I needed help and fast. These folks delivered extraordinary service and support on both counts. I was looking for assistance with filing a VA claim. The response came quickly. The person with whom I worked on my claim was the consummate professional and very knowledgeable. When I was anxious about the details of the claim her calm demeanor helped to reassure me I was in good hands. Indeed, I was.
I was a heavy equipment mechanic and truck driver when I started having real bad eye problems that was preventing me from working and as a result lost my job and career without a formal education I didn't have insurance that covered extensive ophthalmology and retina specialist visits and testing . As a result I lost everything including my home . The BVA joined with the Lions club and I was able to get a diagnosis of an inherited retinal disease known as Retinitis Pigmentosa and the BVA's part of solving the problem was to get me enrolled and attending a blind rehab clinic and while I was attending one of the field service officers, after finding out I was homeless cut me a check for $300.00 to assist me in finding a place to stay when I was scheduled to complete the training . Due to the Generosity of the BVA I was able to focus on new career training skills like going back to school and getting employment . I would hate to think where I may have ended being un-employed and rapidly losing my eyesight and with the disease that has no known cure
My experience with BVA was life changing. Start to finish my VA Compensation Claim case was completed in less than four months. Big KUDOS to Ms. Claudia Perry and Ms. Cecilia Montenegro from BVA. They were kind, very helpful, sharp, professional, understanding, and well in-depth knowledge of VA and RP.
As the Founder and President of the Global Campaign Against Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) I can state without hesitation that BVA is perhaps the finest organization we've worked with in support of veterans and their families.
BVA's unfaltering support to our veterans, active duty and their families has been manifest in their unqualified support not only whenever we needed it, but when others called for assistance. This extends beyond the military to their help in facilitating critical information sharing of blast trauma related data and research with the private sector and first responders especially in the make of the Boston Marathon attack.
At every opportunity and without hesitation on continually point to BVA as THE benchmark for what a a Veterans Service Organization should be and how it should operate. They literally set the standard.
As a recently retired representative of the American Optometric Association (AOA), the professional society representing doctors of optometry in both the private sector and those practicing in the federal sector (military, VA PHS), I would like to voice my opinion of the Blinded Veterans Association. I have had a long-standing working relationship with BVA officials that goes back for decades and over that time I witnessed an admirable arc of maturation and growth in BVA's representation product. My experience with BVA was not centered on direct member service but rather on BVA's advocacy efforts and I can report enthusiastically on the solid reputation that BVA enjoys with Members of Congress. It is my opinion that, year in and year out, BVA has been an exemplar for Veterans Service Organizations in their advocacy efforts before Congress and the administrative agencies. BVA has led the way in securing greatly improved services for blin rehabilitation, low vision, and, more recently, in polytrauma, traumatic brain injury and its effects on vision.
Writing from the perspective of a former representative for an individual membership association, I am most sensitive to individual members' assessment of their membership association. From an association staff perspective, its our sensitivity to members' charge of:"what have you done for us recently"; and, from the association member perspective it's "we pay our dues (etc) yet we wonder about the value..." This refrain from both the staff and member perspective has always been thus; it's the vdery nature of association representation no matter the endeavor. But rest assured, there is QUANTIFIABLE evidence BVA takes a backseat to no VSO when it comes to their committment to steadfast - and sometimes even aggressive - representation for BVA's agenda. Just ask to see the record of "points on the board" BVA has compiled for its members.
David S Danielson
American Optometric Association 1975-2013
My name is Paul Davidson and I am the Federal Program Manager for Deque Systems Inc. Deque Systems is a Prime Contractor to the Veterans Administration where we test and partially remediate html content that is in the public domain as well as behind the VA firewall. Our goal is to significantly improve web accessibility for blind and disabled veterans who are dependent upon screen reader technology to interact with the agency content such as Insurance, Benefits and Career sites. Deque has had the good fortune to work with the Blinded Veterans Association as we identify use cases for these web sites. We have worked closely with BVA field staff to understand some of the challenges that blinded veterans face. BVA has outstanding staff and management that are committed to the cause and greatly benefit the disabled community and specifically our nation’s veterans.
