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.
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.
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.
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.