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Rep. Boozman, AOA Officials Tour Military Eye Care Facilities at Walter Reed Army Medical Center

AOA Seeks to Aid America's Wounded Warriors Facing Combat-Related Eye

Trauma and Vision Damage Associated with Traumatic Brain Injury

WASHINGTON, May 20 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Eye wounds and combat-related vision loss have been among the most common types of injury for America's soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. On May 19, 2008 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., U.S. Rep. John Boozman, O.D. (R-AR), incoming American Optometric Association (AOA) President Peter H. Kehoe, O.D, and other nationally prominent doctors of optometry met with Department of Defense (DoD) health officials to discuss the current state of military eye and vision care for America's wounded warriors facing combat-related eye trauma and vision damage associated with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

Since 2002, nearly 1,350 courageous American military personnel have suffered combat eye trauma and were evacuated from overseas military operations. An increase in road-side bomb and improvised explosive device (IED) attacks on American troops has resulted in TBI quickly becoming known as the "signature injury" among soldiers returning from the front-lines of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Rep. Boozman, the AOA is committed to a long-term leadership role in helping to ensure that American military service personnel wounded in U.S. conflicts receive the highest quality and most advanced eye and vision care.

Highly attuned to this growing problem, Rep. Boozman, a senior member of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, sponsored the Military Eye Trauma Treatment Act, a part of legislation approved by Congress and signed into law on January 28, 2008 (Public Law 110-181). The law establishes a national Center of Excellence dedicated to providing military and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) eye doctors and eye health teams with the best information on the diagnosis, treatment and follow-up for each serious eye injury received by any member of the armed forces while serving on active duty. The new law also calls for a patient-centered joint initiative to respond to visual dysfunction related to TBI between DoD and VA health officials and facilities.

"Traumatic Brain Injury has become the hallmark injury among America's wounded warriors returning home from the front-lines of our current conflicts," said Rep. Boozman. "The treatment of TBI, and the vision issues deriving from it, is important work that the DoD and the VA should work together and provide leadership on. Genuine coordination between the two is vital to ensuring effective treatment for our men and women who wear, and who have worn, the uniform, including those that have suffered serious eye injuries," Rep. Boozman added.

By some estimates, more than half of all service personnel wounded as a result of blast exposure in Iraq have sustained a TBI, although the overall incidence of TBI in all wounded soldiers remains to be determined. In previous wars when blast exposure was thought to be a less common cause of survivable injury, including Korea and Vietnam, overall TBI rates in injured soldiers have been estimated at about 20 percent or less.

According to the VA, more than 70 percent of service members treated for TBI at their Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center in Palo Alto, CA have developed vision dysfunction, while it has been reported in the past that over half of those treated for TBI at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center have developed vision-related complications. TBI is a type of severe blast injury in which the eyes do not necessarily suffer cuts or contusions but often severe brain concussion affects nerve pathways related to sight.

The AOA, the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) and the National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (NAEVR) strongly supported the enactment of Rep. Boozman's bill, and urged congressional leaders to make it a top priority last year. Since its enactment, these organizations, working with Rep. Boozman, have been continually monitoring its implementation.

"Our wounded warriors deserve the very best care and optometry is committed to helping Congress and defense and veterans health officials make certain they get it," said Dr. Kehoe, president-elect of the AOA. "The AOA worked to help pass Rep. Boozman's Military Eye Trauma Treatment Act and now we want to see it fully implemented. As we do, we will share the profession's experience and know-how with the dedicated doctors and staff at Walter Reed AMC and other military and VA health facilities."

Walter Reed Army Medical Center doctors of optometry, Lt. Col. Cameron Van Roekel, O.D, Aaron Tarbett, O.D. and Navjit Sanghera, O.D. led Congressman Boozman, the AOA leadership and representatives from the Armed Forces Optometric Society (AFOS), the BVA and NAEVR through the Walter Reed Optometry Ward, the Military Advanced Training Center, the outpatient Warrior Clinic and along the path of care for patients with TBI.

Those who participated in the event included: Rep. John Boozman, O.D. (R-AR); Peter Kehoe, O.D., AOA President-Elect; Michael Jones, O.D., AOA Executive Director; Barry Barresi, O.D., Ph. D., AOA Executive Director-designate; and Jeff Weaver, O.D., AOA director of Clinical Care Group.

In addition, AOA volunteers in attendance included: Lt. Col. Donovan Green, O.D., U.S. Army; AOA Federal Relations Committee; Francis McVeigh, O.D., Col. U.S. Army (Ret); AOA Health Information Technology and Telemedicine Project Team.

AOA special guests were: Steve Sem O.D., Col. U.S. Air Force (Ret.); executive director, Armed Forces Optometric Society; Tom Zampieri, Ph.D. Director of Government Relations, Blinded Veterans Association (BVA); and James Jorkasky, Executive Director, National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (NAEVR).

About the American Optometric Association (AOA)

The American Optometric Association represents more than 34,000 doctors of optometry, optometry students and paraoptometric assistants and technicians. Optometrists serve patients in nearly 6,500 communities across the country, and in 3,500 of those communities are the only eye doctors.

American Optometric Association doctors of optometry are highly qualified, trained doctors on the frontline of eye and vision care who examine, diagnose, treat and manage diseases and disorders of the eye. In addition to providing eye and vision care, optometrists play a major role in a patient's overall health and well-being by detecting systemic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. Doctors of optometry have the skills and training to provide more than two-thirds of all primary eye care in the United States.

Prior to optometry school, optometrists undergo three to four years of undergraduate study that typically culminates in a Bachelor of Science degree in a field such as biology or chemistry. Optometry school consists of four years of post-graduate, doctoral study concentrating on both the eye and systemic health. In addition to their formal training, doctors of optometry must undergo annual continuing education to stay current on the latest standards of care. For more information, visit

Media Contact:

Matt Willette


SOURCE American Optometric Association
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