My name is Daniel L. Wallace I am a 20 year veteran of the U.S. Army, in 2003 I was wounded by a car bomb in Iraq. After retiring I felled distant and unwilling to participate in any service organization. In May of 2013 I finally decided to attend the Hines school for the blind, it was there that I was introduced to the Blind Veterans Association. At first I thought that since I was partially blind that it was my duty to join. About a month later I was contacted by Christina Hitchcock and asked if I would like to attend the annual convention in Spokane WA as a member of Operation Peer Support. My answer was yes and it turned out to be one of the best decisions I have made in a long time. Meeting my fellow veterans rein stilled a sense of pride, camaraderie, and belonging that I have not felled in a long time. Words cannot express how grateful I am. Now it is my turn to try to help other veterans, and let them feel that they belong as well.
Daniel L. Wallace
The organization, which is one of a kind in its support of blinded veterans, has many positive aspects. Firstly, the FSP Program and the Legislative Affairs Department and their advocacy for the rights of blinded veterans are outstanding. Where the organization lacks is in the areas of funding and leadership. It is unfortunate that many of the members do not "step up to the plate" and get involved, and this includes many within the ranks of the elected Board members. It is a “Good Ole Boy network and is highly nepotistic, to put it mildly. The Board members, by the By-Laws of the organization, have to come from the ranks of the membership. Although this may be a great idea since the Officers of the organization have a firm commitment to the goals and mission of the organization, this severely limits those who can serve in leadership positions. This has resulted in a limitation of those with sound business or non-profit experience serving in key decision making positions within the organization. Additionally, the key funding source for the organization remains Direct Mail solicitations. This is a financial resource drain and the Return on Investment (ROI) for this type of funding source is less than optimal. On another note, the membership will soon be facing a major crisis, since the majority of members are from the WWII era, and the lack of recruitment of “younger” members to keep the organization a relevant voice for blinded veterans will be in jeopardy when the membership “dies out”. Lastly, when you look at the IRS I-990 reporting form, the majority of funds do not go to direct veteran services. It can be argued that the reporting is skewed and that some of the funds are not counted correctly in the direct service area, but it is still the fact that this needs to change in order to be considered or ranked higher as an organization that people want to donate to in order to provide services to blinded veterans. It is quite difficult to give to an organization with a 0 or 1 star rating when it comes to non-profits. Although the BVA is a BBB accredited organization their non-profit ranking by all of those organizations who rate non-profits, such as Great Non-profits and Charity Navigator, have the BVA ranked in the 0 or 1 star rating category. So when you look for an organization to donate to, Caveat Emptor should be the final word on where your money should go.
By far the best nonprofit organization for blind veterans. Big kudos to Ms. Claudia Perry and her staff.
To Whom It May Concern:
I would like to acknowledge how helpful and supportive the Blinded Veterans Association has been to me as a blinded veteran. They have helped me directly to get training and helped me deal with the emotional issues surrounding blindness and put me in contact with other veterans in similar situations. They have been instrumental in the training that the VA provides at their various blind centers throughout the country. The support they have provided in understanding my benefits has improved my ability to deal with my blindness. Their local chapters provide an avenue of meeting other veterans in the community in which I live with similar conditions. I would strongly recommend that if you are a blinded veteran that you contact the BVA regarding benefits that you may be qualified to receive.
James P. Huber
What can I say about the BVA? First I would like to say thank you to Claudia Perry and her staff @ the DC VA. They are a tremendous help to me in answering any questions I may have about my benefits and rights as a veteran. I use to be a member if another organization and every time I called for help with my claim itvwas always something and it would take forever to get a call back. It got to the point where I was all ready to give up about filling my claim. The day I meet Claudia and her staff was a blessing. For the first time I truly felt like I had someone in my corner helping me through the VA process. Again THANK YOU BVA!!!! My life is alittle bit more manageable because of your staff @ the DC VA.
Evidently the last reviewer was unaware of the way this organization is run. It is completely top heavy. Unless things change this organization is heading for a downfall !
