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About Us

About Us

VCE leads and advocates for programs and initiatives with the following three inter-related goals: to improve vision health, optimize readiness, and enhance quality of life for Service members and Veterans.

By working to improve vision health, optimizing readiness and enhancing quality of life for Service members and Veterans, VCE promotes collaboration, facilitates integration and serves as an advocate for vision across DoD and VA healthcare systems. Further collaborative efforts with other federal healthcare organizations, academia and private sector organizations allow VCE to enhance development of VCE program priorities for research and quality care initiatives.

Congressional Mandate for VCE

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 (P.L. 110-181, Sec 1623) authorized the Secretary of Defense to establish a Center of Excellence to address the full scope of vision care including prevention, diagnosis, mitigation, treatment, research and rehabilitation of military eye injuries and diseases including visual dysfunctions related to traumatic brain injury (TBI). The NDAA also required the implementation of the Vision Registry that longitudinally collects eye injury and vision dysfunction data from the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical records and supporting systems.

VCE Operational Structure

VCE reports to the Research and Development Directorate of the Defense Health Agency (DHA), and the Office of Patient Care Services within VA. A memorandum of understanding (MOU) by and between the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs (ASD(HA)) and the Under Secretary for Health for Veterans Affairs (USH(VA)) is in place to define the roles and responsibilities of the DoD and VA in the establishment and operation of VCE. VCE is jointly staffed and the leadership team includes the Chief (DoD) and Deputy Chief (VA), who are entrusted as the core decisional body of VCE and responsible for formulating VCE strategic direction and integrating with other stakeholder organizations across the DoD and VA.

Prevention, Diagnosis, Mitigation, Treatment & Rehab

VCE maximizes the potential for effective prevention, diagnosis, mitigation, treatment, and rehabilitation of injuries and disorders of the visual system through its collaborative efforts and helps facilitate the identification of research capabilities within and between DoD and VA. The structure of VCE enables it to effectively use information management systems, promote collaboration, identify evidence-based best practices, and engage in a dynamic transfer of scientific and medical knowledge. Through its cooperative engagement with its stakeholders, VCE seeks to optimize ocular and visual outcomes for all Service members and Veterans treated by DoD and VA.

Overview of Each Directorate

Information Management & Informatics AND Technology

The collection and sharing of data in an Eye Registry supports the requirements of the NDAA 2008. The DoD is mandated to collaborate with and make a military Eye Registry available to the VA. This will add information pertaining to additional treatments or surgical procedures and, eventually, visual outcomes for veterans who were enrolled into the Eye Registry and subsequently received treatment through the Veterans Health Administration (VHA).

The technical solution for the military Eye Registry is the Defense and Veterans Eye Injury and Vision Registry (DVEIVR). As such, VCE

  • Ensures the DVEIVR capabilities support the needs of the DoD and VA provider, research and educational communities.
  • Collaborates with the VA and other Centers of Excellence (COEs) to enhance registry capabilities.
  • Tracks workload and performance improvement data in relevant applications.

Research & Surveillance

Visual dysfunction can occur due to multiple, inter-related causes, many of which still are not well understood (on physiological and many other levels). By fostering scientific and clinical investigation, research advances the state of understanding of visual dysfunction. VCE research involves leading efforts to prioritize and integrate DoD- and VA-funded research related to vision health with the focus of ocular blast injury and TBI. Developing and implementing tools such as the DVEIVR allows VCE to review analysis of longitudinal outcomes, assessment of intervention strategies and enhancement of operational readiness through translational research initiatives.

Clinical Care Integration

Fostering improved coordination of care between DoD, VA and civilian resources enhances efficiency and ensures the highest quality and most compassionate vision care for our nation’s Service members and Veterans. To that end, VCE

  • Leads development of clinical practice guidelines and clinical recommendations.
  • Leverages scientific research and data to continuously improve and refine clinical practice guidelines and recommendations.
  • Improves prevention and care of battlefield eye injuries through collaboration with the DoD Joint Trauma System (JTS).
  • Connects deployed and non-deployed eye health care providers throughout the continuum of care through a worldwide Ocular Trauma Video Teleconference (VTC).
  • Uses regional Vision Care Service Coordination to enhance care coordination for the injured and visually impaired Service member as she or he moves within the Military Healthcare System (MHS) and into the VHA system.

Rehabilitation and Reintegration

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) between DoD and VA demonstrates the senior leadership’s commitment to integrating effective vision care and rehabilitation to Service members and Veterans. As part of the MOU, there is an explicit charge to better-integrate services across DoD medical treatment facilities, VA and civilian hospitals and rehabilitation facilities, as well as state and federal agencies that interface with the visually impaired, to include employment offices. VCE focus on rehabilitation and reintegration targets the distinct requirements of those with chronic or permanent vision disabilities. VCE is leading provider and research communities in the development of guidance for care of Service members and Veterans affected by vision loss and vision dysfunction. While highly interdependent on other VCE activities and priorities, there are unique technology, research and employment gaps addressed in this area of focus.

Education, Training, Simulation & Readiness

Implementing innovative education and training initiatives to ensure ongoing knowledge transfer and promote new modalities for clinical training is a key area of focus for VCE. It includes the important task of developing and deploying effective training and education tools for Service members, Veterans, patients and families to improve their capabilities to accommodate ocular trauma and vision impairment and serve as effective advocates for their needs. To that end, VCE

  • Works with the Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TC3) to enhance operational readiness via curriculum changes.
  • Supports enhanced simulation for DOD and VA clinical eye care training.
  • Maintains VCE prominence at national and international meetings and conferences.
  • Expands vision health education, including clinician, patient and family education.

Looking Ahead

As a primary resource for vision health care for our Service members and Veterans, it is important for VCE to strategically plan for the future, at both the national and regional levels, to provide optimal care coordination. VCE continues to press ahead in key strategic areas supporting its goals of improving vision health, optimizing operational readiness and enhancing quality of life for injured Service members and Veterans. To this end, VCE is looking ahead to the future with some specific highlights outlined below:

  • Coordinate the plan to develop an updated and validated visual functioning questionnaire for age specific populations of Service members and Veterans with eye injuries and diseases.
  • Collaborate with VA and DoD planning committees, vision and blind rehabilitation practitioners, and consumers to review salient literature and standards to develop consensus on best-practice guidance to accommodate the needs of visually impaired Service members and Veterans for VA and DoD facilities.
  • Expand communication efforts into a nationally integrated network involving all stakeholders, VCE sites, and VA Medical Centers/Military Treatment Facilities.
  • Continue educational reach and awareness of Shields Save Sight Campaign, encouraging the use of appropriate protective eyewear and rigid eye shields to promote prevention and vision-saving injury response practices.
  • Continue engagement in education workshops for providers on best practices in the treatment and rehabilitation of visual dysfunction associated with TBI.
  • Collaborate with DoD ophthalmologists, optometrists, administrators and consultants to gather best practices and lessons learned from theater.
  • Conduct interviews with DoD and VA Ophthalmic Residency Directors and Assistant Directors to gather information on use of ocular simulation in residency curricula.