Services Offered For Blind And Visually Impaired Veterans
It is estimated that there are approximately 131,000 Veterans in the United States who are legally blind, and more than one million Veterans who have some form of visual impairment that impacts their day to day lives. As Veterans from Vietnam, Korea, Desert Storm and the War on Terror continue to age, those numbers will start to rise.
Types of Rehabilitative Services Offered
Due to the many age-associated vision conditions, the VA implemented a comprehensive vision and blind rehabilitation program in 2008. Veterans Health Administration is the first national healthcare system to completely incorporate visual rehabilitation services into its health benefits. This ensures that veterans receive the best and most seamless healthcare experience, as well as comprehensive VA care. New programs offered by the VA’s Blind and Rehabilitation Services provide a wide variety of options for veterans to manage their visual impairments and stay more happy and healthy.
Intermediate and Advanced Low Vision Clinics
The first step for any veteran seeking visual treatment is to receive a thorough eye exam. The low-vision clinics were established to provide the first pass at eye care. Their nationwide centers are designed to determine and assess the medical need and forward the veteran onto the most appropriate visual impairment treatment center. Depending on the need, some veterans may receive visual impairment orientation training. Or be prescribed mobility or communication classes to enhance their lives as their vision issues become more cumbersome.
Visual Impairment Centers to Optimize Remaining Sight (VICTORS) Programs
For veterans that still have eyesight and are not severely impaired, the VICTORS Programs are ideal for sustaining vision and mobility. These program offer a team approach to multiple eye-oriented disciplines. With treatment options of optometry, opthalmology, social work, eye therapy, and psychology; VICTORS enables veterans to take control of their remaining vision.
Vision Impairment Services in Outpatient Rehabilitation (VISOR) Programs
Unlike the Low Vision clinic diagnostics and the VICTORS Programs, the VISOR Programs offer additional, more in-depth diagnostic treatments and training. VISOR patients endure more rigorous assessment and treatment plans. The goal of the VISOR program is to ensure that the patients learn how to survive in a variety of environments. This includes more in-depth mobility training and technological training. In many cases, VISOR aims to teach these visually impaired patients how to work with technology, such as computers, with limited vision. The Program also teaches veterans how to read braille, an important skill for any sight-limited individual.
Inpatient Blind Rehabilitation Centers (BRCs)
The Rehab Centers are the next level of rehabilitative care. These centers submerse the blind or critically impaired visual patients in a dynamic training environment. The BRCs provide blindness training and resources for patients throughout the multiple stages of visual handicap. The centers’ variety of educational and practicum oriented courses help blind veterans achieve a realistic level of independence and enhanced confidence.
How to Get Help for Your Vision Loss
To schedule an eye exam, contact your nearest VA medical facility. To find the VA medical center closest to you, use VA's facility locator. For additional information about vision care services provided by VA, visit the VA Optometry/Ophthalmology website or the Blind Rehabilitative Services website.