Review from CharityNavigator
I believe that the Blinded Veterans Association has to look at there hiring policy. When the position for Executive Director became vacant, the job was announced on line and in the BVA bulletin. The closing date for applications was Feb. 29, 2012. n order for an application to be considered, the applicant had to meet the first qualification of being a member. The new Exec. Director was hired almost 2 months later, AND, he was not a member when the applications closed. If he was not a member by Feb. 29, 2012, his application should should have been turned down. They hired someone who knows nothing about the organization, and met very few of the qualifications!
Review from CharityNavigator
I have had extensive experience with the BVA not only in projects but observing first hand their work to support Veterans. I believe your rating is completely inaccurate and does not address the fine work the BVA is doing. This is a small organization of dedicated professionals who works hard for veterans. I have seen first hand how they were able to get funding for veteran's research and other benefits as well as raise awareness of the vision problems encountered by active duty and veterans that was being neglected. They are the driving force for DoD establishing a Vision Center of Excellence at Water Reed. I suggest before you do such severe damage to the reputation of fine organizations such as this by looking at statistics you compile that are not connected to actual performance you exercise due diligence.
I have no direct connection with this organization and have never worked for them, but I do know first hand the fine work they do.
Review from CharityNavigator
I am a longtime donor to veteran's charities for many years and am a Vietnam Vet. I am deeply troubled by the Charity Navigator's profile on BVA. I will not be donating any longer to BVA unless and until this charity conducts it's business in a more positive manner than is laid out in it's scores. BVA's comparisons to 5-10 of the leading charities in this consumer watch organization, are dismal to say the least.
After reading comments posted, I feel compelled to comment that the individual posting the negative comment about the Executive Director position knows little or nothing about the BVA HR procedures and or policies. It is important to know that the BVA National Board of Directors made a genuine effort to attract as many qualified applicants for the position of Executive Director as possible. Contrary to the posted negative comments BVA announced the position in a vast array of methods and mediums to insure reading the greatest number of potential applicants; the position was announced; mailed to all members, posted on the BVA website, email to all members (for whom we have valid email addresses), distributed via list serves ( BVA and both VA Visual Impairment Services Team and Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Services list serves) and in the BVA News Letter a.k.a. the “BVA Bulletin.” Over Ten applicants submitted requested applications and were carefully reviewed by a Search Committee and three individuals were determined to meet basic qualification and scheduled for interviews. The notion that an applicant needed to be a "Member" is incorrect. The Executive Director does need to be a blinded veteran and Member but there is no requirement in the By-laws he/she is required to be a Member at the time of submitting the application. The individual who ultimately was selected had been an Annual Member in the past but let the membership lapse. Subsequent to submitting the Application and prior to his interview, he did indeed join a as a Life Members. BVA has functioned for nearly sixty-eight (68) years adhering to the highest integrity pertaining to hiring practices. The organization has earned respect and credibility with the Congress of the United States and the Executive Branch of Government. The National Board of Directors and Staff would never do anything to jeopardize that reputation. Clearly, the individual who posted the negative comments did not have all the facts and lacked a true understanding of the organization and the integrity of its National Board of Directors and Headquarters staff.
BVA has had, and continues to make a major impact on my life. As millions of blinded Americans stay at home and out of the way of the sighted community, the BVA encourages and promotes independence and awareness of those blinded in military service. The organization has deep roots to the post-WWII renaissance and the GI Bill to send returning veterans to college. The national advocacy is amazing and can be felt at the lowest levels in my own community out west in Tucson. A good example: flip a $20 bill over and look at the large, high contrast "20" there. BVA is the only organization I know of who was smart enough to understand that the current leadership running it will have a difficult time handing it over the the youngest generation when they can no longer get out of their houses, due to age and poor health. In that same breath, the current generation doesn't want to merely evolve. So, the BVA created a separate track for the young blinded veterans to assimilate and associate, learn the traditions of the organization, and do things that are relevant to this generation's needs, while respecting the older generation's work. BVA is definitely an extended family that has been there whenever I've needed them, and I've been able to contribute to those who are very new to their injuries.
