- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 16, 2006

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

This plea on behalf of our nation’s blind veterans is submitted to you in the hopes that you will do all within your power to bring the 58-year-old Blind Rehabilitation Service (BRS) to the attention of our elected representatives, as well as using it to advise those within the Veterans Affairs Department to recognize the best practices for the treatment of blinded veterans.

BRS is a unique program that must adhere to the core values set forth by the founders of the Blind Rehabilitation Program. It requires a tedious process of concentration on all factors which are essential for safe daily living. The general medical model of rehabilitation does not apply and should not be left to the local level to interpret.

BRS budget funding from Washington must include oversight and accountability to insure the funds are spent for rehabilitation of blinded veterans as intended. The BRS funding should be optimized to provide quality improvements for the rehabilitation of blinded veterans.

Qualified BRS personnel in the VA system are essential to optimize rehabilitation opportunities for our brothers and sisters in arms who also lost their vision.

Funds allocated to BRS must be used for the specific purpose of rehabilitating the blind. Shortchanging blinded veterans by using their funds for other purposes is thumbing the nose at the appropriators on Capitol Hill.

Centralized or decentralized funding accountability is critical.

An effective management reporting system with visits to local staff by the director will ensure funds are used as they were intended and not diverted to non-BRS uses.

I look to you, Sgt. Shaft, to bring these concerns to the attention of others and to do all you can to help produce the best possible outcome for our fellow veterans who deserve the very best our nation can provide.

Thanks,

Stephen H. Miyagawa

Korean War blinded veteran

Dear Steve:

I urge the Department of Veterans Affairs and the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees to immediately review and implement your recommendations to insure the enhancement of programs for our blinded veterans. A blinded veteran’s potential is a terrible thing to waste.

Shaft notes

I fully support the initiatives of five major veteran service organizations that have joined to create the Veterans Coalition Inc., a 501(c) 3 nonprofit corporation. The American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Disabled American Veterans, the AMVETS and the Paralyzed Veterans of America formed the Veterans Coalition to define, research and study critical issues facing our nation’s veterans.

To fulfill these objectives, the coalition will establish a Commission on the Future for America’s Veterans.

During the next 30 days, nine commissioners will be appointed. Harry N. Walters was elected president and chief executive officer of Veterans Coalition. Mr. Walters was an administrator of Veterans Affairs during the Reagan administration from 1982 to 1986. David M. Sevier has been appointed executive director of the Commission on the Future for America’s Veterans.

In recent years, several congressional commissions and presidential task forces have studied veterans’ health and benefit policies and programs with little resulting from their reports and recommendations.

“The Commission on the Future for America’s Veterans will conduct an objective and independent review of the most challenging issues facing veterans and will report its findings to the Congress, the executive branch and the American people,” Mr. Walters said.

Findings and preliminary recommendations are scheduled to be released in the fall, he added.

To bring momentum to resolving the problems, the commission will hold hearings in cities across the country. The commissioners will be selected for their knowledge and understanding of these critical subjects.

The independent commission will submit the findings and recommendations to political parties. The commission’s actions will not represent a political perspective.

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, PO Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330; call 202/257-5446; or e-mail sgtshaft@bavf.org.

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