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VA recognizes optometry’s essential role in caring for wounded warriors at Walter Reed meeting

September 12, 2012

From left, Executive Director of the Defense Department/ Veterans Affairs Department Vision Center of Excellence Col. Donald Gagliano, M.D., AOA President Ron Hopping, O.D., MPH, and Maj. Jeffrey Autrey, O.D., meet to discuss advances in caring for veterans.

AOA President Ron Hopping, O.D., MPH, and Maj. Jeffrey Autrey, O.D., vice president of the Armed Forces Optometric Society (AFOS), visited Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., June 25 to discuss recent advances in caring for wounded warriors with Col. Donald Gagliano, M.D., executive director of the Defense Department/ Veterans Affairs (VA) Department Vision Center of Excellence (VCE).

To help fully coordinate the efforts of the military and veterans’ health systems in providing the full range of eye health and vision care to wounded servicemen and women, then-Rep. John Boozman, O.D., (now a U.S. senator from Arkansas) led the successful 2008 effort to establish the VCE to coordinate improved eye health and vision care, assess the prevalence of eye injuries, and track wounded warriors’ care and rehabilitation.

Military health officials have estimated that up to 22 percent of all U.S. casualties between 2002 and 2010 have suffered eye injuries or trauma and that upward of 75 percent of service members suffering traumatic brain injury (TBI) have associated vision dysfunction.

Earlier this year, the VCE moved into its new facility at the nation’s flagship military hospital and is preparing a report to Congress. On behalf of hundreds of dedicated military, VA and civilian optometrists involved in wounded warrior care, Dr. Hopping accepted a commemorative VCE “challenge coin” presented by Col. Gagliano.

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