In September, 1998 Joe received his disability rating of 220 Percent, however only 90 Percent was for his eyes. Joe was given an immediate appointment with the VIST Coordinator at the Durham VA Hospital. Due to Joe’s state of depression, the VIST Coordinator scheduled Joe for the first opening at the Augusta, GA VA Blind Rehabilitation Center for counselling and training. While at the Augusta BRC, Joe was visited by a Field Representative from BVA. After resubmitting Joe’s documentation, Joe was upgraded to 100 percent for his eyes with special category M+K.
In a state of depression, Joe traveled to the VA Blind Rehabilitation Center in Augusta, GA. After three months, with the help of professional trainers, and counselors, Joe was able to return home for Christmas with a new outlook on life. He contacted BVA and became a Life Member in May, 2000.
In summer of 2000, Joe moved from Raleigh, NC to his home town, in the Western area of the state, purchased property and completed plans for building a new home. Joe believed that by returning home he would be among familiar surroundings and with the assistance of close friends and relatives, he would have an easier existence.
Even though Joe found support from his friends, relatives and the Asheville VAMC VIST office, he missed the weekly phone calls from the North Carolina Regional Group of the Blinded Veterans Association. Through the VIST support group, Joe met other Blinded Veterans that indicated they would like to learn more about BVA and the possibility of starting a Western Chapter of the NC Regional Group of the BVA. Joe took the lead in getting the chapter started and served four terms as the Chapter President.
Joe returned to the Augusta BRC four more times for additional training. First for Computer Access Training (CAT), next to learn Braille, then to learn iPhone/iPad GPS and later to get an update on technology. Joe is living proof that training is one of the major keys to regaining one’s independence.
When the NC Regional Group Secretary/Treasurer passed away in 2009, Joe was asked to fill in until the next election. This event happened about the same time that the Director of BVA District 3 was invited to fill a vacancy on the Executive Committee of the National Board of Directors.
Joe was invited to run for the position of Director of BVA District 3 during the next scheduled election. Joe accepted the invitation and was elected to a three-year term. During this time, Joe served on ten of the eighteen BVA committees.
Joe ran for and was re-elected to a second three-year term as Director of BVA District 3, however a vacancy opened on the Executive Committee. Joe was invited to run for the office of National Secretary at the 2013 National Convention in Spokane, WA. Joe was elected to the office and an interim Director was appointed for BVA District 3. As the National Secretary, Joe served on the following committees: Executive Committee, Life Membership Fund Board of Trustees, Legislative Committee, Investment Fund Board of Trustees, Committee on Native American Veterans Affairs, BVA/BRS Committee, Membership/Dues Committee, Field Service Program Committee, Education and Training Committee, and the Building Committee.
At the 2013 National Convention in Spokane, WA, Joe Parker was also awarded the coveted “Major General Melvin J. Mass Award” for achievement.
At the 2015 National Convention, Joe was elected to the office of National Vice-President of the Blinded Veterans Association. As the VP, Joe serves on the Executive Committee and the Legislative Committee, BVA/BRS Committee, Field Service Program Committee, Education and Training Committee, Building Committee, and the Regional Group Task Force. He is also a member of the VAMC Asheville, VAVS Committee.
Joe also works with the North Carolina Services for the Blind and is a public speaker promoting BVA, and other assistive technologies that help Blinded Veterans maintain or regain their independence.
Joe is an accomplished Guide Dog user and travels, independently, with his Southeastern Guide Dog, Josie. Joe has been seen, leading a train of Blinded Veterans to local restaurants, using his GPS and his Guide Dog to find the way.
Joe continues to work with and for other veterans. While he feels a close kinship with Blinded Veterans and the Blinded Veterans Association, he also is a Life Member of the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign War, Disabled American Veterans and The Fleet Reserve Association. He also represents the U.S. Navy as an active member of the Honor Guard for his county, providing Military Honors for deceased veterans. Joe continues to work with the North Carolina Regional Group of the BVA, the VIST support group and the North Carolina Services for the Blind.
Joe continually accepts public speaking assignments and never misses an opportunity to promote training and education opportunities to groups and organizations.
He has often stated that “My fear is that other veterans will suffer the catastrophic total loss of their sight as I have”. He also said. “I have dedicated myself to other veterans and to blinded veterans in particular in the hope that my blindness will not be in vain and that I can prevent others from suffering the pitfalls that I have suffered and help them retain or regain their independence.”
Joe stated that he doesn’t have time to retire. He continues to serve on the following BVA Committees: Executive Committee, Legislative Committee, BVA/BRS Committee, Field Service Program Committee, Education and Training Committee, Building Committee, and the Regional Group Task Force.
Joe lives in Pisgah Forest, NC with his wife, Maureen, of fifty-five years and his Guide Dog, Josie. Their abode is a log home, designed by Joe and constructed with Joe’s supervision in 2001. He spends most of his time finding ways to help others and demonstrating that there truly is “Life After Sight”.
Joe’s BVA involvement began in June of 1998 when the deterioration of his eyesight was predicted and the Diabetic Retinopathy was diagnosed. Within four months Joe was “Legally Blind.