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Defense Appropriations and Authorization Bills Address Combat-related Eye Injuries and Include Vision Research Funding Opportunities

Legislative Update
December 20, 2007

The Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 Defense Appropriations bill has listed "eye and vision research" as eligible for the pool of $50 million of peer-reviewed funding available under the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program (PRMRP) within the more-expansive Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP). Vision researchers can compete for these funds. As noted in NAEVR’s justification to Congress for the continued listing of eye and vision research, in FY2006, the first year of its eligibility, vision researchers submitted 52 of the 651 total grant requests, or eight percent, and received seven of 51 awards, or ten percent, representing $6.3 million. The DOD may be posting PRMRP grant requests on its CDMRP Web site in early 2008.

The appropriations bill also funds the provisions of the Wounded Warriors Act, as authorized in the FY2008 National Defense Authorization Act, including several that relate to Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). The Act requires the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to conduct TBI research and establish a Traumatic Brain Injury Veterans Health Registry. One of the areas of research is that of visually-related neurological conditions associated with TBI. The DOD may be posting TBI-related grant requests on its CDMRP Web site early in 2008.

Also with respect to vision, the Defense Authorization Act includes provisions of the Military Eye Trauma Treatment Act, which:

  • Creates a Center of Excellence within the DOD that would collaborate with the VA on a comprehensive approach to the prevention, diagnosis, mitigation, treatment, and rehabilitation of eye injuries and trauma, including a Military Eye Injury Registry to track the diagnosis and treatment of each significant eye injury incurred by a member of the armed forces while on active duty; and

  • Create a joint DOD/VA program to coordinate on all aspects of visual dysfunction related to TBI, including screening, diagnosis, rehabilitative management, and research.

The Defense Authorization Act also includes the Blinded Veterans Paired Organ Act which makes it easier for veterans who are legally blind to qualify for additional disability compensation payments.

Finally, the Defense Authorization Act retains key functions of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP), including its education, consultation, and research services, as part of a newly created Joint Pathology Center located at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. The AFIP, which was set to be abolished by the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission, houses a world-renowned Tissue Repository and provides educational training programs in ophthalmic pathology.