Veterans' Vision Care is no Blind Spot for Washington State
By Courtney Francis, MD
Wearing a military uniform comes at a high cost to our servicemen and women. Veterans often return to civilian life with physical and mental burdens from their time spent in service. The initial burdens they face routinely cascade into additional health issues by interfering with daily life as a civilian.
According to the Department of Defense, more than 450,000 U.S. service members were diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) between the years 2000 and 2021. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) estimates that more than 64% of veterans with a TBI also suffer from a vision problem. Additionally, the VA reports that as many as 130,000 veterans in the U.S. are legally blind, and more than a million veterans experience low vision.
The causes of vision issues among veterans commonly include ocular trauma sustained during duty. The most substantial token of gratitude we can offer in recognition of any American’s service is access to high-quality care to protect their long-term health and address the permanent issues they must cope with because of that service.
Symptoms of ocular trauma include vision loss, difficulty focusing and binocular disfunction, a condition in which the eyes have difficulty coordinating with one another. Each of these symptoms presents unique challenges with daily civilian life, including reading, driving, concentration and use of a computer.
The result is that many veterans with vision difficulties have trouble attaining job stability.
Washington’s veterans should know that they have exceptional access to vision care through their VA Clinic. Ophthalmologists across our state have an extensive presence at these clinics, including:
Each of the above medical centers offers comprehensive eye care to treat injury, diseases and provide preventative care. Many other medical centers also provide outpatient rehabilitation programs to aid patients in achieving independence after vision loss. Veterans and other community members interested in finding additional resources should visit VisionforWA.org to learn about free and low-cost care options.
Elected officials across both sides of the aisle should continue to push and vote for additional funding for veterans' healthcare. As they do, members of the Washington Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons will continue to provide quality medical vision care to our men and women who have served in uniform.
Dr. Courtney Francis is a Board-Certified Ophthalmologist and President of the Washington Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons (WAEPS).