I am a gulf war and OIF/OEF vet. The Blinded Veterans Associations, BVA . as done more for me that all the others combined.. WWP, VA ect.. I cant say enough about them GREAT. they have been a main source of info , support , training, ect. the OPS group the BVA set up is a huge help, interaction with fellow blind vets is best. what can i say... Thank you BVA. your the best.
Losing ones' vision ranks as one of the hardest disabilities to overcome. Reasons for this includes isolation due to ones ability to independently travel, difficulties finding peers coping with similar issues, and a multitude of other issues.
Now imagine your are a twenty something year old Soldier with a wife and family back at home. Your day to day activities while deployed involves conducting patrols and other combat operations in Iraq. Additionally, you possess a general idea and some personal and professional goals for you and your family for when you return. Now imagine that you just sustained an injury that renders you visually impaired. Who can you turn to for peer support... Where can you turn to for help...
Well This is a story that I and others in the Blinded Veterans Association were ffaced with and lived through. In my particular story, I continued to serve in the Army for seven years following my injury. While this alone may be an awesome accomplishment, those seven years were very difficult, as I would not be introduced to the Blinded Veterans Association until my final year in. For those six other years, my wife and I felt very isolated, as we did not have anyone to turn to that would understand many of the issues visual impairments present. I struggled with depression and anger, as I tried my hardest to live life as I intended to prior to my injury. Many kind hearted people expressed their sympathies, but what we really needed was a peer support group living with similar issues.
My adventures with the Blinded Veterans Association started in 2011, when my wife and I attended their national convention. For the first time, my wife and I were surrounded by other visually impaired Service Members, Veterans, and their families. We learned for the first time that we were not alone in our daily struggles, and even how to overcome many of them.
Since attending the convention, I participate with a faction of the BVA known as Operation Peer Support. This group comprises of Service Members and Veterans who sustained a visual impairment as the result of actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. I also assist other visually impaired Veterans in my community through the local regional group. Additionally, I recently received the opportunity to travel with the BVA to meet with visually impaired Veterans from the UK, through Project Gemini.
My family and I cannot express our gratitude towards the BVA enough for showing us that hope is out there. The BVA made my transition process from the Army to the civilian world very easy, along with assisting with creating my new set of personal and professional goals.For the first time in a long time, my family and I are comfortable with who we are and what we desire to become.
The Blinded Veterans Administration have done so much for so many and I'm so thankful and honored to be part of this great organized family and support group.I have been places and done things with the BVA / Operation Peer Support group that has diffidently changed my life.This great Organization and family has helped me and so many other blinded vets to see there are no limits in the things I can do.So I give my up most love and support to my fellow blind veterans and the support team, of the US and the UK (Project Gemini).
The Blinded Veterans Association has been my "go-to" organization for education, resources, and opportunities. They have helped me with both my military and VA claims. The BVA has provided me several opportunities to be an advocate for veterans' issues and a mentor for other veterans. Before I joined the BVA I was unsure about how my vision loss would impact the rest of my life. I was depressed about the loss of my job. BVA has shown me a multitude of opportunities and has restored my faith in myself. I am proud to be associated with the BVA and recommend it to other veterans I meet who have vision loss.
I am a female veteran who served honorably from 1974-77. In 1990 I was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa. Over the years, my vision has worsened and I have been declared legally blind. Even though we have a wonderful VA Hospital where I live, I didn’t understand that I could utilize their services. I didn’t know that I could submit claim(s) for service connection. Through a friend who works there, I found out that I could use the VA’s low vision clinic. I called and met with the staff. While talking to their social worker, I found out about the BVA. Since then, I have contacted the BVA office a number of times and have come away Very pleased. My calls & emails have always been returned promptly and respectfully. It is obvious that the staff cares and is willing to help in any way. I have no doubt that I will stay in touch with this organization who do so much for those of us who didn’t know we had a voice.
I'm a blinded/visually impaired Navy Corpsman who was injured in 2005 At Haditha Iraq. BVA was given my name and contacted me. Since then I've testified for BVA at 2 seperate Senate Hearings. This group has been a life saver to me.
