Dedicated to Improving the Lives of Blind and Visually Impaired People

Veterans, Vision Loss, and Rehabilitation

Today, as we celebrate Veterans Day and thank all who have served in the armed forces for their contributions, we also acknowledge the incidence of vision loss in this population. In last week’s Bulletin, we recognized the services available to members of the military who are blind or have low vision, past and present through the articles Recognizing Veterans Day. In some cases, vision impairment has taken place during active duty; while for other service members, loss of vision occurs later in life. The following pieces provide some insights about vision loss, rehabilitation, and other items of note related to military service.

The Importance of Sports for Blind Veterans, and Vice Versa

by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern

While Veterans Day is a time to honor and appreciate our veterans’ service to our country, it is also a time to consider how programs for veterans are beneficial to those with disabilities who have not served. A prime example of this has been the creation and adaptation of various sports to be playable by those with diverse disabilities. Adaptive sports for veterans were the primary impetus for the formation of events like the Paralympic Games, as well as the spread of many sports well-loved in the vision loss community. Indeed, the game of goalball, the first sport to be designed specifically for those with vision impairments, was first invented in Austria and Germany as a rehabilitation tool for blinded World War II veterans. Those countries’ roles in that war notwithstanding, we can acknowledge that goalball is one of the most famous blind sports. In the United States, the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) lists many resources for rehabilitation, athletic and otherwise, as does a similar page from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). In any case, not only should we thank our veterans for their service, but the blind community is also indebted to them for some of our favorite pastimes.

Glaucoma: A Leading Cause of Vision Loss Among Veterans

Among veterans over the age of 60, glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness. Keeping that in mind, as noted in an article in, U.S. Veterans Magazine, the “VA (Veterans Administration) is at the forefront of vision research and glaucoma is one of its top priorities.” One current study is aimed at predicting the “Development and Progression of Glaucoma.” Sponsored by the VA Rehabilitation, Research, and Development Division, this project builds on the recent discovery that glaucoma can impact the “development of a cellular immune response that can further reduce vision.”  Investigators are checking if the reaction of a blood sample can predict future vision loss and its impact on quality of life. Another study, from the Iowa City VA, uses artificial  intelligence as it “diagnoses the severity of glaucoma, detects the earliest signs of worsening vision and its response to treatment.” Enhancing the ability for early detection of patients at greater risk makes it possible to treat vision issues before damage occurs. Those experiencing vision loss also have access to Blind Rehabilitation Services (BRS) to preserve their quality of life. Veterans enrolled in VA health care can schedule eye exam appointments directly with Ophthalmology or Optometry specialists, without a referral from a primary care practitioner. Read more in the U.S. Veterans Magazine article on The Leading Cause of Blindness For Veterans.