Gateway to Community”

Join the community of VRTs, Orientation and Mobility Specialists, TVIs, LVTs, advocates, scholars, policymakers, and other  professionals for the AER International Conference 2020. The conference will feature dynamic keynote speakers, global leaders and world class presenters covering a range of topics of critical importance to the field. Earn CE hours and make career changing connections! It is continuing education at its best. Whether you need CE hours for ACVREP, CEUs for CRC, professional development hours for other certifications or simply want to expand your contacts and knowledge base, this is a great conference for you. 

July 22-26

St. Louis, MO

The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is pleased to present the 2020 Leadership Conference, which will cover the most pressing and relevant topics in the field of blindness and offer many opportunities to learn from the best and brightest minds in our field, make new connections, and reunite with old friends.

March 26-27

Arlington, VA

https://www.afb.org/about-afb/events-and-awards/afblc-2020-overview

Documents for Board Retreat:

2019 Membership Survey Responses:

Formats available for download:

PDF

MS Excel

 

Dear Friends,
In honor of Roxann’s retirement at the end of this year, we are offering members and friends of VisionServe Alliance the opportunity to place an ad in this fall’s 30th Executive Leadership Conference program booklet as a tribute to Roxann’s 13 years of leading VisionServe Alliance.

We know you will think of your favorite “Roxann” moment to remember and share. We look forward to celebrating these moments with Roxann and you in Portland this October.

Options are:
Full Page 7 ¾ x 9 ¾”- $500
Half page ad horizontal 7 ¾ x 4 ¾” – $250
Quarter page ad 3 ¾ x 4 ¾” – $100
1 or 2 Sentence message – $50

Ad Specifications:
Full, half and quarter-page ads may be color, two-color, or black and white. Please submit ads in electronic format (preferably Hi-res PDF files) to Wendy Hymes at wendy@visionservealliance.org. 1 or 2 sentence messages may be emailed directly to Wendy. Please also send a text version of the ad for our readers who are blind and visually impaired.

Ad Deadline:
We must receive your tribute ad order form and payment by:
5:00 pm Friday September 28

Click HERE to download the tribute ad ORDER FORM
Click HERE to view sizes of full, half and quarter-page ads

Diane Nelson headshot

Sincerely,

signature

 

 

Diane Nelson
Power of R Campaign Chair

 

Best Practices: Sexual Abuse Prevention

Unemployment Insurance: Claims 101 (First Nonprofit Webinar 9/13/17 PowerPoint)

Lindsay LutzWith a varied background in visual arts, performance, and technology, Lindsay joined the VisionServe team as Administrative Assistant in April 2018. She appreciates efficiency, values open communication, and loves her two dogs. A transplant from Michigan, she treasures Saint Louis as her home and wouldn’t trade the life she has here. In her free time, she’s trail running, cooking Chinese food, or performing in local theater.

Capitol building in Washington DC

Roxann Mayros headshotBy Roxann Mayros, President & CEO, VisionServe Alliance

Did you know that vision rehabilitation therapists are the only medical/rehabilitative professionals NOT reimbursed by Medicare or insurance companies (third-party payers)?  Here is why this is important.  Think about the person who has a stroke.  They lose their ability to use their right arm to brush their teeth. An occupational therapist is paid by Medicare or insurance to provide needed therapies.  That stroke also caused the person to lose the ability to speak clearly.  Medicare or an insurance company pays for speech therapy.  That stroke also caused a severe balance issue.  You guessed it, Medicare or insurance pays for a physical therapist.  BUT, if that same stroke victim, also loses some or all of their eyesight, no insurance company or Medicare will pay for important therapies provided by a specialized and nationally certified vision rehabilitation therapist, low vision therapist, or orientation and mobility specialist.

There are many reasons for this disparity and no easy solutions.  Due to my long-time tenure in the blindness and low vision field, being involved in and leading previous attempts to seek third-party payment, and my quickly approaching retirement, I have been asked to document why vision rehabilitation professionals are not currently reimbursed by Medicare or medical insurance.

