Skip to main content

Military Health System

Test of Sitewide Banner

This is a test of the sitewide banner capability. In the case of an emergency, site visitors would be able to visit the news page for addition information.

Vision Center of Excellence Sponsoring Landmark Eye Health Study

Image of Military personnel in eye exam. U.S. Air Force Capt. Dominic Rentz, optometrist with the 15th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron, examines the eyes of U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Denise Guaio-Corpuz, 15th Wing Public Affairs chief, during a routine eye exam at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. (Photo by Airman 1st Class Makensie Cooper)

Vision health is critical to force readiness, so much so that eye problems can cut a military career short. A recently launched study could lead to better tracking of eye health over a service member’s career to prevent future eye conditions.

The Defense Health Agency’s Vision Center of Excellence is working with the RAND Army Research Division on a one-year study to determine whether a “comprehensive baseline military eye examination requirement should be established across the services to fill gaps in information and improve warfighter vision health,” VCE said.

The study began in July 2022 and is expected to be completed next autumn with a peer-reviewed report due then.

“Today’s modern warfighter has to be so technical in their visual skills, that we think there should be more done to follow eye health and ocular conditions,” said Dr. Michael Pattison, VCE’s program manager of readiness and operations optometry.

Currently, service members get an eye exam at their enlistment physical. However, according to Pattison, the RAND study is looking to determine the value of requiring service members to also receive a comprehensive eye exam, including a full ocular health assessment and a manifest refraction to see if visual correction is necessary. The latter procedure, which measures the degree to which light bends as it passes through the cornea and lens on to the back of the eye, is extremely important in determining if someone has a serious eye disease.

“My biggest issue is if I've got someone who's got a rifle in their hands, do I want that person to see ‘good enough’? Or, do I want them to see to the best of their ability?” Pattison said.

Pattison also noted that expanding current guidelines for routine eye care could be beneficial to determine if there has been a change from the initial eye exam due to combat-related or non-battle injuries and diseases, including sports-related and other off-duty ocular injuries.

Additionally, when service members separate from the military or retire, there is no routine method to determine whether an eye disorder has a service-related connection, he added.

This can prove to be a challenge for the Department of Veterans Affairs when it comes to caring for the vision of veterans, Pattison pointed out.

Having both a beginning point and an endpoint for eye health and vision could help resolve this gap in information, he said.

Vision Correction Surgery

The long-term results of vision correction surgery are another variable where comprehensive data would be useful, Pattison suggested.

Laser eye correction surgery is one way a service member can optimize their vision. “What it's not doing is catching the other people who are ‘getting by,’” Pattison said.

The RAND survey may determine if there should be periodic monitoring of those vision-corrected service members as well, he suggested.

Current Standards

Those seeking to serve in the military have their vision tested during their enlistment physical and receive eyeglasses if they need them. They must be able to see 20/40 or better using both eyes together at a distance.

Those who are deployed are fitted with better-than-ballistics-grade military combat eye protection and gas mask inserts that match their prescriptions. All deployed service members use Military Combat Eye Protection-approved lenses that are found on the Authorized Protective Eyewear List, known as APEL. MCEP standards are set by the Tri-Service Vision and Conservation Program.

During required periodic health assessments, medical personnel are required to ask if the service member has had a change in vision that:

  • impacts daily performance
  • resulted in being on any medical profile (noting functional limitations) or limited duty

Additionally, service members are asked if they wear corrective lenses, and, if so, how many pairs of glasses they have, whether they have prescription gas mask inserts, and are they current with their service-specific vision and eyewear standards.

“The RAND study will help us connect all the data for military vision health and readiness status to build a methodology that will better identify whether the strategies we have for the efficacy of eye care are working,” Pattison said.

You also may be interested in...

Article Around MHS
May 30, 2023

Navy Expeditionary Medical Unit Rotations Provide Ongoing Support in the Middle East

U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Freeman Morrison, a biomedical technician, left, and U.S. Navy Lt. j. g. Andrew Mappus, an emergency room nurse, right, assigned to Navy Expeditionary Medical Unit 10- Gulf, Rotation 13, are monitoring an U.S. Army Medic Task Force Buckeye, 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, as he draws blood from an soldier on Dec. 20. (Photo by U.S. Navy Capt. Jerrol Walla)

The 30-member team conducted enhanced shore-based activities at Erbil Air Base in Iraq, where they provided life, limb, and eyesight-saving care to the U.S. armed forces, Department of Defense, civilian contractors, and multi-national coalition forces. They also provided critical support to facilities in the Eastern Syria Security Area.

Article Around MHS
Mar 30, 2023

Protecting the Warfighter's Health and Readiness, Now and Into the Future

An anopheles mosquito specimen sample sits under the microscope during a demonstration of the U.S. Army’s medical technology development and modernization efforts, Fort Detrick, Maryland, on Feb. 23. (Photo by Summer Abdoh, U.S. Army)

A cure for a debilitating and sometimes deadly disease, new treatments for working military dogs, a snakebite antidote, and a treatment for respiratory disease! See how years of research collaborations are providing protections for warfighters in remote places like never before.

Article Around MHS
Mar 17, 2023

USU President Encourages Attendees to “Think Outside the Box” at Infectious Disease Symposium

Uniformed Services University President Dr. Jonathan Woodson delivered opening remarks during IDCRP's first annual Science Symposium March 6-10. The event was held in collaboration with the Defense Health Agency Infectious Disease Working Group Subcommittee. (Photo by  HJF communications)

Infectious diseases like COVID-19, HIV, and battlefield wound infections cause illness and disruptions that threaten health and military readiness around the world. To help foster collaboration in the field and share best practices, the Uniformed Services University’s Infectious Disease Clinical Research Program hosted its first Science Symposium ...

Article Around MHS
Mar 15, 2023

Walter Reed Audiology and Speech Pathology Center Focuses on Improving Quality of Life for Military Health System Beneficiaries

World Hearing Day is observed annually on March 3, and this year’s theme is “Ear and Hearing Care for All.”  (Courtesy photo)

Although World Hearing Day is observed just one day during the year, the Audiology and Speech Pathology Center at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center focuses on improving the health and quality of life for MHS beneficiaries nearly every day of the year.

Article Around MHS
Jan 25, 2023

U.S. Army Medical Laboratory Forges Relationship with Australian Defence Force Institute

Military personnel in medical laoratory

American soldiers from the 1st Area Medical Laboratory were hosted by their counterparts at the Australian Defence Force Malaria and Infectious Disease Institute in Brisbane, Australia. Find out what was discussed at this meeting to strengthen critical relationships, save lives, and enable both sides' mission readiness.

Refine your search
Last Updated: July 11, 2023
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery