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NAEVR Co-Authors Article about Advocacy for Battlefield Eye and Vision Trauma Research

Legislative Update
January 6, 2017

In the January 2017 issue of Optometry and Vision Science (OVS), NAEVR Executive Director James Jorkasky and Greg Goodrich, Ph.D., formerly with the Palo Alto Veterans Affairs (VA) System and currently a guest editor for the journal, collaborated on an article that discusses the role that advocacy plays in helping expand the awareness of and Congressional action for eye and vision loss resulting from battlefield trauma.

The article begins with a history of the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Vision Research Program (VRP), established in 2009 as a result of NAEVR’s Capitol Hill advocacy efforts. The program, first funded at a level of $4 million, was proposed by the House to receive $15 million in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 DOD appropriations bill after receiving $10 million in each of the previous four fiscal years—although the current Congressional stalemate that has delayed finalizing all FY2017 appropriations means that the final amount is not set. Since FY2009, the VRP has awarded 74 grants for a total of $63 million funding a wide range of research topics, including “front-of-the-eye” issues (corneal protection and healing), blast modeling for eye trauma protection, rehabilitation strategies and technologies, and visual dysfunction from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

The article then delves into the message that is shared with Congressional offices about the need for and importance of eye and vision research that focuses on conditions related to battlefield trauma that is separate from the disease-focused research conducted by the National Eye Institute (NEI) within the National Institutes of Health (NIH). One of the key points of the advocacy message is the NAEVR-funded 2012 study entitled Costs of Military Eye Injury, Vision Impairment, and Related Blindness and Vision Dysfunction Associated with Traumatic Brain Injury without Eye Injury that estimated—for the very first time—the costs of military eye trauma from 2000-2010 at $25.1 billion, driven primarily by the net present value of long-term benefits (VA and Social Security), lost wages, and family care.

The article concludes by recognizing the increased awareness of the similarities between trauma that results from military service and the range of TBI symptoms suffered by athletes. NAEVR has assisted the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) in presenting special Veterans and TBI sessions at ARVO annual meetings in 2013, 2015 and 2016 to address this topic.