Disabled American Veterans
Blind Veterans National Chapter #1
March-April, 2010 Newsletter

WEB SITE: http://www.davbvnc.com/





Commander Dennis O’Connell
Phone 516 328-3438
Email: bvnc1@verizon.net

Senior Vice Commander Richard Bugbee
1st Junior Vice Commander Joe Wallace
Judge Advocate Dave May
Chaplain Tony Martino
Phone 847 736 2111
Adjutant/Treasurer Paul Kaminsky
Phone 904 291-0576
email: pkjax@kaminsky.com
Immediate Past Commander Eddie Humphrey


If you know of any member who is sick or deceased please inform one of the officers whose contact information is listed above.




I’ll make this message short. Between February 27 and March 2 Paul Kaminsky and I attended our first DAV Mid Winter meetings. It was very informative with meetings and workshops through the time we were there. Paul has promised to write an article about it for the next issue of our newsletter. We have gone through the process of ordering a DAV van through the Columbia Trust for the Tucson VAMC at a cost of $24,687.72 and will most likely be shipped this Spring. This van will primarily be used by the Blind Rehabilitation Center at that facility.

Marilyn and I wish all of you a Joyous Easter or a Sweet Passover, whatever your religious beliefs are.




Ralph G. Barrett, our 2nd Junior Vice,   Newburyport MA

David D. Bottiggi.  Euclid OH

William Craft,           Hutchinson,          KS 

 James Harris, San Antonio, TX




As a result of ACB's structured negotiations efforts, credit reports are currently available in accessible formats from all three credit reporting companies in the United States. Everyone is entitled to one free report from each company every 12 months, for a total of three free reports per 12-month period.

You can order your credit report in Braille, large print, or audio CD formats by calling toll-free 1-877-322-8228.  This is an automated system. You will need to speak or use your telephone keypad to provide your name, mailing address, Social Security number and date of birth. If you call from your home telephone number, they will already have some of this information and ask you to confirm their records.

After providing the identifying information, you will be asked "if you require your free annual credit report in a format accessible to the visually impaired, press or say 1." You will then hear the following: "To certify that you are a person who is blind or visually impaired within the meaning of the Americans with Disabilities Act, press or say 1."

Everyone who certifies that they are blind or visually impaired will next hear "Please chose the format you would like to receive your credit report in. For large print, press or say 1.  For braille, press or say 2.  For audio, press or say 3." Then, after choosing the company you want to get your first report from, you will be finished. You may order all three reports at the same time, or you may spread your requests over the 12 months.

You can also get your free credit report on-line by going to the official credit report web site at www.annualcreditreport.com. On-line reports available through this web site have been designed to meet the standards set forth in Priorities 1 and 2 of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

By ordering your free accessible credit report, you are telling the credit reporting companies that the blind community cares about accessibility and will use accessible services and information if provided. You help ACB monitor the agreement and make sure all systems are working properly.

Lainey Feingold and Linda Dardarian continue to monitor the accessible credit report settlement agreement for ACB and CCB. If you encounter any problems obtaining an accessible credit report, or want to let Lainey and Linda know about your experience, please contact them by e-mail at LF@LFLegal.com, or through the toll-free telephone number at Linda's office, 1-800-822-5000. You can read more about ACB's accessible credit report agreement on Lainey's web site at www.lflegal.com/2008/12/credit-announce/.




The following is a letter received from DAV National by our Chapter.

Dear Commander:

It is with a great sense of pride, that I congratulate you and the members of BLIND VETERANS NATIONAL CHAPTER #1 for successfully answering the call of duty by reaching your 2009-2010 membership goal.

The outstanding recruitment effort exhibited by your Chapter on behalf of our entire organization is commendable and we applaud your dedication and commitment towards disabled veterans and their families.

The use of battle streamers had its beginning in antiquity when various emblems were carried into combat. This ancient tradition of honoring military battles with streamers was adopted by our nations military and recognizes branches of the service and units for exceptional service and battle campaigns.

It is my pleasure to bestow the enclosed streamer in honor of your Chapter’s undertakings. We hope you will proudly display this streamer on your Chapter’s colors. You have helped secure the legacy of our organization and for decades to come this streamer will remind future generations of your accomplishments.


