the construction renovation projects is 18 months in the future. BVA is pushing to have the first section completed by next summer. Our next Update in early 2010 should reveal more about the spring and summer construction plans and timetables.
Two bills recently introduced in the House and Senate, H.R. 3266 and S. 1495, respectively, would establish a VA grant program for disabled veterans who request service dogs. The program would provide funding for veterans to attend both guide dog schools and other types of service animal training.
The bills became part of the National Defense Authorization Act of FY 2010.
A complex issue associated with this proposed legislation is the concern that dogs may not be well qualified since, at present, only 29 states have any type of training standards governing such programs.
BVA is also concerned about ongoing scams that dupe the public into believing that veterans must pay up to $25,000 (some schools are actually making these and other claims in their advertisements) to obtain a dog. The reality is that blinded veterans have received guide dogs for decades without having to pay anything,
Continuum of Care
Updates and Progress
As mentioned in our previous Update, we continue to monitor and work with BRS Director Gale Watson on the VA Continuum of Care initiative for 54 new outpatient blind and low-vision programs.
The initiative was released two years ago and is moving quickly forward. VA Optometry reports a 200 percent increase in veterans cared for in the new low-vision clinics. The number of full-time Visual Impairment Service Team (VIST) Coordinators is now 114 with 43 part-time Coordinators.
The number of full time BROS is now up to 68 full-time positions compared to just 25 in 2005 when the big push to improve outpatient services for our blinded veterans first began. We expect that access to services and the quality of services themselves will improve even further with passage of the legislation eliminating the $1,300 co-payments for admission into Blind Rehabilitation Centers (BRCs) and the establishment of the new outpatient low-vision programs.
Last Word on
Despite the many inquiries we’ve received and the rumors floating that some type of Cost of Living Adjustment, or COLA, might still happen for recipients of Social Security benefits, VA disability benefits, survivor benefits, military retired pay, and other federal pensions, the case is closed. We know there will be no 2010 COLA.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently announced that the monthly Consumer Price Index, the measurement used to make adjustments, was negative for inflation in FY 2009. Barring some kind of other legislative action that would result in huge budgetary battles within Congress, such as another one-time $250 check to elderly veterans and Social Security recipients, we will probably