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NAEVR Meets with White House on Defense Vision Research Funding

Second right:  Dennis O’Neil, who directs National Strategies and Plans for Military Veterans, Wounded Warriors and Military Families within the White House, was joined by (left to right) Blinded Veterans Association’s Mike O’Rourke and Tom Zampieri, Ph.D., the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s Rebecca Hyder, and NAEVR’s James Jorkasky
Second right: Dennis O’Neil, who directs National Strategies and Plans for Military Veterans, Wounded Warriors and Military Families within the White House, was joined by (left to right) Blinded Veterans Association’s Mike O’Rourke and Tom Zampieri, Ph.D., the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s Rebecca Hyder, and NAEVR’s James Jorkasky
On February 17, NAEVR was joined by Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) and the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) in meeting with White House staff engaged in outreach efforts to military families through the Wounded Warriors Project. Although NAEVR has primarily met with Congressional appropriators in seeking $10 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 Vision Trauma Research Program (VTRP) funding, the vision community wants to ensure that the Obama administration is fully apprised of the long-term implications from military eye injuries on veterans and their families.

In the discussion, NAEVR emphasized military eye injury data from its position paper and the recently released Independent Budget of recommendations for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Department of Defense (DOD) funding made by Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) and Military Service Organizations (MSOs). For example, the VA estimates that 46,000 enrolled Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) veterans have been diagnosed with eye conditions, while 75 percent of all Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) patients—about 200,000—experience short- or long-term visual disorders including double vision, sensitivity to light, inability to read print, and other cognitive impairments.

NAEVR noted that research to effectively treat acute eye damage can have long-term implications for an individual’s vision health, productivity, and quality of life for the remainder of military service and into civilian life. In that regard, NAEVR indicated that it has contracted with economist Kevin Frick, Ph.D. (Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health) to estimate the cost of military blindness. NAEVR anticipates the release of those data in the March timeframe and will share those with the administration and Congress.