Background

From 1990 through 2012, nonprofit organizations providing vision rehabilitation therapies and services to people with vision loss underwrote the expensive cost of, and spent untold hours leading, a national effort to secure third-party reimbursement for vision rehabilitation therapists to teach independent living skills, low vision therapists to teach the use of remaining vision as aided by magnification devices and techniques, and orientation and mobility specialists who teach safe movement and travel skills using a white cane or guide dog.

Why did it take so long?  Because it literally took an Act of Congress!    Medicare law must be amended by Congress to add a new category of services for which Medicare will provide reimbursement, i.e., establish coverage.  Congress must authorize the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish rules, assign codes, and provide reimbursement.  Once these rules and codes are established and Medicare begins to reimburse for vision rehabilitation therapies, then other third-party payers (medical insurance companies) will begin to reimburse.  Congress doesn’t normally do this out of the goodness of their hearts, but only after intense and protracted advocacy from their constituents.

This decades-long and very expensive process produced four separate bills (none were ever brought to the floor for vote) and the only study at the time about the rate and cost of vision loss (The Lewin Report).  Our biggest champions were Congressman Michael Capuano of Massachusetts (his mother had lost her vision due to macular degeneration and was not referred for vision rehabilitation therapies by her medical doctor) and Senator John E. Sununu of New Hampshire.

Congressman Michael Capuano of Massachusetts
Congressman Michael Capuano of Massachusetts

Senator John E. Sununu of New Hampshire
Senator John E. Sununu of New Hampshire

Senator Sununu was most especially important because his vote was needed to pass legislation that created Part D (prescription drug coverage) under the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003. When asked by President George W. Bush to enter his deciding vote in favor of establishing prescription drug coverage, Senator Sununu boldly asked the President to support Medicare reimbursement for vision rehabilitation professionals.  Negotiations resulted in a Congressional order to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to create and oversee a Five-Year Demonstration Project in the states of North Carolina, Kansas, New Hampshire, and Washington; and in the five boroughs of New York City and specific zip codes in the city of Atlanta.

US Department of Health & Human Services building
Washington, UNITED STATES: The US Department of Health and Human Services building is shown in Washington, DC, 21 July 2007. The department, which began operations in 1980, has more than 67,000 employees. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

It was in 2005, as the new Executive Director of VisionServe Alliance (a consortium of nonprofits providing vision rehabilitation services) that I was assigned the task of working with CMS to implement and oversee the “Demonstration Project.”  CMS had experience in developing demonstration projects for established and traditional medical providers (Diabetic Educators, for example), but they were inexperienced in establishing a demonstration project for non-medical providers like vision rehabilitation therapists who earn their Master’s degrees through University Departments of Education and not Departments of Allied Health as physical or speech therapists do, and are traditionally employed by nonprofit agencies, the Veterans Administration, or State Agencies for the Blind.

The Demonstration Project was not successful for several reasons, including 1) how CMS designed the project – patients were required to live in the same New York borough or Atlanta zip code as the doctor’s office; 2) CMS assumed that vision rehabilitation professionals worked in physicians’ offices (which they didn’t); 3) that referrals for services came solely from physicians; and 4) by placing demonstration sites in low population or rural states like New Hampshire. The Project was also negatively impacted by the lack of standardized reporting, outcome measurements, and physician referrals within the field of vision rehabilitation.  These issues resulted in only one participant in each Demonstration State – nonprofit agencies already performing vision rehabilitation therapies.  Neither Optometrists nor Ophthalmologists participated because they did not (and would not) employ vision rehabilitation professionals. The lack of participation resulted in very low patient numbers, thereby not creating enough data to determine if the Demonstration Project proved the need for this professional category (vision rehabilitation) to be reimbursed by Medicare.

Those of us who had our “boots on the ground” advocating for reimbursement and the nonprofit agencies who participated in the Demonstration Project learned many lessons that should impact future endeavors seeking third-party reimbursements.  Watch for our next installment of Lessons Learned from the Vision Rehabilitation Demonstration Project 2006-2011. 

