Injuries in the line of duty are to be expected. According to the Defense Centers for Public Health, up to 50% of military personnel suffer one or more injuries each year—and by the time soldiers graduate to be veterans, those injuries are likely to have accumulated. One such injury servicemen often face is ocular damage, which impairs their ability to see.
If you’re a veteran who experiences eye impairments due to your work, it is the government’s utmost priority to ensure your well-being, and there are programs specifically aimed at giving you the care you require. The following article is an overview of eye conditions you are vulnerable to and how to care for your eyes via veteran support.
Eye conditions common among veterans
Traumatic brain injury
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is caused by a heavy object, such as a piece of debris, striking you on the head. Veterans are often vulnerable to TBIs when exposed to explosions. Aside from the neurological complications that might come with this trauma, TBI can cause blurry vision and sensitivity to light.
Glaucoma is a group of diseases that damages the optic nerve. Among these, open-angle glaucoma occurs most frequently. This is a condition caused by the fluid in front of the eyes building up. This results in harmful, painful pressure and a potential loss of eyesight. While the most common risk factor for glaucoma is family history, injuries to the eye—which is always a possibility in military work—are also a common cause.
Age-related macular degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the gradual deterioration of the central part of the retina—the macula—which controls your detailed vision. It is the leading loss of vision loss in adults over 50. Since it usually manifests later in life, it can be difficult to establish a direct connection to an in-service event or injury. However, macular degeneration can fall into the secondary service connection category—when an injury or condition attained during service results in consequent harm. Veterans often end up with elevated blood pressure and high cholesterol, which are factors that lead to AMD.
Eye screenings for veterans
Veterans are eligible for free routine eye exams. You’re highly encouraged to take full advantage of this at least once a year to prevent eye-deteriorating ailments and facilitate the treatment of existing conditions. These screenings are held in the office of your Veteran Affairs (VA) primary care provider but also remotely involves a more extensive network of technicians and eye care specialists. If an eye disease is detected, the eye specialist can contact you via phone or virtual visit to discuss your treatment in greater detail.
Eye care treatment options available to veterans
As a veteran, you’re eligible for free or discounted eye treatments, including those covering the costs of eyeglasses. Simply clear your eligibility with your nearest VA Medical Center, and you can begin examining the numerous retailers that offer markdowns for veterans. LensCrafters, for instance, allows you to buy glasses at reduced prices if your insurance plan covers eye care. Meanwhile, Eyebuydirect directly provides a veteran discount alongside its usual referral and loyalty programs. To avail of this discount, use the code “VALOR” when purchasing your glasses. There are also dedicated programs like SpecsforVets that allow you to get glasses for cheaper.
Advanced vision care and rehab
For veterans declared legally blind, the Department of Veterans Affairs provides comprehensive vision rehabilitation with integrated health benefits. This includes a health and benefits review by the VA Visual Impairments Services Team to create a personalized plan, training to adjust to blindness, improvements, and structural alterations to your home, and electronic and mechanical aids. In addition, veterans can go to blind rehabilitation centers to learn skills for independent living as well as receive appropriate counseling and therapy.
The US government recognizes that injuries procured during service should be compensated and given the best possible treatment. As a veteran, leverage this and get the care your eyes need.
As a veteran, you might also benefit from alternative therapies aimed at your well-being, such as acupuncture. Head to our Michigan Massage Wellness article on acupuncture if you want to know more.