The first of four Regional Ocular Trauma Centers, an initiative championed by the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) through legislation passed late last year, is now open at Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
A designation ceremony and tour arranged by leadership of the Defense Health Agency (DHA) marked the April 19 event. DHA is scheduled to launch the additional centers later this year at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center/Fort Belvoir Community Hospital near Washington, DC; Madigan Army Medical Center, Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State; and Naval Medical Center in San Diego, California.
The four centers will bring access to eye care professionals from several subspecialities. They will offer comprehensive eye injury treatment and rehabilitation utilizing the cutting edge research findings that are critical to contemporary vision-preserving care.
Efforts leading to the establishment of the centers began several years ago when BVA asked DHA’s Vision Center of Excellence to analyze existing ocular care services, but it was not until December 2021 that the needed funding legislation was finally passed in a section of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022.
“It was a longstanding issue that plagued our military system for generations—ocular trauma care and care for vision loss due to Traumatic Brain Injury,” said Jim Vale, BVA National Director, Veterans Benefits and Policy. “These ocular trauma centers will save the eyesight of future warfighters.”
Traumatic ocular injuries are not usually at the forefront of conversations regarding eye injuries from service, despite their growing prevalence in recent conflicts. In 2007, for example, BVA reported that approximately 15 percent of all medical evacuations of war wounded in Iraq had experienced some type of eye trauma, a figure that provided an impetus for the eventual legislation to create the ocular trauma centers.
The complexity of eye injuries also validated the need for the centers. At BVA’s behest, VCE analyzed eye injury data among service members and veterans, including demographic and location information. Results of the analyses provided the empirical support for BVA’s successful advocacy.
Read more about the launching of DHA’s Regional Ocular Trauma Centers here (CLICK HERE).
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