          Roberto Barrera

          National Commander



Wounded Warrior: Blind Soldier Becomes Company Commander

By Tommy Gilligan, Special to American Forces Press Service

West Point, N.Y., Feb. 2, 2010 -

Soldier, infantryman, Airborne Ranger, combat diver, mountain climber, skier, tri-athlete, surfer, husband and father are just a few

words to describe Army Capt. Scott M. Smiley.

The title of company commander was added to Smiley's distinctive

resume, as he became the first blind officer to lead a company as he assumed command of the Warrior Transition Unit at the U.S.

Military Academy here at West Point.

Smiley was wounded and permanently lost his vision during his 2005 deployment to Iraq. He attributes his strength and drive

during his recovery to his family, faith and friends.

"It was my wife, my family and friends who were in my hospital room singing songs and reading the Bible that gave me the

strength during my recovery," said Smiley, a member of the USMA Class of 2003.

"It was all of this which allowed me to put one foot in front of the other," he continued, "and has allowed me to accomplish

everything that I have done to get to where I am today."

Over the past six months, Smiley had been an instructor with the academy's Behavioral Sciences and Leadership

department, teaching a leadership course to third-year cadets.

Smiley's "endurable spirit and character are traits that the cadets can just relate to," said West Point instructor Lt.

Col. Eric Kail. "He has overcome so much, through his attitude and desire to excel in life. Scott is a great teacher."

After receiving medical attention following his tour in Iraq, Smiley was

transferred to the Ft. Lewis, WA, Warrior Transition Unit, where he began his recovery and journey to return to active status.

"There were some very long dark days, physically and mentally, but I just had to keep pushing on," Smiley said.

Smiley said he'd looked at what had happened to him in Iraq and made the decision that he was not going down the same path as

the character Gary Sinise played in the 1994 movie Forrest Gump. Sinese's character of Army Lt. Dan had been grievously wounded in

Vietnam and was initially portrayed as bitter and self-destructive.

"The decisions that Lt. Dan made after his injuries never came into my mind. I wanted to take care of myself -- physically,

mentally and spiritually," Smiley said. "I just did not want to give up because of something that negatively happened to me."

Smiley transitioned back to active duty, working at the U.S. Army Accessions Command at Ft. Monroe, VA. After being there

for some time, Smiley's commander told him he had been selected to go to graduate school.

"I thought he was kidding me. I was absolutely shocked," Smiley recalled. "Then, they are going to let me go teach -- that was


Smiley attended Duke University where he received his Masters of Business Administration. While there, he cultivated a

friendship during the summer of 2007 with legendary Duke University basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, a 1969 graduate of the

Military Academy.

This was just before the men's basketball world championships and Olympics, Smiley recalled, noting his brigade commander

had approached him and asked if he'd like to speak to the premier U.S. men's basketball squad.

"Why would the national basketball team want me to talk to them?" Smiley said he wondered to himself at the time.

"The first time I met him, he spoke to the Olympic team in Las Vegas. We were trying to teach the team about selfless service,"

Krzyzewski said. "They not only heard what Scott had to say, but they truly felt what he had to say.

"When I think of Scotty, I think of ultimate service, especially selfless

service," Krzyzewski added.

After completing his master's degree, Smiley returned to start a new chapter of his life at West Point, where his military career

began in the summer of 1999.

Smiley's former commander at Accessions Command and present U.S. Army Chief of Engineers and commanding general of the U.S.

Army Corps of Engineers, Lt. Gen. Robert Van Antwerp, shared his thoughts on the occasion.

"Scott brings a whole new dimension to soldiering and leadership," said Van Antwerp, a 1972 graduate of the Military Academy.

"When you are around him, you can't help but want to do your best -- without complaining -- because he gives his best every day."

About Smiley being the second Wounded Warrior to hold a command position, Van Antwerp said, "Scotty will be a great

commander. He will lead from the front like he has always done. I am proud of him and proud of our Army for giving him this

opportunity." Krzyzewski seconded Van Antwerp's pride and confidence in Smiley.

