Skip to main content

Military Health System

VCE examines low vision with detection and care

Image of military health personnel wearing a mask and performing an eye exam. Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Jordan Belthrop (right) administers an eye exam on Navy Hospitalman Caleb Newbill at the Naval Support Activity Souda Bay’s, Branch Health Clinic on the island of Crete, Greece in Aug. 2020. (U.S. Navy photo by Joel Diller)

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Mobile Apps | Medical Research and Development | | Centers of Excellence | Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention

“There are many types of low vision, ranging from small to life-changing issues,” explained Dr. David Eliason, associate chief of the Department of Defense/Department of Veterans Affairs’ Vision Center of Excellence.

With February designated as Low Vision Awareness Month, Eliason, the VCE and other eye specialists within the Defense Health Agency are focused on the variety of causes and cases of low vision within the military.

“People also become low vision for a variety of reasons,” said Eliason. “Because needs and treatments are as varied as the cases, the DOD is in the unique position of having the greatest variety of low vision patients compared with other medical systems.”

Causes of low vision range from hereditary to environmental factors, but what exactly is “low vision?”

“A broad definition of ‘low vision,’ in the past, may have been anyone with vision worse than a particular level. For example, they don’t see any better than 20/70 or 20/80 in both eyes,” said Eliason. “However, most low vision specialists prefer a practical approach to defining low vision as simply a loss of vision that has resulted in a decrease in desired visual function or ability for that person.”

This usually means a loss of visual function in both eyes, added Eliason.

“We tend to be able to perform fairly well if we lose vision in just one eye, but still have normal vision in the other eye,” Eliason said.

Low vision, said Eliason, disproportionately affects older populations.

“The impacts of low vision can be felt across the patient spectrum within the DOD, from active-duty service members to retirees and dependents,” said Eliason. “Naturally, though, the majority of low vision patients are dependents and retirees simply because the demographics of the active-duty population is going to put them within the healthiest groups of the general population. That’s also not factoring in the fact that they are remaining on active duty because they obviously don’t have a disability that is limiting their function.”

But the number of service members dealing with low vision is significant. Many times, individuals find themselves continuing to serve in some capacity, even as they are separating or retiring because of low vision.

“The process may be long enough that their vision loss requires attention prior to their separation,” Eliason said. “Even though they may be in the process of leaving the DOD, that doesn’t mean that things can be put off or not addressed until they separate.”

In other cases, he said, low vision may be just one of many combat-related injuries that a patient is dealing with.

Eliason said a plan should be in place for their post-separation eyecare, whether that be with the Department of Veterans Affairs or out in the community.

Military personnel wearing a mask performing an eye exam
Air Force Airman 1st Class Hannah Schaeffer (right) performs an eye exam on fellow 911th Aeromedical Staging Squadron Medical Technician Air Force Airman 1st Class Alexis Workman at the Pittsburgh International Airport Air Reserve Station in Pennsylvania in Dec. 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman James Fritz)

“The VCE [Vision Center of Excellence] was designed to evaluate the continuum of care that a DOD patient would undergo with a significant eye injury, starting at prevention and going all the way through to detection, diagnosis, mitigation, and treatment of an eye injury and what results afterward, including vision rehabilitation,” Eliason said.

Part of the mission of the VCE is also to bridge the gap between active-duty and post active-duty vision care, specifically with the VA.

VCE connects the DOD and the VA because the DOD does not traditionally offer long-term rehabilitation.

“It’s understandable why,” Eliason said. The priority of the DOD is the readiness of its fighting force, and the medical force that supports that.”

Additionally, Eliason said, in cases where low vision may be caused by damage from hazards encountered as part of one’s job, safety and prevention are key.

“Prevention measures are command- and occupation-specific,” said Eliason. “But for cases that are based on hereditary factors, some cases aren’t preventable or predictable and may surface in younger service members unannounced. Our mission is to be looking at what factors lead to eye injuries, as well as short-term and long-term impacts of vision injuries and vision rehabilitation.”

With the VA taking on responsibilities for rehabilitation, it allows military medical treatment facilities to focus on more traditional aspects of vision care like routine care, testing, and surgeries.

