Skip to main content

Military Health System

Clear Your Browser Cache

This website has recently undergone changes. Users finding unexpected concerns may care to clear their browser's cache to ensure a seamless experience.

Vision Center of Excellence Sponsoring Landmark Eye Health Study

Image of Military personnel in eye exam. U.S. Air Force Capt. Dominic Rentz, optometrist with the 15th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron, examines the eyes of U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Denise Guaio-Corpuz, 15th Wing Public Affairs chief, during a routine eye exam at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. (Photo by Airman 1st Class Makensie Cooper)

Vision health is critical to force readiness, so much so that eye problems can cut a military career short. A recently launched study could lead to better tracking of eye health over a service member’s career to prevent future eye conditions.

The Defense Health Agency’s Vision Center of Excellence is working with the RAND Army Research Division on a one-year study to determine whether a “comprehensive baseline military eye examination requirement should be established across the services to fill gaps in information and improve warfighter vision health,” VCE said.

The study began in July 2022 and is expected to be completed next autumn with a peer-reviewed report due then.

“Today’s modern warfighter has to be so technical in their visual skills, that we think there should be more done to follow eye health and ocular conditions,” said Dr. Michael Pattison, VCE’s program manager of readiness and operations optometry.

Currently, service members get an eye exam at their enlistment physical. However, according to Pattison, the RAND study is looking to determine the value of requiring service members to also receive a comprehensive eye exam, including a full ocular health assessment and a manifest refraction to see if visual correction is necessary. The latter procedure, which measures the degree to which light bends as it passes through the cornea and lens on to the back of the eye, is extremely important in determining if someone has a serious eye disease.

“My biggest issue is if I've got someone who's got a rifle in their hands, do I want that person to see ‘good enough’? Or, do I want them to see to the best of their ability?” Pattison said.

Pattison also noted that expanding current guidelines for routine eye care could be beneficial to determine if there has been a change from the initial eye exam due to combat-related or non-battle injuries and diseases, including sports-related and other off-duty ocular injuries.

Additionally, when service members separate from the military or retire, there is no routine method to determine whether an eye disorder has a service-related connection, he added.

This can prove to be a challenge for the Department of Veterans Affairs when it comes to caring for the vision of veterans, Pattison pointed out.

Having both a beginning point and an endpoint for eye health and vision could help resolve this gap in information, he said.

Vision Correction Surgery

The long-term results of vision correction surgery are another variable where comprehensive data would be useful, Pattison suggested.

Laser eye correction surgery is one way a service member can optimize their vision. “What it's not doing is catching the other people who are ‘getting by,’” Pattison said.

The RAND survey may determine if there should be periodic monitoring of those vision-corrected service members as well, he suggested.

Current Standards

Those seeking to serve in the military have their vision tested during their enlistment physical and receive eyeglasses if they need them. They must be able to see 20/40 or better using both eyes together at a distance.

Those who are deployed are fitted with better-than-ballistics-grade military combat eye protection and gas mask inserts that match their prescriptions. All deployed service members use Military Combat Eye Protection-approved lenses that are found on the Authorized Protective Eyewear List, known as APEL. MCEP standards are set by the Tri-Service Vision and Conservation Program.

During required periodic health assessments, medical personnel are required to ask if the service member has had a change in vision that:

  • impacts daily performance
  • resulted in being on any medical profile (noting functional limitations) or limited duty

Additionally, service members are asked if they wear corrective lenses, and, if so, how many pairs of glasses they have, whether they have prescription gas mask inserts, and are they current with their service-specific vision and eyewear standards.

“The RAND study will help us connect all the data for military vision health and readiness status to build a methodology that will better identify whether the strategies we have for the efficacy of eye care are working,” Pattison said.

You also may be interested in...

Article Around MHS
Dec 4, 2023

Fort Campbell Soldiers' Innovation Helps Extremities Rehab for Injured Service Members

Commanding General, U.S. Army Medical Readiness Command, East, and Director, Defense Health Network East U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Lance Raney tests a simulated M-4 rifle charging handle that attaches to a strength-training machine to simulate real-life tasks for soldiers recovering from traumatic hand and upper extremity injuries. (Photo by Maria Christina Yager/Blanchfield Army Community Hospital)

A simulated M-4 rifle charging handle fashioned by an occupational therapy team at Blanchfield Army Community Hospital and refined by Fort Campbell’s EagleWerx Applied Tactical Innovation Center may gain broader use in other military hospitals and clinics after a senior Defense Health Agency official saw it demonstrated.

