House VA Subcommittee Holds Hearing on TBI And Vision Problems

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On Wednesday, April 2, the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing on TBI Related Vision Issues.

Testimony highlighted the high rate of vision disturbances in cases of servicemembers returing from Iraq and Afghanistan with TBI, and the need for a seamless system of care within the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs to address these eye injuries, including greater use of specialized vision screening.

In the hearing, the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) noted research showing that 75 percent of servicemembers with documented TBI injuries also have complaints about vision problems, and that approximately 60 percent of those injured have associated neurological visual disorders. A study conducted by one of the panelists, Gregory L. Goodrich, who is a research psychologist at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System, found that both Polytrauma Level I and Level II patients had high rates of visual impairment and/or visual dysfunction, and that injuries caused by a blast event were associated with more vision related loss and/or deficits than other causes.

In his testimony, Tom Zampieri, Director of Government Relations at BVA, asserted, "At present the current system of screening, treatment, tracking, and follow-up care for TBI vision dysfunction is inadequate. Adding visual dysfunction to this complex mix, especially if undiagnosed, makes attempts at rehabilitation even more daunting and potentially disastrous unless there are significant improvements soon."

Mr. Zampieri urged the Subcommittee to request that DoD/VA provide for the full implementation of the "Military Eye Trauma Center of Excellence and Eye Trauma Registry," which was recently authorized as one of the Wounded Warrior provisions in last year's defense authorization bill (H.R. 4986). BIAA has officially endorsed legislation (S. 1999) to create such a Center.