Human Services

BLINDED VETERANS ASSOCIATION

  • Alexandria, VA
  • http://bva.org/

Mission Statement

BVA's Mission:

To promote the welfare of blinded veterans so that, notwithstanding their disabilities, they may take their rightful place in the community and work with their fellow citizens toward the creation of a peaceful world.

To preserve and strengthen a spirit of fellowship among blinded veterans so that they may give mutual aid and assistance to one another.

To maintain and extend the institution of American freedom and encourage loyalty to the Constitution and laws of the United States and of the states in which they reside.

Main Programs

  1. Public Education and Communication
  2. Advocacy
  3. Membership
  4. Field Service and Volunteer Service Programs
  5. Scholarships

service areas

National

Self-reported by organization

ruling year

1946

chief executive

Mr. Al Avina

Self-reported by organization

Keywords

Blindness, Veterans, blinded, visually impaired, rehabilitation, wounded, military, disabled,

Self-reported by organization

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EIN

53-0214281

Also Known As

BVA

Contact

Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Blind/Visually Impaired Centers, Services (P86)

Military/Veterans' Organizations (W30)

IRS Filing Requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

Programs + Results

How does this organization make a difference?

Impact statement

The Blinded Veterans Association was founded in 1945 by a group of World War II veterans at Avon Old Farms Army Convalescent Hospital in Connecticut. Since the founding, the organization has continued to grow, advocating for the needs of blinded veterans and providing services free of charge to any blinded or visually impaired veteran in need. Chartered by Congress in 1958, BVA is the only Veterans Service Organization exclusively dedicated to the needs of America's blinded veterans.

Since the very beginning, BVA has worked tirelessly with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to assure high-quality, comprehensive medical and rehabilitative services/benefits for blinded veterans. When the U.S. Army discontinued its blind rehabilitation services for the war blind at the end of World War II, BVA played an instrumental role in persuading VA to assume the responsibility for their care and rehabilitation. As early as 1947, BVA adopted resolutions in assembled convention calling for the establishment of a comprehensive residential Blind Rehabilitation Center. The facility would assist blinded veterans in their adjustment to vision loss and the acquisition of adaptive skills. Due in large measure to BVA’s efforts, the first BRC was open on July 4, 1948. As the numbers of war-blinded veterans increased with the onset of the Korean and Vietnam Wars, BVA pressured VA to expand the number of BRCs nationally, and there are now 13 such facilities nationwide.

Programs

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Self-reported by organization

Program 1

Public Education and Communication

At the foundation of all BVA communications and public relations efforts nationally is the BVA Bulletin, currently a quarterly periodical sent to all blinded veterans and their families for whom the Association has contact information. The publication is also mailed to dozens of libraries, health care institutions, veteran service offices, and nonprofit organizations. BVA also maintains and updates a website with useful information about our programs, as well as other efforts to educate the public about the challenges of blindness and what BVA does for blinded veterans.

Category

Literacy

Budget

$1,345,559.00

Population Served

Blind and Vision Impaired

Military/Veterans

None

Program 2

Advocacy

The Blinded Veterans Association's Congressional Charter designates BVA as the organizational advocate for all blinded veterans before the Executive and Legislative Branches of Government.

Category

Services for Individuals with Disabilities

Budget

$158,927.00

Population Served

Blind and Vision Impaired

Military/Veterans

None

Program 3

Membership

BVA is a membership driven organization. A membership in BVA is a membership in the organization as well as in the area Regional Grouit does grant acceptance to the audio cassette version of the quarterly BVA Bullet which so many members find useful in staying informed, plus opportunities to meet new members, join friends, and have a voice at the annual conventions.

Category

Services for Individuals with Disabilities

Budget

$278,519.00

Population Served

Blind and Vision Impaired

Military/Veterans

None

Program 4

Field Service and Volunteer Service Programs

BVA Field Service Representatives constitute what sister organizations often refer to as National Service Officers. They are veterans and legally blind themselves, working in seven different regions throughout the United States, including Puerto Rico. Their goal is to locate and assist blinded veterans in overcoming the challenges inherent in sight loss. Field Reps are responsible for linking veterans with local services, assuring that the newly blinded take advantage of VA Blind Rehabilitation Services, and assisting them with VA claims when necessary. When blinded veterans are ready to return to the workforce, BVA Field Reps can assist them with employment training and placement.

