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NAEVR Attends Blinded Veterans Association Annual Meeting

In late August, NAEVR member and advocacy partner Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) held its 65th National Convention in Arlington, Virginia, which included hundreds of veterans and their families from throughout the United States. As in past years, BVA hosted 14 veterans who recently returned from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) and had been blinded or experienced significant visual impairment.

The scientific program featured Randy Kardon, M.D., Ph.D. (University of Iowa), whose research into preserving and restoring vision is funded by the National Eye Institute (NEI), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the Department of Defense (DOD). Regarding the latter, Dr. Kardon was one of the twelve recipients of grant awards in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2009/2010 cycle from the DODís Vision Research Portfolio (VRP) that was funded through the dedicated Peer Reviewed Medical Research-Vision (PRMR-Vision) line item in defense appropriations, for which NAEVR has advocated. Dr. Kardon was joined by Lore Anne McNicol, Ph.D., the Director of NEIís Division of Extramural Research, who spoke about the latest in NEI funded research.

"I was inspired and motivated by this meeting," said NAEVR Executive Director James Jorkasky, who had not previously attended the national convention. "The attendees are incredibly informed about the latest in vision research. They engaged in relevant discussions with the scientific speakers in a fashion similar to conversations I have heard at professional society meetings in the vision space. I also especially appreciated the attendeesí enthusiasm for and commitment to advocacy on behalf of vision research and rehabilitation programs."

Due to the meetingís proximity to the US Capitol, BVA also engaged its members in advocacy on key issues, including continued funding for the joint DOD/VA Vision Center of Excellence (VCE) and support for FY2011 PRMR-Vision funding at $10 million. Earlier this year, BVA was instrumental in getting seven Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) to support this latter request in letters to House and Senate leaders, as well as having it included in The Independent Budget, an annual set of recommendations to Congress regarding veteransí needs.

Left to right: Michael Brennan, M.D. (Immediate-Past President, American Academy of Ophthalmology), Tom Zampieri, Ph.D. (BVA) and Colonel Donald Gagliano, M.D. (Director, Joint DOD/VA Vision Center of Excellence). Dr. Brennan and Dr. Gagliano are veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Left to right: Attendees Bill and Edna Dixon from Alabama with featured speaker Randy Kardon, M.D., Ph.D. (University of Iowa)

Left to right: Lore Anne McNicol, Ph.D. (National Eye Institute Extramural Research Director) with Neil Appleby, a former BVA National President and current Vice Chairman of the State Veteransí Commission in Pennsylvania

Left to right: NAEVR Executive Director James Jorkasky with David Danielson (American Optometric Association), who received an award from BVA for his commitment to veteransí vision issues