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AOA has long history of military, federal service advocacy

September 12, 2012

For four decades, the AOA has stood alone against organized medicine’s repeated efforts to impose limits and assert control over military and federal service optometrists and how they practice, including the vicious and misleading national lobbying and public relations campaign launched in 2009 to smear Veterans Affairs (VA) optometrists and pass legislation expanding the ophthalmology service.

By never hesitating to take on entrenched and misinformed bureaucrats and the armies of medical lobbyists in Washington, D.C., the AOA has expanded opportunities for optometrists in federal agencies and federal programs and gained a seat at the table for optometry whenever and wherever health care policy decisions are made.

In addition, by outworking MDs, their lobbyists and even MD members of Congress on Capitol Hill and in federal agencies, the AOA has led successful efforts to defeat medicine’s attacks and derailed anti-optometry bills and proposals.

Moreover, since the 1970s, there have been dozens and dozens of laws enacted that have advanced, expanded and strengthened uniformed and federal service optometry.

Here are some key highlights of the AOA’s successful advocacy efforts:

  • 2012 After a meeting between Sen. John Boozman, O.D., (R-Ark.) and VA Secretary Shinseki, VA officials inform the AOA that the national program director for optometry will be considered a full-time position permanently.
  • 2010-2011 Congress gives priority fast-track approval and the president signs legislation to name the new VA Blind Rehabilitation Center in Long Beach, Calif., for Rob Soltes, O.D., the first military optometrist killed in action.
  • 2009-2011 Rear Adm. Michael Mittelman, O.D., appointed as Deputy Surgeon General for the Navy, becoming the highest-ranking optometrist in federal service. Earlier advocacy activity in securing flag rank for an optometry officer assisted in recognition of optometrists as doctors/administrators.
  • VA issues revised eye care guidelines reaffirming optometry’s status in the VA and setting out a review process assuring full participation by ODs.
  • VA officials reject ophthalmology’s attacks on VA optometry and directly inform American Academy of Ophthalmology leaders that “ophthalmology will not control optometry in the VA.”
  • 2007-2009 Establishment of the Department of Defense (DoD)/ VA Vision Center of Excellence
  • 2005-2007 Expansion of VA low-vision optometry specialists and VICTORS
  • 2003-2004 Congress directs Navy to implement Retention Special Pay for Navy optometrists.
  • 2001-2002 Increase in the amount of Retention Special Pay available to optometry officers
  • 1999-2000 Extension of provisions of Regular Special Pay, Retention Special Pay and Board-Certified Special Pay for military and Public Health Service (PHS) optometry officers.
  • 1997-1998 Authority to repay education loans extended in law to commissioned optometry officers.
  • 1995-1996 Retention Special Pay and Board-Certified Special Pay awarded to PHS Commissioned Corps optometry officers. Determination of Constructive Service Credit for Reserve optometry officers.
  • 1993-1994 Congress directs expansion in VA Optometry Service.
  • 1991-1992 Eye care study supports separate services for optometry. Ophthal-mology objects and loses. Congress directs DoD to continue separate services for Army, Navy and Air Force.
  • 1989-1990 Separate field services test for Army, Navy and Air Force. Retention Special Pay, Regular Special Pay and Board-Certified Special Pay created for military optometrists (PHS Commissioned Corps not included).
  • 1989-1990 Navy Medical Service Corps (Reserve) Flag Rank created by congressional action. Rear Adm. David Sullins, O.D., is the first flag-rank optometrist.
  • 1987-1988 Congress instructs Army trial test of administratively separate field services for optometry. Indian Health Services scholarship for optometry. “Eye and vision care” placed in law at the top of the priority list in Title II of the Indian Health Care Amendments legislation.

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