Congress passed legislation that would include provisions of the Military Eye Trauma Treatment Act. But, at press time, the legislation had stalled on the desk of President Bush.

The provisions of the Military Eye Trauma Treatment Act would establish a Center of Excellence within the Department of Defense (DOD) to improve the tracking, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation for service members who incurred eye injuries. Currently, service members and veterans often lack proper eye and vision care because a framework to ensure continuity of care does not exist.

The Center of Excellence would develop and maintain the Military Eye Injury Registry, which will contain up-to-date information on the diagnosis, treatment and follow-up for each serious eye injury received by any member of the armed forces while serving on active duty. The registry will include input from optometrists and ophthalmologists from the DOD and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  

The measure would also create a joint program between the DOD and the VA for service members and veterans affected by visual dysfunction related to traumatic brain injury (TBI). More than half of those treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center who are diagnosed with TBI also experience vision damage. Likewise, more than 70% of service members with brain injuries at the VA Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center in Palo Alto, Calif., report vision problems as well.

These provisions were folded into the comprehensive 2008 National Defense Authorization Act, which includes a multitude of defense provisions and military appropriations, such as increases in service member pay and bonuses, among many others. Congress approved this legislation on December 14 and sent it to the White House.

But, on December 28, President Bush exercised a pocket veto by refusing to sign the legislation. He disagreed with language in the act about funding issues for the rebuilding of Iraq. This effectively sent the legislation back to Congress.

President Bush vowed to sign the bill immediately once this disagreement has been resolved.

Vol. No: 145:01Issue: 1/15/2008