Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

VCE examines low vision with detection and care

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 | Health Tools | Medical Research and Development | Vision Loss | 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...

Improving health outcomes, readiness is aim of new grant funding

Article
2/18/2021
Military health personnel wearing a mask giving a shot to a patient

DHA offers funding grants for high-value research that supports better care, better health, and increased readiness, with lower costs.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness

Total Force Fitness Reintroduction

Video
2/17/2021
DHA Seal

The Military Health System is reintroducing Total Force Fitness. The Total Force Fitness concept focuses on a service member’s entire health throughout their career, connecting eight dimensions of fitness to optimize health, performance, and readiness holistically.

Recommended Content:

Physical Fitness | Environmental Fitness | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Nutritional Fitness | Spiritual Fitness | Psychological Fitness | Social Fitness | Financial Fitness | Health Tools

DOD initiatives address the sexual health of our military

Article
2/17/2021
Image of a bacterium

STIs are important to identify and treat because they can impact service members’ health and readiness, as well as their ability to perform their duties.

Recommended Content:

Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch | Health Readiness | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Men's Health | Women's Health

WRNMMC’s participation in APOLLO program furthers cancer research

Article
2/4/2021
Two groups of vials on a table

The MCC serves as the preeminent cancer research and treatment facility within the Department of Defense.

Recommended Content:

Research and Innovation | Health Readiness

MSMR Vol. 28 No. 02 - February 2021

Report
2/1/2021

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Update: Malaria, U.S. Armed Forces, 2020; Historical perspective: The evolution of post-exposure prophylaxis for vivax malaria since the Korean War; Surveillance for vector-borne diseases among active and reserve component service members, U.S. Armed Forces, 2016–2020.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health

Weed Army Community Hospital staffers show off their skills

Article
1/29/2021
Medical personnel, wearing a mask, practicing skills on a dummy

Hospital staff continued to take COVID-19 precautions during the event to ensure a safe learning environment.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Readiness Capabilities

RHC-Europe Soldiers compete for Army Best Medic title

Article
1/21/2021
Soldiers in the snow, pulling a sled of materials

Army Sgt. Metcalf and Spc. Galdamez prepare to compete in the 2021 Command Sgt. Maj. Jack L. Clark Jr. U.S. Army Best Medic Competition later in the month at Fort Gordon, Georgia.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Readiness Capabilities

NH Guantanamo Bay Lt. named as Subspecialty Officer of the Year

Article
1/14/2021
Navy Lt. Ara Gutierrez, Naval Readiness and Training Command Guantanamo Bay, was selected Navy Medicine’s Medical Technology Subspecialty Junior Officer of the Year for 2020.

Gutierrez said she was genuinely surprised and honored to represent medicine’s "hidden profession.”

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness

MHS refractive surgery experts discuss warfighter readiness

Article
1/13/2021
Image of Mr. McCaffery looking at a monitor with an eye on it

Refractive surgery is any surgery that eliminates the need for glasses or contact lenses.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Vision Loss | Readiness Capabilities

DOD Launches “My MilLife Guide” Text Message Program to Boost Wellness

Article
1/11/2021
The new My MilLife Guide program supports the wellness of the military community.

DoD has launched My MilLife Guide, a new program that sends text messages designed to help the military community boost overall wellness while navigating stresses related to COVID-19.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Public Health | Total Force Fitness | Health Readiness

MSMR Vol. 28 No. 01 - January 2021

Report
1/1/2021

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Attrition rates and incidence of mental health disorders in an attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) cohort, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2014–2018; The prevalence of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and ADHD medication treatment in active component service members, U.S. Armed Forces, 2014–2018; Exertional rhabdomyolysis and sickle cell trait status in the U.S. Air Force, January 2009–December 2018.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health

Health literacy focuses on empowering patients to engage in their care

Article
12/30/2020
Medical personnel, wearing a mask, inserting an IV into a patient

How patient-doctor communication improves the health care experience.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness

AFHSD’s GEIS collect data worldwide to support force protection

Article
12/22/2020
Medical personnel scanning forehead of soldier with thermometer

AFHSD/GEIS continue work with partners across the globe in their efforts to combat COVID-19 and protect military readiness.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health | Coronavirus | Biological Surveillance Tools | Global Health Engagement | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit

Deputy defense secretary stresses team approach in battling COVID

Article
12/10/2020
Soldier wearing mask, standing at computer monitors in an office building

The Military Health System has played an important role implementing the National Defense Strategy, Norquist said.

Recommended Content:

Military Health System Transformation | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Health Readiness | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit

USAMRIID scientist recognized by French for distinguished service

Article
12/4/2020
Two military officers on stage; one handing the other a certificate

Kugelman...identified genetic markers of persistence of the Chikungunya virus.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Research and Innovation | Technology
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 61 - 75 Page 5 of 41

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.