Article Around MHS
Oct 4, 2023

Stemming the Tide: Navy Medicine and the Egyptian Cholera Epidemic of 1947

Over three months, cholera spread across 2,270 towns and villages in Egypt killing over half of its victims. According to one estimate over 20,000 Egyptians died of cholera. (Graphic by Andre Sobocinski)

On September 21, 1947, a man was admitted to the Al-Qurayn (El Korein) Hospital in Egypt vomiting profusely and suffering severe diarrhea. Within hours, he was dead. The attending physician on duty first suspected food poisoning before 11 additional patients were admitted with identical symptoms. Their diagnosis was cholera, a deadly bacterial disease ...

Article Around MHS
Aug 24, 2023

Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Performs First Robotic Bronchoscopy Within the Defense Health Agency

Walter Reed’s Interventional Pulmonology team gears up for first Robotic Bronchoscopy within the Defense Health Agency. Retired U.S. Navy Capt. Robert F. Browning (1st row 4th from left) and U.S. Navy Capt. Sean McKay (1st row 5th from left). (Photo: James Black)

Walter Reed performed the first robotic bronchoscopy procedure in the Defense Health Agency. Using the robotic bronchoscope to augment our current cutting edge cone beam CT Bronchoscopy program, Walter Reed now offers state of the art services in precision lung biopsy and early lung cancer diagnosis previously unavailable within the DHA.

Article Around MHS
Aug 23, 2023

Forward Care for the Warfighter: U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command Talks Battlefield Countermeasures at MHSRS

Soldiers with the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command perform a battlefield care scenario during the MRDC 2023 Best Squad Competition at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia, on April 11, 2023.  (Photo: Danae Johnson)

With time spent on the battlefield being an increasing reality, products to help deliver immediate prolonged care to the Warfighter are now more important than ever. A concept known well by Maj. Zachary Booms, an emergency medicine physician at the Combat Casualty Care Research Team at the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command's Institute ...

Article Around MHS
Aug 23, 2023

Researchers Say 'Warfighters Must Train like They Fight,' Emphasizing Mental Resilience During MHSRS

Susannah Knust, a research psychologist at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, speaks during a 2023 Military Health System Research Symposium session on Warfighter Operational Resilience on August 17, 2023. (Photo credit: Danae Johnson, USAMRDC Public Affairs)

Nearly all military physical and field training exercises can enhance mental toughness and physical endurance, which researchers at the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command believe can prepare Warfighters for the future, they explained during a session on the final day of the 2023 Military Health System Research Symposium on August 17, ...

Article Around MHS
Aug 23, 2023

MHSRS 2023 Kicks Off with Powerful Message: Medical Readiness for the Future Fight

Team members from the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command's Medical Material Development Activity - Broad Spectrum Snakebite Antidote (BSSA) program, receive the Military Health System Research Symposium 2023 Outstanding Research Accomplishment award in team/program management in Kissimmee, Florida on August 14, 2023.  (Photo: Danae Johnson)

Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Dr. Lester Martinez-López kicked off the 2023 Military Health System Research Symposium with a keynote speech on the morning of August 14, delivering powerful words to the more than 4,000 people attending the event. Weaving his heartfelt sentiments into an overall call for action, Martinez put the ...

Article Around MHS
Jul 13, 2023

Entomologist Augments Warfighter Research Across Indo Pacific Region

U.S. Navy Lt. Thomas McGlynn, a medical entomologist at the Navy Entomology Center of Excellence, poses for a photo with Malaysian commissioned and noncommissioned officers, Malaysian public health officials, and researchers from the University of Malaysia Sabah during their training in Johor Bahru, Malaysia on Feb. 9. (Photo: U.S. Navy Lt. Nicholas Johnston)

Naval Medical Research Unit 2 was established during World War II in Guam to conduct applied research in support of force health protection and has operated intermittently since 1955. Currently, NAMRU-2 is located in Singapore and acts as the center of a hub-and-spoke research model in multiple southeastern Asian countries such as Vietnam, Thailand, ...

Article Around MHS
Jul 7, 2023

Fate Brings Accident Victim to Brooke Amy Medical Center for Groundbreaking Procedure

Madisyn Cardenas, center, is pictured with her family after a graduation ceremony for her sister Larissa Sanchez at Texas A&M University in Kingsville, Texas, on May 12. From left, dad Stephen Cardenas, brother Stevie Cardenas, sister Larissa Sanchez, Madisyn Cardenas, mother Jennifer Cardenas, sister Natalie Villarreal. Cardenas was severely injured in a roadside accident on Oct. 5, 2022 and brought to Brooke Army Medical Center for a groundbreaking procedure. (Photo Courtesy Department of Defense)

After being struck by a car, Madisyn Cardenas had a torn aorta, broken hip, pinky finger, pelvis, and clavicle; lacerated tongue; separated abdomen; kidney lacerations; colon tear; brain hematoma; and multiple cuts, bruises, and puncture wounds. “The scariest of all was a tear in my aorta that went undetected until my arrival at Brooke Army Medical ...

Refine your search
Last Updated: July 11, 2023
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery