United States Department of Veterans Affairs
Optometry Internet Webpage

VHA Optometry Service Internet Website

The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Optometry Service was created by Public Law 94-581 on October 21, 1976 with the establishment of the Director of Optometric Service position.  In that law optometrists were also transferred with podiatrists into Chapter 73 of Title 38, United States Code that had previously included dentists, allopathic and osteopathic physicians.

During the more than a quarter century since its inception, VHA Optometry Service has gradually evolved into providing the majority of primary eye care and low vision rehabilitation services for our Nation's Veterans.  Our high quality Optometric Education Programs are affiliated with Accreditation Council on Optometric Education (ACOE) accredited Schools and Colleges of Optometry.  Every year there are over 1,250 opportunities for ACOE-accredited Professional Optometric Degree Program doctor of optometry (O.D.) candidates to rotate at VA medical facilities for clinical education and training.  Each year about 70% of the 1,400 to 1,500 graduates of the ACOE-accredited Schools and Colleges of Optometry in the United States have performed public health care services at VHA medical facilities to distinguished citizens of the United States, our Nation's Veterans.

Annually, there are over 170 post-graduate VA optometry resident positions available for clinical training and the development of advanced clinical competence.  All of these VA post-graduate Optometric Residency Programs are ACOE accredited and affiliated with Schools and Colleges of Optometry.  Since 2004, there are three VA Optometric Research Fellowship Program sites to train the next generation of optometric eye and vision care researchers.  Of the nearly 700 clinically privileged optometrists in the Veterans Health Administration about 60% have faculty appointments at a School or College of Optometry and are involved in the clinical training and education of future eye doctors.  Approximately 10% of VA optometrists have faculty appointments at a School or College of Medicine.

Through funded research grants that are provided by the VHA Research Service, the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health and private sources, many VA optometrists actively participate in low vision rehabilitation as well as basic research and multi-center clinical trials.  The results of these research projects have resulted in improved ocular disease prevention and low vision rehabilitation outcomes for the rapidly increasing number of significantly visually impaired and legally blind Veterans.  Age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and cataracts continue to be leading causes of preventable blindness in the United States.

To complement inpatient Blind Rehabilitation Centers, outpatient low vision rehabilitation clinics and Visual Impairment Center To Optimize Remaining Sight (VICTORS) programs are available.  The development of these special clinical programs mirrors the national distribution of VA optometrists.  From now to the year 2020, it is estimated that there are over 1,000,000 veterans with significant visual impairment and legal blindness who could benefit from varying levels of low vision and blind rehabilitation services.

Within the Office of Specialty Care Services in the Office of Patient Care Services at VA Central Office, optometry and ophthalmology are equal partners working together to provide the full spectrum of primary, secondary and tertiary eye care services.  By utilizing the complementary strengths of both eye care professions, our Nation's Veterans have greatly benefited.  This strategic alliance has resulted in the development of national VA/DoD Diabetes Mellitus Clinical Practice Guidelines as well as the VA Teleretinal Imaging Screening Program with the Office of Telehealth Services to improve access and reduce preventable blindness from diabetic retinopathy.

In the future, additional innovative strategies to improve the delivery of high quality eye care services and clinical outcomes will be developed so that we may continue to provide excellence in patient care, education and research to meet the ever-changing needs of the Veterans we serve.