The newest aspect of our Field Service Program, Operation Peer Support, connects newly returned veterans with Visual Impairment Injuries from Iraq & Afghanistan with veterans who experienced the same transition after WWII, Korea, & Vietnam. The process of recovery from any tragic or traumatic event is characterized by a period of grieving followed by rehabilitation and restoration. Substantial changes are required as a result of such shattering events before a meaningful and productive new life can be achieved. Similar to the grief experienced by individuals following any catastrophic event, blinded veterans must also grieve over their loss of vision. On an ongoing basis, Operation Peer Support seeks to support blinded veterans and their families who are still struggling with the difficulties associated with loss of vision.

Category

Services for Individuals with Disabilities

Budget

$1,200,548.00

Population Served

Blind and Vision Impaired

Military/Veterans

None

Program 5

Scholarships

Spouses, dependent children, and grandchildren of blinded veterans are eligible for the annual Kathern F. Gruber Scholarship and Thomas H. Miller Awards to assist them with their higher education tuition. The scholarships are awarded on the basis of merit through an application process that is evaluated by a committee. Gruber and Miller scholarships are for one year only but recipients can re-apply and receive the award up to four times. The blinded veteran family member is not required to be a BVA member for the spouse or child to receive a scholarship. Qualifications for both programs are the same except for an added emphasis on music and fine arts for the Miller award.

Kathern "Kay" Gruber was one of BVA's early pioneers as an advisor to the organization and became acquainted with the organization while serving in the mid-1940s as the American Foundation for the Blind's Director of Services for the War Blind. Kay attended all of the BVA conventions for several decades, sitting through all of the Board of Directors meetings and offering counsel and advice. She also served on a key advisory group in 1948 that made recommendations to VA regarding the care and rehabilitation of the war blinded. She further assisted in the establishment of the first comprehensive Blind Rehabilitation Center at the VA Medical Center in Hines, Illinois. The BVA scholarship program was named after Kathern Gruber at the BVA 40th National Convention (1985) in San Diego, California.

For portions of four decades, Thomas H. Miller has served as an advocate for blinded veterans and their families, first as a member of the BVA Board of Directors and later as a full-time staff member of the organization. From 1979 to 1984, he occupied the elected positions of National Secretary, Vice President, and President. Shortly thereafter, he was hired as a full-time employee in 1986, assuming the post of Director of Government Relations until his appointment as Executive Director in 1994. Tom has amassed a lengthy list of contributions, accomplishments, and professional relationships that have enhanced BVA's image and prominence for years to come. His service to America's blinded veterans, and their families, is unprecedented and matched by few others. Tom was severely wounded, losing his sight in both eyes, in a landmine explosion in December 1967 while supervising the securing of an enemy minefield in Vietnam.

Category

Student Financial Aid

Budget

Population Served

Military/Veterans

Blind and Vision Impaired

None

Charting Impact

Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

Self-reported by organization

  1. What is the organization aiming to accomplish?
    BVA's vision is a world where blinded veterans can fully participate in and contribute to society and enjoy a high quality of life. Our mission is to promote access to services and benefits that blinded veterans need in order to overcome the limitations of their blindness.

    Core Values: In everything BVA does, we believe that a blinded veteran can assist another blinded veteran to become more independent. Shared experience provides support and encouragement in overcoming the challenges of blindness. With appropriate rehabilitation training, blinded veterans can significantly improve their quality of life. An organization of blinded veterans is more effective in representing and advocating for blinded veterans' needs because working together produces greater results than individual efforts.

    Strategic Priorities: BVA accomplishes our mission via three main priorities,

    1) Education of our members, the general public, government, and private rehabilitation service providers on the issues facing blinded veterans (and all visually impaired Americans.)

    2) Advocating for the needs and interests of blinded veterans with Congress and within the Veterans Health Administration

    3) Direct service to blinded veterans and their families
  2. What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?
    BVA serves all blind or visually impaired veterans, whether they suffered vision loss as a result of a combat injury during active duty, or lost their sight later in life as a result of an accident or illness. As the group of veterans we serve is diverse, spanning many generations, we offer a variety of services tailored to the needs of veterans in different stages of transition to life with blindness. Every year, BVA uses PSAs and educational literature to reach out to more blinded veterans than we have before and provide them with services and assistance as required. We serve blinded veterans with four main programs: Field Service Program, Operation Peer Support, Membership, and Advocacy. We also have an over-arching goal of educating the public about the challenges faced by blinded veterans.