I am a soldier who return from Iraq, blinded and afraid of the hopeless life that I thought only existed for a blind person.
Two years after my injury I got a phone call that changed my life. The BVA had found me and wanted to invite me to a program that gathered new blinded vets together with older blinded vets.
At no cost I flew from the seclusion of the Appalachian mountains to a convention in New Mexico where I met others like me, learned about financial and educational benefits, and about access technology!
I have since moved to California where I am studying Computer Science so that I can help contribute to the access technology that I discovered there!
Thehorrible review below disturbed me so I have performed some research.
The numbers that the annonomous reviewer posted below are no where to be found in the 990 !
This organization is an organization of Blinded Veterans helping other Blinded Veterans for over 65 years. It is not likely that such numbers could exist when a group of voting board members, all blinded vets, cycles annually and votes on such matters.
In addition to other programs, the BVA payes, at the moment, 8 Blinded Veterans to provide services for Blinded Veterans in their region. The pay of one of these employees alone dramatically contradicts "abcdef's" suggestion that only $15,000 goes to service programs.
This organization has provided me inspiration, guidance, friends, and so much more!
Check out this group's IRS form 990: With over four million dollars in contributions, they spent less that $15,000 on program services. If you want to help our blinded veterans, find a reputable charity. This organization is a scam
Kay Starr 02/28/2011
I'm sorry you feel that way, but I'm afraid your information is not accurate. If you check out our IRS 990, available on our website, BVA.org, or http://www2.guidestar.org/ReportOrganization.aspx?ein=53-0214281 you will find that we spent $2,836,869.00 on program expenses for FY 2010. Our smallest program, Kathern F Gruber Scholarships for the spouses and depended children of blinded veterans, did spend around $15,000 last year in education grants to individuals. We also spent $1,125,817 on our Field Service Program, and $1,306,477 on Public Education and Communications, our two largest programs. BVA is chartered by Congress to advocate for America's blinded veterans; we have been dedicated to our mission for over 65 years, and we take any accusation of malfeasance very seriously. I would greatly appreciate it if you could tell me where you found this inaccurate information, so that I can correct it at the source. Thank you very much! Sincerely, Kay Starr BVA Development Department
I first became aware of Blinded Veterans Association and its goals through a friend who works there. She explained to me the gap in official veterans' benefits that BVA works hard to fill, as well as the sudden increase in blinded veterans.
Through my friend, I have found an organization that I feel comfortable donating to and volunteering for. Unlike so many non-profit organizations based in DC, BVA works on an extremely limited internal budget, because they use most of their donations for actually helping our veterans.
I've met several of the employees of BVA, and each one has a compassionate heart dedicated to the mission of the BVA, and so I encourage my friends and family to donate and volunteer with this group.
I requested information due to the fact that I am a legally blind veteran discharged under Honorable conditions who is just about homeless. I requested information about obtaining assistance but received no answer, now winter is coming and there's an excellent possibility that I may have to survive in the elements. Two thumbs down. I feel as if I have no one watching my back like I did with others when I was active military. Thanks for nothing guys....William
Kay Starr 02/28/2011
I'm very sorry you had a negative experience. BVA is committed to helping blinded veterans in need, and we apologize that you did not receive the level of service you expected from us. If you go to our website, http://bva.org/fsp.html, you will find the contact information for our Field Service Officer in your region, who can assist you. Here are some additional resources available to veterans in need that you may find helpful: http://www1.va.gov/homeless/ http://www.nchv.org/wheretogo.cfm http://portal.hud.gov/portal/page/portal/HUD/topics/veteran_information Sincerely, Kay Starr BVA Development Department
I have volunteered at a Veterans' Hospital and I know about the wonderful work being done by th Blinded Veterans' Association. Members visit veterans, participate in their recovery from trauma and illnesses; and, they help other veterans adjust to a variety of disabilities. They provid emotional support fo their fellow veterans and their families. Blinded Veterans have frquently exhibited courage in combat; but, they also exhibit courage in their adjustmnts to the loss of their sight. They model good adjustment to critical life events. The National Organization is instrumental in educating Legislative and Executive Branches of government abut issues relating to the rehabilitation of visually impaired veterans. In the process, the organization helps to educate the entire country; maybe even the world. This is a great oganization!
