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The Blinded Veterans Association (BVA)

Published: 2009-08-19 - Updated: 2010-07-08
Author: Disabled World

Synopsis: The Blinded Veterans Association was established in 1977 with the purpose of educating and assisting family members and friends of blinded veterans.

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The Blinded Veterans Association is an organization of veterans who are blind who are helping other veterans who are blind.

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Their programs, resources, regional groups, and the advocacy they pursue before both executive and legislative branches of government help to make life better for blind veterans. The association also provides support and encouragement. They do not charge for their services; membership is not required for veterans to receive aid through them. Veterans who are blind are eligible to receive assistance through the BVA whether they have become blind during or after their active duty military service.

The BVA has a number of programs in place to assist veterans, one of which is the Field Service Program. The BVA has seven full-time staff members who function as Field Service Representatives. These representatives are strategically placed in different geographical areas in America; their goal is to help blinded veterans to overcome challenges related to sight loss. All of the field representatives are legally blind veterans themselves - they are effective role models who are able to demonstrate that their fellow veterans can take charge of their lives. These field representatives bear the responsibility for linking veterans with services in their area and assuring that newly blinded veterans take advantage of Veterans Administration Rehabilitation Services. They also help veterans with VA claims if needed. Once blinded veterans return to the workforce, these field representatives can help out with both employment training and placement.

Another program the BVA offers is their Volunteer Service Program. BVA volunteers work out of Regional Offices, VA Medical Centers, as well as Outpatient Clinics and communities. Volunteers are many times blinded veterans, although they can also be family members, spouses, or friends of the BVA. The volunteers assist blinded veterans to get the assistance they need, when they need it. At times, volunteers will speak on a one-on-one basis with blinded veterans; at other times they will simply listen and share ideas in groups. Another task that BVA volunteers perform involves providing information related to programs and services. They also encourage blinded veterans to use the opportunities which will assist them to become more independent and self-sufficient. Volunteers oftentimes demonstrate the use of equipment and aids used by persons who are blind.

The program offered by the BVA known as, 'Operation Peer Support, is the newest of their programs. Operation Peer Support connects combat-blinded veterans of several wars, such as World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, with newly blinded veterans who have been wounded in either Iraq or Afghanistan. The majority of veterans who are newly blinded have been young soldiers and Marines who have experienced encounters with either sniper fire or improvised explosive devices. The Department of Defense states that thirteen-percent of all wounded evacuees from Iraq experienced a serious eye injury. The rate quoted is the highest for any American war in history for which records have been kept. BVA Director of Government Relations Tom Zampieri said, "Physical and emotional isolation can be a huge issue for those who have only recently lost their eyesight. Opportunities to connect with those who have faced these obstacles and overcome them, both at our conventions and in other settings, can be a source of comfort and inspiration."

The BVA is aware that there is a process of recovery from any traumatic event, and that these events are characterized by a period of grieving followed by rehabilitation and restoration. They understand that substantial changes have to be made as a result. Their goal is to provide support to blinded veterans and their family members who are struggling with the difficulties associated with the loss of vision. The BVA believes that veterans who were blinded in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam are among the few who really understand what newly blinded veterans are going through and are able to help.

The Kathern F. Gruber Scholarship Program available through the BVA assists veterans to obtain a higher education. The scholarships are awarded on the basis of merit. An application process is pursued and evaluated by a committee. Family members of veterans who apply and are awarded a scholarship receive that scholarship for one year only, but they may reapply and receive an award up to four times. Family members of veterans are not required to be a member of the BVA in order to receive the scholarship.

Kathern Gruber was a pioneer of the BVA, working as an adviser to the organization. She became acquainted with the BVA while serving in the mid-1940's as the American Foundation for the Blind's Director of Services for the War Blind. She attended all of the BVA conventions for a number of decades, sitting through every one of the Board of Directors meetings and giving both advice and counsel. Kathern served on a key advisory group in the year 1948 that made recommendations to the Veterans Administration in regards to both the care and rehabilitation of veterans blinded during war. Furthermore, Kathern assisted in the establishment of the first comprehensive Blind Rehabilitation at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Hines, Illinois. The scholarship was named after her at the 40th annual BVA convention in 1985.

The BVA also has a program known as the, 'BVA Bulletin,' which is their communications and public relations effort. The BVA Bulletin is national, and a periodical is sent in printed form to every blind veteran and their families that the BVA has contact information for. Members of the BVA receive audio cassette versions of the BVA Bulletin. The Bulletin reports on events and issues related to blind veterans, as well as general topics relating to veterans. The Bulletin works to keep blinded veterans informed about benefits, services, and legislation.

The BVA Bulletin gives as much detail as possible related to issues, blind rehabilitation, and blind and visually impaired communities. The publication is distributed to resource centers, libraries, medical service organizations, and agencies that serve the blind on national, state, and local levels as well. The BVA Bulletin is free of charge in printed format and have become increasingly popular online. It is compatible with Zoomtext and most screen readers.

Referred to as the, 'heart and soul,' of the BVA, their Regional Groups operate on a nationwide basis. These regional groups offer blinded veterans and their family members opportunity for both friendship and support. Services that these regional groups provide include social activities, recreation, and additional services. The first time blinded veterans contact the VBA it is usually through one of their regional groups; they are a reliable source of information concerning both benefits and services.

The BVA Auxiliary was established in 1977 with the purpose of educating and assisting family members and friends of blinded veterans. The BVA Auxiliary works to strengthen fellowship that exists among members. Family members, friends, and people over the age of eighteen who are interested in assisting blinded veterans are eligible for membership.

At this time in America there are greater than one-hundred and sixty-five thousand blind or visually impaired veterans. Every year, approximately seven-thousand veterans become blind or visually impaired due to age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, retinitis pigmentosa, or diabetic retinopathy. Thirteen-percent of evacuated wounded service members in Iraq and Afghanistan experienced a serious eye injury in some form. There is a need for counseling, peer support and educational services for these veterans and their family members, and the BVA is there to help - www.bva.org - Blinded Veterans Association (BVA)

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Cite This Page (APA): Disabled World. (2009, August 19). The Blinded Veterans Association (BVA). Disabled World. Retrieved September 26, 2021 from www.disabled-world.com/news/veterans/blinded-veterans-association.php