According to Gary Brough, staff optometrist at Memphis VA Medical Center, Veterans of all ages may face challenges due to visual impairments. Brough states, “Early intervention is essential to improving a Veteran’s quality of life and restoring personal independence.”
The key to preventing visual impairment from becoming an unnecessarily disabling condition is rehabilitation. Visual impairment can affect anyone at any time. Common causes include traumatic injury, diabetes, glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration, and other diseases. Visual impairment can range from partial vision loss to complete blindness.
“To provide the best care for Veterans dealing with visual impairment, we offer different levels of care known as the outpatient Visual Impairment Services Continuum of Care,” Brough explains. “This model of care includes services that are available at VISN 9 VA medical centers to specialized services that are available regionally. The goal of this program is to address the needs of Veterans regardless of the degree of visual impairment." Program services are provided, as needed, by professionals from a team of ophthalmologists, optometrists, and blind rehabilitation specialists.
In VISN 9, we provide a comprehensive array of services to Veterans with low vision and blindness that includes:
Low vision training teaches Veterans how to use their remaining vision effectively. Emphasis is directed toward enabling Veterans to read normal size print again. Watching TV, reading street signs and addresses, seeing playing cards, menus, and price tags are a few of the other activities which most s find easier to do after they have received low vision training. Magnifiers and other low vision aids are provided along with special training to accomplish this.
Adjustment to vision loss can be overwhelming. Social, emotional, and family issues can also impact one’s ability to cope with life changes caused by visual impairment. Individual and group sessions are available and focus on providing coping skills and strategies for adapting.
Orientation & Mobility
Veterans receive instruction on walking safely, crossing streets, and using mobility canes to increase self confidence, enhance personal security, and improve independence. Training is also available for Veterans who use walkers or wheelchairs.
Communication instruction relates to improving and restoring speaking and writing abilities. Opportunities to learn and use new strategies and tools with typing, handwriting, telling time, management of finances, and recording devices are offered. Veterans also learn about available community resources and how to make effective use of them.
Daily Living Skills
Daily living skills focuses on personal and home management including activities such as telling time, using the telephone, identifying money, personal grooming, laundering and organization of clothing, and cooking and kitchen safety. Instruction in meal preparation for special diets is also provided with emphasis on learning by doing. It is hoped that greater or complete independence is gained.
The needs of each Veteran are unique. Individual treatment and training are offered to help with adapting to vision loss. This may include specialty services, such as hearing exams, at a local VA medical center. Veterans may also be referred to a regional VA clinic for more intensive training and care. In some instances, computer training with special software for specific goals and needs may also be provided.
The impact of low vision or blindness may vary a great deal depending on the individual. A person may feel limited and frustrated in performing everyday activities. Tasks such as dressing, eating, writing, reading and traveling may become difficult. Keeping up with the daily news or communicating with others may be hampered. Recreation and leisure outlets may also suffer.
Dr. Brough adds, "Veterans that have difficulty seeing should schedule an appointment through their local VA medical center to have their eyes evaluated. In many cases vision can be improved by a new pair of glasses, through cataract surgery if needed, or by improved blood sugar control in patients with diabetes. If none of these options improve vision enough then the eye care provider can consider referring a Veteran for low vision or blind rehabilitation care."
If you are experiencing any of these difficulties, Visual Impairment Services can provide significant help to you. All of the VA medical centers in VISN 9 offer basic low vision services. These services are available to all eligible Veterans enrolled and receiving care at any VISN 9 medical center or community-based outpatient clinic. If you need more intensive care, an interdisciplinary team will evaluate you to determine what additional treatment may be beneficial and where your treatment will be provided.
Veterans may be referred to one of the following regional clinics:
Intermediate Low Vision Clinic
Memphis VA Medical Center
1030 Jefferson Avenue
Memphis, TN 38104
(901) 523-8990, ext. 5225 or 5673
Advanced Low Vision Clinic
TN Valley Healthcare System
1310 24th Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37212
(615) 327-4751, ext. 67290
Advanced Outpatient Blind Rehabilitation Clinic
Lexington VA Medical Center
2250 Leestown Road
For more information, visit