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DOD Vision Research Funding Tops $11 Million Due to Quality of Grants

Legislative Update
August 9, 2010

Although representatives of the Department of Defenseís (DOD) Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC) had announced on May 3 at the ARVO Annual Meetingís NAEVR session that $10 million in grant awards were being made to vision researchers, that number has now grown to $11 million. This total for TATRCís Vision Research Program (VRP) reflects FY2009 and 2010 Congressional appropriations of $4 million and $3.75 million, respectively, from the Peer Reviewed Medical Research-Vision (PRMR-Vision) program line item in defense funding plus $4.1 million from the larger Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) program, minus administrative costs.

The TBI dollars are funds transferred from the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programís (CDMRP) TBI/Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Program which, although it does include visual dysfunction among its areas of interest, had not generally been awarding funds to vision research. The TBI/PTSD Program has, however, now recognized the high quality of vision-related TBI grants and has transferred funds over to the VRP to underwrite additional top-scoring submissions. As the Joint DOD/Veterans Affairs (VA) Vision Center of Excellence (VCE) Director Donald Gagliano, M.D., who serves as co-chair of the TATRC Programmatic panel stated at ARVO, "vision researchers have certainly raised awareness among DOD agencies for both the quality and responsiveness of their grant submissions to the current needs of our military."

"We are mindful not to give Congress the impression that these funds transferred over from the TBI/PTSD Program are always going to be available and that they do not need to adequately fund the dedicated PRMR-Vision line item in defense appropriations," said NAEVRís James Jorkasky, who added that they must keep the VRP as a distinct program focused on all battlefield eye and vision trauma.

Since TATRC has combined its FY2009 and 2010 funding, there will be no program announcement issued in calendar year 2010. NAEVR is actively advocating with Congress for FY2011 PRMR-Vision funding of $10 million.