Purpose:  The purpose of the Membership Committee is to review annually membership levels and corresponding dues and benefits and make recommendations to the board.  Create programs and services that provide value to membership, develop and implement a new member recruitment program, collect member data and implement the bi-annual Compensation and Benefits Survey, advise CEO on matters relating to members and potential members.  Also determine awardees for Academic Scholarships each year.

Term: Two Years and Renewable

Membership: BOD and general members, between 6 and 8 Total

Annual Calendar/Schedule of Specific Tasks to be Addressed:

  • Quarterly Committee and Staff Rocks established in January, April, July and October
  • Review content of biennial Compensation Survey in Mid Feb – April
  • Review Applications for Academic Scholarships April 1 – May 1; announce awardees by May 15
  • Review Member Benefits Annually
  • Review Member Data Annually
  • Committee Chair Confirmed in November; member confirmed in December

Current Membership:

  • Bernadette Kappen, Chair  New York Institute for Special Education
  • Thomas Panek, Guiding Eyes
  • David Morgan, Future In Sight
  • Joe Bogart, BVA
  • Lee Nasehi, VisionServe Alliance
  • Wendy Hymes, VisionServe Alliance

Date of Update: June 18, 2019

Purpose:  The purpose of the Board Governance Committee is: 1) to identify and recommend qualified applicants for election to the Board of Directors and Officer positions, 2) to recommend or review proposed changes to these Bylaws, and 3) to make recommendations to enhance organizational and Board effectiveness.

Current Members:

Miki Jordan, Chair – Wayfinder Family Foundation
Mike McGowan – NOAH
Renee Vidrine – Lighthouse Louisiana
Dennis Steiner – VisionCorps
Lee Nasehi – VisionServe Alliance

Purpose: The Fund Development Committee will work with staff and other committees as appropriate to provide:

  • guidance concerning all revenue generating initiatives as necessary and appropriate;
  • input into and approval of plans for new revenue-generating business initiatives;
  • development and implementation of annual fundraising plans

Term: Two Years and Renewable

Membership: BOD and general members; between 8 and 12 total

Annual Calendar/Schedule of Specific Tasks to be Addressed:

  • Revenue Goals for Annual Budget/1 Year Plan, asap and then in November/Annual Planning meeting each year
  • Quarterly Committee and Staff Rocks established in January, April, July and October
  • Committee Chair Confirmed in November; member confirmed in December

Current Membership:

  • Erika Petach, Chair  Blind and Vision Rehab Services – Pittsburgh
  • Thomas Panek, Guiding Eyes
  • Lauren Branch, NewView Oklahoma
  • Mike Gilliam, San Antonio Lighthouse
  • Denise Jess, Wisconsin Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired
  • Lee Nasehi, VisionServe Alliance

Date of Update: June 21, 2019

Current Purpose Statement: The Audit Committee selects the outside auditor, meets with the auditor to receive the audit report and management letter, and discusses the management letter with the full board and the senior staff.  While there may be some overlap in membership with the Finance Committee, the chair of the Finance Committee and the treasurer should not be on the Audit Committee. Likewise, the chair of the board and the CEO should not be on the Audit Committee.

Term: Two Years; preferably with staggered terms 

Membership: BOD and General VSA Members are eligible to serve on this committee. 

Annual Calendar/Schedule of Specific Tasks to be Addressed:

  • Committee Chair Confirmed in November; members confirmed in December
  • Committee meets with Auditor w/o CEO in November to prepare for upcoming Audit
  • Review annual audit and 990 with auditor prior to presentation to full BOD.
  • Oversees the selection of Auditor every 5 – 7 years

Current Membership:

  • Renee Vidrine, Chair  Lighthouse Louisiana
  • Ken Warkentin, Valley Center for the Blind
  • Steve Pouliot, Vermont Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Date of Update: June 2019