brain injury. Chairman Michaud introduced H.R. 2342, “Wounded Warrior Project Family Caregiver Act of 2009.” This bill would establish a family caregiver
program for veterans seriously injured while on active duty, or on training for Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom. Specifically, the
family caregiver program provides instruction, counseling, and training to the caregiver or another individual designated by the veteran, as well as reimburse
the caregiver for travel, lodging and per diem expenses for accompanying the veteran for medical appointments.
“As with many programs in the VA, caregiver support is not consistently available to all veterans across the United States,” commented Bob Filner, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “The Committee is currently looking at ways to expand these programs and to provide more services to family members of veterans, particularly to caregivers of the seriously wounded.”
HOUSE AFFIRMS COMMITMENT TO NATIONS VETERANS, MEN AND WOMEN IN UNIFORM
Washington, D.C. – On June 8, 2009, House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Filner (D-CA) announced that H.R. 466 passed the House of Representatives.
H.R. 466 – The Wounded Veteran Job Security Act (Doggett)
H.R. 466 seeks to expand the protections of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act to include veterans with service-connected disabilities who seek an excused leave of absence from work to obtain medical attention.
Chairman Filner provided the following statement in support of H.R. 466: “Recognizing the special needs of injured veterans and openness to work with these men and women is a crucial step that allows our veterans the ability to heal and remain gainfully employed. Today we have thousands of business owners
who have taken the initiative of providing our injured men and women with workforce protections of seniority, status, retention, and pay as well as other
rights and benefits determined by employment. Unfortunately, there is still room for improvement and this bill seeks to bridge that gap. I thank my House
colleagues for reaffirming our nation’s commitment to care for our service members, veterans and their dependents by supporting H.R. 466.”
More information about these bills can be found by member by not only going to the house VA Committee web site, but also go to www.thomas.gov and
enter the bills listed and you can also search on the individual members who sponsor legislation.
Blind Community Leaders Applaud Staples' Initiative to Enhance Staples.com and Store Point of Sale Equipment
April 23, 2009 -- Major advocacy groups for the visually impaired applaud Staples' new initiatives designed to improve service to its customers with visual
impairments. Staples will be improving its payment service terminals at the in-store point-of-sale with tactile keypads to protect the privacy and security
of shoppers with visual impairments. The company will also make improvements to Staples.com that will benefit customers with visual impairments and other
Web Site Access
Today's initiative includes Staples' commitment to design www.staples.com in accordance with guidelines issued by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI)
of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) (www.w3.org/wai). The guidelines, which do not affect the content or look and feel of a Web site, ensure that Web
sites are accessible to persons with a wide range of disabilities. The guidelines are of particular benefit to blind computer users who use screen reader
or magnification technology on their computers and who rely on a keyboard instead of a mouse.
Staples will be adding tactile keypads to payment services devices throughout the chain. The new units will allow Staples shoppers who have difficulty
reading information on a touch screen to privately and independently enter their PIN and other confidential information. Staples stores in Massachusetts
will have the new devices by September of this year.
All stores in the country are scheduled to have the devices by the middle of next year.
The new devices are designed to protect the financial privacy of shoppers who are blind or visually impaired. The devices have tactile keys arranged like
a standard telephone keypad and work in conjunction with Staples'
existing point-of-sale terminals.
SOCIAL SECURITY INFORMATION
Existing Law: Title II of the Social Security Act provides that disability benefits paid to blind beneficiaries are eliminated if the beneficiary exceeds a monthly earnings limit. This earnings limit is in effect a
penalty imposed on blind Americans when they work. This penalty imposed by the SSDI program means that, if a blind person earns just $1 over
$1,640 (the monthly limit in 2009 following a trial Work Period), all benefits are lost.
Section 216(i)(1)(B) of the Social Security Act defines blindness as a disability
based on objective measurement of acuity and visual field, as opposed to the subjective criterion of inability to perform Substantial
gainful Activity (SGA). For blind people, doing
work valued at the SGA earnings limit terminates
Benefits but does not terminate disability. Only blind people not working or those with work earnings below an annually adjusted statutory
earnings limit receive benefits.
Need for Legislation: When a blind person enters
the workforce, there is no guarantee that wages earned will replace SSDI benefits after taxes are paid and work expenses are deducted. For
example, Jane worked as a customer service representative with an annual income of $35,000 until she became blind from Diabetic
Retinopathy. Jane meets the criteria for SSDI benefits, which provide income of $1,060 a month (or $12,720 a year) tax-free while she is not
working. Jane wants additional income to meet her financial needs. After an adjustment period and blindness skills training, she finds
employment as a part-time representative making $10 an hour for 35 hours a week. Jane grosses $350 a week for an average of $1,517 a
month. Using a conservative 25 percent
withholding tax, Jane nets $1,137.50 from her work, combined with her $1,060 disability
benefit, for a net total of $2,197.50 a month. If Jane should have the opportunity to
work full time (40 hours), her weekly salary would go up to $400 a week for a monthly average of $1,733. This amount is over the 2009 earnings
limit, so Jane loses all of her disability benefits. Using the same 25 percent tax level,
Jane nets only $1,300 a month¬working an extra five hours a week has cost Jane $897.50 net income (over $10,500 a year). This example
illustrates the work disincentive contained in current law.
A gradual reduction of $1 in benefits for every $3 earned over the earnings limit would remove the earnings penalty and provide a financial incentive to work. The benefit amount taid to an individual will gradually decrease,
while the individual's contribution to the Social Security trust fund increases over time. Under this approach, as Jane earns more, she pays more
into the trust fund, and her dependence on benefits decreases.
Monthly earnings evaluations are unnecessarily complicated for both the
beneficiaries and the Social Security administration. Since the medical prognosis for blind people rarely changes, and because blindness is objectively measurable, blind people should be subject to an annual earnings test with the limit equal to the twelve times applicable monthly SGA amount.
Under current law blind workers frequently pay for items and services related to
their disabilities that are necessary for them to work, and they are permitted to subtract these impairment Related Work Expenses (IRWE) from
monthly earnings when determining monthly income. Properly crediting IRWE poses a serious challenge to the SSDI program and creates a lack
of predictability for the blind person trying to determine whether benefits will be available. To address both issues, Congress should permit SSDI
recipients to claim the same amount used when determining an income subsidy under the Medicare prescription drug program, currently 16.3 percent.
Congress should enact legislation to:
• Provide that earnings of blind SSDI beneficiaries in excess of the annual earnings limit result in a gradual benefit reduction of $1
for each $3 earned over the limit;
• Establish an annual earnings test for blind SSDI beneficiaries; and
• Establish one standard IRWE deduction for blind SSDI beneficiaries equal to the amount presently applicable for this deduction when
determining an appropriate income subsidy under the Medicare prescription drug program or 16.3% of earnings, whichever is greater.
Requested Action: Please support blind Americans by cosponsoring legislation that provides a common sense work incentive for blind Social Security beneficiaries.
Government Programs Specialist
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
Phone: (410) 659-9314, extension 2240