    The Field Service Program consists of seven regional Field Service Representatives, all blinded veterans themselves, who work in strategically located offices around the country. They provide advice and assistance to any blinded veteran in need, whether they are a BVA member or not. The Reps can help veterans access VA services and benefits, learn about adaptive technology, find employment training and placement. The Field Reps' goal is always to help their fellow veterans become as independent as possible.

    Operation Peer Support is BVA's on-going effort to connect recently blinded veterans of the current conflicts with each other. BVA believes that their fellow blinded veterans, by virtue of their shared experiences, can provide unique insight and advice during the difficult transition to life without sight. Each year, OPS brings a new group of veterans and their caretakers together for a week of activities, educational sessions and most importantly, social bonding. The bonds formed during the OPS program have proven so helpful that a number of alumni have returned to participate in later sessions of their own accord. Continued success for OPS would be indicated by more new participants every year, and especially more returning alumni.

    Our membership program provides information to some 11,000 veterans, and in the coming years we hope to see that number grow. BVA sends members a quarterly Bulletin full of the latest news from around BVA, updates about legislative developments and VA programs that may affect members, and personal stories about members' achievements. Members also participate in Regional Groups, which are another source of support for veterans and their families. BVA's Director of Government Relations works closely with legislators to monitor any proposed legislation that would affect blinded veterans. Every March, our Board of Directors travels to Washington to meet with lawmakers and testify about issues affecting blinded veterans in their communities.
  3. What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?
    BVA's key strengths are in our experienced program staff, almost all of whom are blind or visually impaired veterans themselves, and our nation-wide network of members. Our membership can provide mentoring and serve as role models for newly blinded veterans. BVA also has a network of dedicated volunteers who assist with the annual convention and other BVA activities. Over the years, BVA has forged partnerships and working relationships with other Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs), whose support and collaboration has been very effective in pressing for legislation affecting blinded veterans. BVA has also worked together with other blind advocacy groups.

    BVA's Bulletin & website spread important news and information to our network of veterans about available resources and programs. BVA also partners closely with the VA; many of our Field Service Representatives work out of offices in VA buildings. The BVA Convention is an annual event that takes place in a different city every year and is attended by BVA members from across the country, as well as representatives of the VA and many organizations which provide services to the blind and visually impaired. The Convention is one the best times for BVA to disseminate crucial information to our membership about legislative changes, new programs, and the latest in adaptive technology and research.
  4. How will they know if they are making progress?
    All of our departments keep track of their accomplishments and submit reports to the board semi-annually. The department heads prepare strategic plans, including goals, which are submitted to the board for review. Annually, the board reviews and revises their strategic plan, as well as the implementation plans for each department, with goals and objectives outlined to meet the board's strategic priorities.

    The most important figures for BVA are the number of veterans served via the Membership, Operation Peer Support and Field Service Programs. For each program, the number of veterans served is the key factor. We also keep track of details such as war era, type of blindness or vision loss, and services required. This information helps us tailor our programs to provide the services our constituents and members most need. For example, we are careful to provide information in ways our members can most easily access it, such as large print, audio, or digital format, based on their preferences.

    During our annual Convention, our membership can provide both our Board and Staff with direct feedback about the job we've been doing in advocating for their interests. Any feedback from veterans served or members is taken very seriously by BVA staff and incorporated into our plans for the next year.
  5. What have and haven't they accomplished so far?
    BVA was chartered by Congress in 1958, and has been a strong voice for the needs of America's blinded and visually impaired veterans ever since. BVA's advocacy on behalf of blinded veterans has led to many VA programs that serve blind and visually impaired veterans, and our own programs are free to any blinded veteran in need.

    One of BVA's proudest achievements is the creation of the VA's network of Blind Rehabilitation Centers, of which there are now thirteen across the country. BVA was a key part of the efforts to establish the centers, and has been involved in the recent expansion from ten to thirteen centers. In addition to these centers, BVA worked with the VA in establishing a total of 55 Low Vision and Blind Rehabilitative Outpatient Clinics since 2007, which improve access to care for blind veterans. BVA also played an instrumental role in the establishment of the Visual Impairment Service Team (VIST) Program by participating in a pilot outreach program in 1967 to identify eligible veterans and encourage them to take full advantage of VA benefits and services. The key staff person on the VIST team is the VIST Coordinator, which at first was only part-time. BVA quickly recognized that a part-time VIST Coordinator was not adequate and urged VA to make these positions full-time.

