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NAEVR: Military Eye Injuries and Blindness Have Cost the US
$25.1 Billion in the 2000-2010 Timeframe

Legislative Update
May 10, 2012

On Monday, May 7, NAEVR released top-line results of its study entitled Costs of Military Eye Injury, Vision Impairment, and Related Blindness and Vision Dysfunction Associated with Traumatic Brain (TBI) without Eye Injury. Study consultant Kevin Frick, Ph.D. (Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health), who discussed the results at a NAEVR-sponsored defense vision session at the 2012 ARVO Annual Meeting, noted that the study uses only published data from 2000-2010 and widely accepted economic conventions to characterize the incidence numbers and concomitant costs associated with eye injuries, which range from superficial to bilateral blindness, as well as visual dysfunction associated with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

Based on the published data from 2000-2010, the total incident cost of eye injury each year has been $2.282 billion, yielding a total cost to the economy over this timeframe of $25.107 billion, which reflects:

  • $634 million in first-year costs, which have already been spent
  • $188 million present value of Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits
  • $24.286 billion in present value costs to the economy and society (Social Security benefits, lost wages, family care)
In announcing the results, Dr. Frick reiterated that this was the first-ever estimate of these costs. As a result, he used only published data so that costs would not be overstated. He acknowledged limitations to the study, especially related to the growing knowledge about the diagnosis and treatment of visual dysfunction from TBI. “As we learn more in that regard, the estimated costs would likely be greater,” he stated.

NAEVR has subsequently released the study on Capitol Hill, where it has been urging Congress to support the Peer Reviewed Vision Trauma Research Program (VTRP) in the Defense appropriations bill at $10 million because it is the only dedicated funding for extramural research into vision gaps identified by the Department of Defense (DOD). “NAEVR’s study reveals that an annual expenditure of at least $10 million for the VTRP is a fraction of the annual $2.3 billion costs for eye-injured and blinded soldiers,” said NAEVR Executive Director James Jorkasky in the Alliance’s transmittal letter to Congress.