“The VA has a large, nationwide, robust vision rehabilitation program, and a memorandum of understanding is in place that allows the VA to see active-duty personnel for vision rehabilitation,” said Eliason. “That gives the DOD a chance to focus on other aspects of vision care.”

As a one of several centers of excellence within of the Defense Health Agency, the VCE leads and advocates for programs and initiatives with the inter-related goals of improving vision health, optimizing readiness, and enhancing the quality of life for service members and veterans. VCE promotes collaboration, facilitates integration, and serves as an advocate for vision across the DOD and VA healthcare systems. VCE also collaborates with other federal health care organizations, academia, and private sector organizations.

You also may be interested in...

TRICARE Mental Health

Video
5/24/2018
TRICARE Mental Health

Watch this video to learn more about the mental health care benefits TRICARE provides

Recommended Content:

Patriot Warrior 2017 - Moulage

Video
10/5/2017
Patriot Warrior 2017 - Moulage

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Rose Jane Schoenwandt, 349th Aeromedical Staging Squadron, Travis Air Force Base, California, and Staff Sgt. Caleb Boles, 445th Aeromedical Staging Squadron, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, discuss the importance of moulage during Patriot Warrior.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support

USNS Mercy: Deployable Medical Center

Video
4/11/2017
USNS Mercy: Deployable Medical Center

U.S. Navy Sailors and Military Sealift Command civilian mariners explain the mission of the USNS Mercy and its capabilities.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Health Care Administration & Operations

Trauma Innovations

Video
3/23/2017
Trauma Innovations

Hemorrhage is responsible for 91.5 percent of potentially survivable battlefield deaths. From 2001 to 2011, an estimated 24 percent of combat deaths occurred before patients reached a treatment facility; the major cause of death was blood loss. Battlefield trauma innovations like the occlusion balloon catheter and freeze-dried plasma will enhance the Joint Forces' current capabilities.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | French Freeze-Dried Plasma Use in the DOD

Air Force Nurse Key Asset to Army Medevac

Video
3/22/2017
Air Force Nurse Key Asset to Army Medevac

U.S. Air Force Maj. Sandra Nestor, tactical critical care evacuation team nurse, is assigned to the 3rd Platoon, C Company, 2-149 General Support Aviation Battalion Medevac. Medevac teams specialize in moving and treating U.S. and coalition forces who are injured and risk dying without immediate emergency care.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support

Ophthalmology Medical Readiness Training Exercise

Video
3/7/2017
Ophthalmology Medical Readiness Training Exercise

The Ophthalmology Medical Readiness Training Exercise (MEDRETE) team is comprised of 26 U.S. military personnel and several host nation physicians who have partnered together to train medical teams in preparation for deployment. During the MEDRETE, the teams are able to improve the eyesight of more than 250 Panamanian patients during the two-week training exercise. The goal is to provide medical care that benefits the people of Panama, while building relationships with the accompanying Panamanian medical professionals.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support |

Any clime and place: Sailors bring hospital knowledge to the field

Video
5/19/2016
Any clime and place: Sailors bring hospital knowledge to the field

Sailors with 2nd Medical Battalion got out of their comfort zone and conducted a week-long training exercise known as a Health Service Augmentation Program at Camp Lejeune, N.C., April 18-22, 2016.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support

Racing to save lives at Steel Knight

Video
12/28/2015
Racing to save lives at Steel Knight

Corpsmen and Marines rehearsed life-saving skills during Exercise Steel Knight’s mass casualty drill, Dec. 12, 2015. Steel Knight provides tough, realistic training for the Marines and sailors of 1st Marine Division.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support

TBI Awareness: Memorial Box

Video
3/27/2015
TBI Awareness: Memorial Box

US Army Sgt Fox explains how his memorial box has helped him heal and remember meaningful events and people in his life.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence |

Dr. Heechin Chae on The Mystery of the Brain

Video
3/23/2015
Dr. Heechin Chae on The Mystery of the Brain

Traumatic brain injury expert, Dr. Heechin Chae speaks on the mystery of the brain.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence |
<< < 1 2 > >> 
Showing results 16 - 25 Page 2 of 2
Refine your search
Last Updated: December 28, 2022
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery