Will the VA Eliminate Its Optometry Service?

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Updated Thursday, May 11, 8:00 AM EST


Dr. Lindsay Wright, executive director at AFOS, told WO: “Right now, our call to action is for VA optometrists to join AFOS and AOA. By standing together, we have a powerful, unified voice to advocate for the profession and for our veterans.”

From Dr. Andrea Thau: "This is not the first attack on our profession that originated with a VA official. The AOA’s successes in exposing the anti-patient TECS initiative are consistent with our determination to ensure that optometry is fully recognized and treated fairly throughout the veteran’s health care system. The reports in the media citing statements by Dr. Shulkin are a major new concern and, if they’re accurate, there’s no quick fix. We’ll need to mobilize and prepare to fight back for our patients and profession for as long as it takes. We’ve begun those efforts and I’ve directed the AOA advocacy team to make our opposition to downgraded eye care in the VA a top priority during our AOA on Capitol Hill efforts in conjunction with Optometry’s Meeting in Washington, D.C., June 21-25. I urge every colleague who provides care to our veterans or who is outraged whenever a government official acts with bias or misunderstanding toward optometry’s essential role in health care to join me in taking our message to the U.S. Senators and House members who will determine how best to reform and refocus the Department of Veterans Affairs. To get involved now, please register for Optometry’s Meeting and AOA on Capitol Hill at www.optometrysmeeting.org or for more information, email me at President@aoa.org."


A report came out last week that, behind closed doors with VA healthcare directors, Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin, MD, indicated that optometry and audiology services could be redirected to community providers. He allegedly noted that there are “LensCrafters on every corner,” according to a source who was present and told a veterans’ rights organization. Supporters of the VA optometry and audiology services were quick to point out that the VA can provide high-ticket items like hearing aids at a lower price than private or corporate locations can.


Dr. Thau & Dr. Wright

The American Optometric Association (AOA) issued a press release in which AOA President Andrea P. Thau, OD, FAAO, FCOVD, DPNAP, said, “The Secretary should know that the solution to his department's problems will not be found in policies that compromise care. On behalf of all of the patients who've bravely served our country, I've asked to meet with Dr. Shulkin to make absolutely certain that this report is false, and to discuss the changes the VA needs to make to fulfill its mission."

The release also quoted Lindsay Wright, OD, executive director of the Armed Forces Optometric Society (AFOS), who said, in part, "Our VA doctors of optometry see more patients per year than any other health care specialty. Doctors of optometry are literally on the front line of care, often being the first health care professional to identify or detect systemic health issues in veterans. VA doctors of optometry work in concert with the VA's other health care professionals in the management of numerous medical conditions that can affect the eye such as diabetes and hypertension. This interprofessional communication to effectively coordinate care not only ensures that our veterans receive the best possible care, but it also provides an economical and efficient path for veterans to receive their health care….To eliminate or segregate eye care from the VA would cause a significant degradation of the level of care provided to VA patients and ultimately break the government's longstanding promise to care for our nation's veterans."

Read the whole AOA press release here.