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The Independent Budget for VA Funding Recommends Continued Eligibility for Eye and Vision Research in the FY2009 DOD/PRMRP Program; Urges Congress to Authorize More VA-DOD Research Funding on Eye Trauma

Legislative Update
February 14, 2008

Within the past week, as the House and Senate have begun hearings on Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 appropriations for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), key veterans organizations and their supporters have issued The Independent Budget, an annual set of recommendations to Congress regarding funding. This document—developed by AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and supported by 54 other organizations—has made recommendations regarding Special Needs Veterans, specifically Blinded Veterans. Foremost among these in NAEVR’s advocacy include:

  • The Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program, in which eye and vision research has been listed as eligible for funding within the $50 million Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program (PRMRP), must continue to include eye and vision research in the Department of Defense appropriation for FY2009, and Congress should authorize more VA-DOD research funding on eye trauma.

  • Congress must create a DOD military eye trauma "Center of Excellence" and "Eye Trauma Registry" that electronically exchange information with eye care professionals within the VA to improve seamless transition.

Regarding the first issue, NAEVR has distributed its FY2009 request that eye and vision research remain eligible for funding in the DOD/PRMRP program and has begun working with its champions in the House and Senate Defense Appropriations subcommittees. Eye and vision research has been listed in FY2006-FY2008 for this program, which enables researchers in eligible areas to compete for a pool of $50 million of peer-reviewed funding. In FY2006, its first year of eligibility, the vision community submitted 52 grant requests to the DOD, or 8 percent of all submissions, and was awarded 7 grants out of the 51 issued, for a funding total of $6.3 million, or 12 percent. Examples of this research include: corneal healing, as well as ways to improve corneal transplantation by regulating the lymphatic pathway servicing the cornea; corneal wound infection control; laser injuries; and support for ongoing work on a "Retinal Implant" to restore vision through electronic stimulation of the retina.

Regarding the second issue, the FY2008 Defense Authorization Act included provisions of the Military Eye Trauma Treatment Act which would:

  • Create 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 Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), including screening, diagnosis, rehabilitative management, and research.

With respect to TBI, the document presents a series of recommendations to provide a more comprehensive program of care, including mental and physical health problems and long-term emotional and behavioral problems.