    The organization convinced Congress to earmark $5 million in the 1995 VA Appropriation for Blind Rehabilitation Service (BRS), which enabled BRS to establish 15 Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialists (BROS) positions. Today that number has grown from 24 in 2005 to 75. These Orientation and Mobility Instructors often have dual certification and provide veterans with independent training skills in clinics, hospitals, and veterans' homes. Our work has also resulted in meeting BVA goals to increase the number of full time VIST to 118 positions with 43 part-time VIST positions. BVA is most proud of the creation of the Vision Center of Excellence, long a legislative goal of BVA, which opened its doors this year. The VCE's goal is to promote research on treating vision injuries and how to prevent them.

    Our OPS program, created in 2006, is a point of pride for BVA. OPS reaches the newest generation of blinded and visually impaired veterans to help prepare them for the challenges ahead. BVA members and OPS alumni have a unique insight into the experiences of their fellow blinded veterans, and serve as mentors and role-models. OPS participants find the program so helpful that many of them return as alumni for later sessions and also participated in an exchange with our sister organization in Britain, Blind Veterans UK. The VA estimates that there are 156,000 American veterans currently living with vision loss, and BVA has reached about 20,000 of them. Reaching those blinded veterans we have not yet helped is BVA's on-going priority. BVA is committed to providing services and support to any blinded veteran, free of charge, for as long as there is a need.

service areas

National

Self-reported by organization

Blog

The organization's Blog

Social Media

@blindedveteransassociation

@blindedveterans

@blinded-veterans-association

@BlindedVeterans

@blindedveterans/

Funding Needs

BVA is looking to expand both our Operation Peer Support program and our Field Service Program.   For OPS, we would like to hire a full-time coordinator to maintain contact with OPS participants and arrange other events throughout the year, work that is currently the responsibility of several other staff members.   Our Field Service Program would be more effective if our Field Service Representatives had more funds for travel to VA hospitals, blind rehab clinics, and the homes of veterans in their regions.

Accreditations

Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance

Videos

photos




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Financials

Financial information is an important part of gauging the short- and long-term health of the organization.

BLINDED VETERANS ASSOCIATION
Fiscal year: Jul 01-Jun 30
Yes, financials were audited by an independent accountant.

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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

BLINDED VETERANS ASSOCIATION

Leadership

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Free: Gain immediate access to the following:
  • Address, phone, website and contact information
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CHIEF EXECUTIVE FOR FISCAL YEAR

Mr. Al Avina

BIO

Mr. Avina is a veteran of the U.S. Army, where he specialized in human resource functions and special project management. He worked most recently for 3M in Washington, DC in business development, most notably the development of a Contact Relationship Management system. He also managed the planning, marketing, and implementation of the first E-commerce website in the Sales Department of Bosma Enterprises in Indianapolis, Indiana. In addition, he has worked with a Military Resale Program team in conducting business analyses of sales, warehousing, and distribution as a Fellow at the National Industries for the Blind in Alexandria, Virginia.
A native of California’s Central Valley region, Avina received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business from Saint Martin’s University in Lacey, Washington.

STATEMENT FROM THE CEO

"BVA is heavily involved in providing assistance to a new generation of visually impaired and blinded veterans returning from our current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Visual Consequences associated with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) present a whole new demand for service. More than ever, our advocacy is essential to assure this new generation experiences a smooth & seamless transition from the Department of Defense (DOD) to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Also, as older veterans age, they face vision loss due to age-related diseases and are also in need of BVA services. Maybe the greatest challenge is developing and preparing younger members to assume “Leadership” within the organization."

Governance

BOARD CHAIR

Mark Cornell

BOARD LEADERSHIP PRACTICES

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section, which enables organizations and donors to transparently share information about essential board leadership practices. Self-reported by organization

No

BOARD ORIENTATION & EDUCATION

Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?

Yes

CEO OVERSIGHT

Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?

Yes

ETHICS & TRANSPARENCY

Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?

No

BOARD COMPOSITION

Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?

Yes

BOARD PERFORMANCE

Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?