The Honorable David J. Shulkin, MD
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Dear Mr. Secretary:
The National Association of VA Optometrists (NAVAO) represents the optometrists on the medical staff of VA facilities providing eye care to the nation’s Veterans. The NAVAO mission of providing optimal eye and vision care to Veterans is consistent with the VA mission and core values of integrity, commitment, advocacy, respect and excellence. To that end, over 930 optometrists provide eye care at 355 VA facility sites accounting for over 3,313,800 patient visits in fiscal year 2016.
On May 4, 2017, The Disabled Veterans internet site suggested a proposal to eliminate optometry and audiology services at VA facilities. Under the proposal, Veterans would be outsourced to civilian facilities for services. In VA, optometrists represent the primary provider of eye care. The majority of VA optometrists have completed residencies with post-graduate training in advanced optometric subspecialties. Optometry services are delivered to Veterans throughout extensive catchment areas, including under-served rural health localities. Beyond the provision of primary eye care, optometrists treat and manage extensive eye diseases including glaucoma, macular conditions, and diabetic eye diseases including utilization of VA tele-retinal imaging. Moreover, VA optometrists provide low vision care to visually impaired and legally blind Veterans along with treatment and management of the ocular sequelae of traumatic brain injury.
The suggestion to eliminate VA optometry and audiology is not commensurate with the core values of VA – to provide excellence in eye and vision care to the nation’s Veterans. Respectfully, NAVAO implores The Secretary of Veteran Affairs to reconsider any proposal to outsource VA optometry services.
Nancy N. Wong, OD, PhD, FAAO