The most common injuries among active-duty personnel and the evacuated wounded from Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF), Enduring Freedom (OEF) and New Dawn (OND) are as follows:
The 4th may surprise you.
Eye Injury and Vision Disorders
While obvious eye injuries from combat and training rarely go overlooked by vets and the VA, other less obvious issues are often attributed to aging or natural causes. In these cases, many vets do not receive the care and benefits they are entitled to.
According to The Department of Defense (DOD), from 2000-2010, there were 186,555 eye injuries worldwide in military medical facilities. Currently, over 250,000 vets receive some sort of VA care or benefit for eye injuries/disorders.
If you’ve experienced any difference in your vision during your enlistment, you should seek evaluation immediately to give yourself the best chance for care.
Eye Injury in Veterans
Symptoms to look for with eye care:
- Loss of sight
- Blurry vision
- Loss of peripheral vision
- Night blindness
- Double vision
- Light sensitivity
- Eye pain
These are the most common symptoms of a vision disorder or disease.
What is claimable from the VA?
The most likely causes of vision disorder are injury, exposure, or illness, and all of these are ratable by the VA.
Recognizing that the complexities of eye care and the growing understanding of vision disorders, in the last year, the VA has added three new diagnostics to the benefits rating for vision disorders. The new additions are diabetic retinopathy, retinal dystrophy, and post-chiasmal disorders.
On top of these three, the VA will also rate the following issues and injuries for benefits:
- Loss of the eye or both eyes
- Loss of the eyelids, eyelashes, or eyebrows
- Lacrimal gland and lid disorders
- Ptosis of either or both eyes
- Conjunctivitis related conditions
- Corneal conditions
- Inflammatory eye conditions or injuries
- Cataracts and lens conditions
- Retinal conditions
- Neurologic conditions
- Tumors and neoplasms
Any permanent or chronic damage is compensable, even if only a scar. Issues that return or are considered in remission (cancerous) also can be rated for compensation.
It’s also possible to be rated for a secondary condition affecting your vision. Examples of these secondary conditions include diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and thyroid issues, among others.
How will the VA rate eye conditions?
Eye conditions will be rated according to central visual acuity, visual field, and muscle function.
Central visual acuity is usually tested by the typical eye chart most will recognize from frequent check-ups. Since both eyes are rated together, it’s possible that if one eye retains 20/20 vision, the benefits will not be as high.
The visual field will be rated according to issues involving your peripheral vision.
Muscle function will measure the ability to move your eyes up, down, and side-to-side.
For your examination, it is required to be seen by a licensed optometrist or ophthalmologist. The VA also requires that the Goldmann kinetic perimetry or automated perimetry system of visual testing is used. Be sure to ask for your completed Goldmann chart to submit.
Finally, have the examiner identify the disease or injury which caused the vision disorder.
If anything discussed in this article was relevant to you, be sure to get examined immediately. Eye care should not be ignored, and benefits are available to help.