I have been a member of BVA for approximately 15 years, seerving as both an assistant director and a regional director. During this time the BVA did a great deal for me, espctilly assisting me to become a student at a Blind Rehabilitation Center for training. This training really greatly helped me overcome the immediate problem of "lost confidence." The computer courses were invaluable as was the use of the white cane. Also the items I was given to assist me were greatly appreciated. But, I think, most important was the comradeship of fellow veterans who were in the same situation and learning from their life experiences. I have made many good friends by attending the meetings and conventions. Our motto is "Blinded Veterans Helping Blinded Veterans" and this is a real true fact as I have found out. I do my best to reciprocate when ever possible. John S. Thomas Assistant Director Southwest Florida Regiional Group Blinded Veterans Associaiton
My name is Cristela Torres, member and volunteer of the Puerto Rico Regional Group of the Blinded Veterans Association. I have been legally blind for the past 18 years and through the Field Service Program and a dedicated, loyal and wonderful Officer, I was able to receive Compensation, service-connected -100%. I will be forever grateful to this Organization which gives services and support to all our Blinded or Visually impaired Veterans.
I am a volunteer who for the past two years has experienced in person how BVA has helped and assisted many Veterans who are blind or visually impaired here in Puerto Rico, Veterans Hospital. I consider this organization to be of great help and support for our veterans. I support this organization 100% and I am only 18 years old. This experienced as a volunteer has change my life completely. Thank you BVA.
BVA is a wonderful organization, the staff truly care about what they do. Its rare to find people motivated and concerned about the welfare of others, with BVA, they do. Thanks for doing all you guys do.
My father is a Korean War Veteran who became blind and thanks to BVA in Puerto Rico he was able to receive all the support possible and the process was very smooth. He received training from Blind Rehabilitation Center in Puerto Rico Veteran Hospital which has the best staff in the world. Come and visit and experience for yourself. Without the help from this excellent organization my father would still be in depression and no quality of life.
My name is Retired Staff Sergeant Cabrera from Puerto Rico. Since 2008 when I became legally blind this great organization of BVA staff and members assisted me with identifying my needs through Blind Rehab at the Veterans Hospital in Puerto Rico. Also, assisted with my current federal job to continue serving our nation and be employed. Furthermore, because of BVA I dod not walk alone, I have a great companion name Eleanor. Yellow Lab who is my everything. I do not have room enough to write all that BVA has done for me and others. Please Support our BVA Organization, It is our duties as Americans! From the bottom of my heart, once again BVA thank you for your support and your excellent job! Sincerely, SSG/E-6 Ret Cabrera Puerto Rico BVA member
IN MEMORY OF HANK BLOOMBURG!! I left the service after Desert Shield and Storm in the early 90's with a photophobia. By 2001, I was blind. I left my job as a retail store manager and did not work for seven years because I felt there was nothing out there for a blind person. In 2006, I met a fellow blinded veteran, Hank. Hank being a blind veteran himself understood what I was going through and was passionate about The Blinded Veterans Association. As a volunteer, he showed me what being a blinded veteran meant, and how important it is for blinded veterans to help other blinded veterans. Hank inspired me and continued to help blinded veterans until the day he passed on in 2008. Hank inspired me to go to blind rehab and showed me life does not end with blindness. Today I am a strong advocate of The Blinded Veterans Association and a veteran service officer helping other blinded veterans like myself get the help and benefits to succeed. THANKS HANK, YOU GAVE YOUR LIFE WHILE SAVING MINE!
My personal experience with the BVA If I could sum it all up in one word that word would be fenominal. As a lifetime member and a totally blind Vet, the BVA have gone above and beyond the call of duty and i will forever be in their debt. May the father in heaven bless america and the BVA. Breckenridge