"He may not have the eyes to see, but he sees more things than most leaders could ever see," he said of Smiley's leadership


At West Point, Smiley now takes command of a company that he personally understands.

"I know what they are going through. I understand the dynamics of the company, how it works and areas of concern that need to be

improved," Smiley said.

With only half of his command based on West Point's grounds, Smiley will travel from the rocky shorelines of Maine to the rolling

hills of Pennsylvania to ensure his troops are being taken care of and doing what they need to do to recover.

"It is now my responsibility to inspire them and to continue to help them get the job done," Smiley said.




Did we think about our Military Personnel being deployed have no one to care their pets and are in need of help finding a temporary

home for them until their return? Check out the following website:




VA Tinnitus Care Update

A University of Alabama researcher is embarking on a $5.6 million phase-three, randomized, controlled clinical trial to evaluate the effectiveness of an innovative treatment that uses a noise-generating device, along with counseling, to alleviate the debilitating effects of tinnitus - that ringing in the ears that drives some people to distraction. The non-medical habituation-based treatment being studied is known as Tinnitus Retraining Therapy or TRT. The investigational study of TRT will involve tinnitus sufferers drawn from the U.S. Navy, Marines and Air Force, and will be conducted in Navy and Air Force flagship hospitals in California, Texas, Maryland and Virginia. Researchers expect to recruit 228 participants for the study. Dr. Craig Formby, UA distinguished graduate research professor in the department of communicative disorders, leads the NIH-sponsored study. Formby's team at UA leads the clinical part of the study, which is funded by a $3.2 million award from the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have received a $2.4 million award to manage and analyze the study data. The project will be spread over five years, including four years for recruiting study participants and conducting the treatment and follow-up measurements.

Tinnitus is the No. 1 service-connected disability among veterans returning from the Middle East conflicts. In 2008, compensation for tinnitus disability in the VA medical system alone exceeded $500 million and is projected to exceed $1.1 billion and affect more that 800,000 veterans by 2011. "Tinnitus is a noise inside the ear or head in the absence of any sound that could account for it," Formby says. "We don't know what happens. In some cases, it’s related to an acoustic insult or gunfire. However, there may be no obvious cause for the tinnitus for many sufferers. It’s some sort of over-stimulation of the auditory system that produces hyperactivity either at a peripheral or central level.” Most people who have tinnitus ignore it, Formby says, but for some it’s torture. As many as 50 million Americans experience tinnitus. Estimates are that for about 2 to 5 million people, the problem is incapacitating. “We know of reports of sufferers who have chronic debilitating tinnitus that is so troublesome that they would elect to cut the auditory nerve to get rid of the persistent ringing,” Formby says. The current standard of care involves counseling people with debilitating tinnitus. The counselors typically try to help the tinnitus sufferer to manage the problem by suggesting coping strategies and by providing information about tinnitus. “The standard of care historically has included reassurance that the patient’s condition is not life threatening nor an indicator of imminent hearing loss,” he says.

Formby will compare the current standard of care for management of tinnitus in the military with TRT and with a placebo condition that will control for the treatment effects of the noise-generator component of the TRT treatment. After specialized TRT counseling to start the habituation process, each of the affected military personnel will use a pair of ear-worn noise-generator devices produced by General Hearing Instruments that produce a “soft seashell-like noise,” which blends with the tinnitus. “In TRT theory, the soft noise throughout the day from the noise generators helps to facilitate the habituation process, which is initiated by the counseling,” Formby says. “Patients are encouraged to use their devices from the time they start their day until the end of the day or at least for eight hours a day. The patients are told to forget the devices are on. Don’t worry about the tinnitus, don’t keep a log, and don’t worry about how bad their tinnitus is from hour to hour or day to day; just go on with their lives.” They are also taught about their auditory system and how it is believed to work together with parts of the brain and central nervous system to give rise to their debilitating tinnitus conditions.”

In the clinical trial, Formby and his co-researchers will measure treatment-related changes in the impact of the tinnitus on each participant’s daily activities. They also will track measures of perception, awareness, and annoyance of the tinnitus for each participant in the study. The questionnaire responses for participants who are assigned to the TRT treatment group will be compared with the responses of tinnitus patients given the current standard-of- care treatment for tinnitus in the military and with a third treatment group who are assigned to the placebo noise-generator control. “If successful, then most patients receiving the full TRT treatment will likely report the tinnitus is no longer troublesome for them at the conclusion of the study,” Formby says. “If you make a measurement of the tinnitus in terms of its pitch and loudness characteristics at the start of the study and at the end of the study, then the perceived tinnitus properties will likely be similar. But the patient’s perception of the annoyance and awareness of the tinnitus will be reduced, and the tinnitus will not be bothersome to them in the way it was at the start of the study. The other treatment groups are not expected to benefit appreciably from their interventions.”

Formby has been working with the U.S. military since 1999, to develop the study protocol for this pioneering investigation, which is the first definitive phase-three clinical trial of TRT sponsored by NIH. The clinical trial will take place at the Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton in Irvine, CA; the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, MD; the Portsmouth Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, VA; the San Diego Naval Hospital; the David Grant Medical Center at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, CA; and the Wilford Hall Medical Center at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. The department of communicative disorders is part of UA’ s College of Arts and Sciences, the University’s largest division and the largest liberal arts college in the state. Students from the College have won numerous national awards including Rhodes Scholarships, Goldwater Scholarships and memberships on the USA Today Academic All American Team.




VA Benefits Assistance:    If you need help learning about VA programs or with a VA application process, recommend you work with an approved Veterans Service Organization (VSO). It's their job to help you at no cost. To find a VSO go to VA's Directory of Veterans Service Organizations at http://www1.va.gov/vso/index.cfm.  You can also check with your state VA department and your state's network of county veteran service officers.  Most are listed at  www.va.gov/statedva.htm.  If someone approaches you to help with a VA application, claim, or appeal, check to see if they are a VSO.  Chances are they won't be because VSOs don't solicit for your business, you have to find them.   There are a few organizations which use the front of helping with VA benefits as a way to meet prospective customers. These groups solicit for your business. They offer to get you money from the VA for long term care cost, assisted living, or survivor benefits. Tread lightly around these offers. On the surface, they appear legitimate but if not, it could wind up costing you time and money in the long run. Some things to look for are:

          Organizations having at their base, a financial services firm.

          Organization that are not an official Veteran Service Organization (VSO). VSOs are chartered by the VA to act as an official VA representative for members on VA matters.

          Organizations wanting to help in an area that is not their core business.

          Inability to get a satisfactory answer about how they make their money.

         The motive behind a financial service firm's interest in helping you with issues that get them nothing in return. The process, bureaucracy and time involved in helping vets with VA programs is substantial.   Also, helping with some VA programs provides access to a veteran's complete financial information.

(My suggestion is to contact your DAV VSO-the Editor)



February 3, 2010

Chairman of the Senate VA Committee released this press announcement today regarding legislation that was just signed into law.


Chairman Akaka introduced Senate bill to cover gaps in emergency care for veterans with limited insurance

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI) today praised President Barack Obama’s signing of the Veterans’ Emergency Care Fairness Act of 2009

“For veterans with limited insurance, a trip to the emergency room should not result in financial ruin,” said Chairman Akaka, who introduced the bill in the Senate last year. “With this new law, VA will be positioned to help veterans who are enrolled in VA care whose insurance does not cover the full cost of emergency treatment.”  

The Veterans’ Emergency Care Fairness Act, signed into law by President Obama last night, will enable the Department of Veterans Affairs to reimburse veterans enrolled in VA health care for the remaining cost of emergency treatment if the veteran has outside insurance that only covers part of the cost. Previously, VA could reimburse veterans or pay outside hospitals directly only if a veteran has no outside health insurance.    

In addition to reimbursing veterans for emergency care in the future, the bill allows the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to provide retroactive reimbursements for care received prior to the passage of this bill.  Akaka has received correspondence from veterans who were unable to receive financial assistance under the previous rules, and plans to share their information with Secretary Shinseki. 

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that this legislation will cover approximately 700 future claims per year and as many as 2,000 veterans retroactively. 

This will help veterans who need emergency care and previously would have been hit with the bills associated with that emergency care.