The Veterans Administration (VA) has provided vision care since it was founded, and those services continue to improve. Preventative care and routine care are included. Glasses and contact lenses may or may not be covered depending on whether there is an underlying condition, service-related injury involved, or other factors.

One way the VA may expand support for veterans with underlying vision conditions is telemedicine, including teleretinal screening. Veterans often suffer the same eye disorders as civilians, but they are more likely to suffer from traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), which can cause vision damage.

Low vision and legal blindness are more common among veterans, so the VA offers several special programs to treat and support former service members. These services do not currently include guide dogs, but the VA can help veterans find service animals.

For veterans and their families without serious eye care needs, additional insurance plans can cover glasses, sunglasses, and contact lenses as needed, or provide supplementary eye care like LASIK. The VA continues to expand its options for treatment, including adjusting a previous ruling about laser treatment so veterans get better support for glaucoma and other conditions.

To get care through the VA, you may need to have your disability rating measured, which may require legal representation for an appeal. There are nonprofit organizations that can help with this, so you can get the best possible vision care with your benefits.

The Veterans Administration Supports Vision Care

The Veterans Administration (VA) has offered vision care to former military service members since its founding. In fact, optometrists were some of the first staff members at the VA in 1947.

By 1960, new laws clarified that optometrists provided medical services, so that more military veterans could access vision care services through the VA. This meant that eye care was not a separate service, but a medical necessity for any eligible veteran.

In 1972, the VA Central Office’s Department of Education and Research approved a first-of-its-kind program to train optometrists within veterans affairs. In 1973, a full-time Director of Optometry was appointed.

In 2008, Congress officially established the VA Vision Center of Excellence (VCA) under the National Defense Authorization ActAs of 2009, there were more than 600 full-time and part-time optometrists on staff with the VA, over 1,000 optometry students, and almost 150 optometry residents.

The expansion of vision care for veterans occurred not only because Congress recognized a need for simple access to quality eye care and surgery for former military service members, but also because there was a great need in the public for more training and residencies to support upcoming optometrists and other eye care specialists. The combination benefits everyone in the United States, whether they have served in the military or not.

Since vision and basic health insurance are not typically combined into one package for US civilians, it may seem unusual for a military veteran to get such a wide range of medical treatment from one organization. As a veteran of the US Armed Forces, your needs will be assessed, and services will be provided based on this assessment. This includes vision care for those who have changing vision, poor vision, and vision problems caused by service-related injuries or accidents.

Routine Eye Exams & Vision Care for Veterans & Their Families

The VA offers several preventative and routine care services, including regular eye exams. Glasses are provided only to veterans who meet certain criteria. Eyeglasses are typically not provided for veterans whose vision problems are normally occurring, like refractive errors.

Sometimes, veterans must pay a copayment for medications or outpatient treatment that is not associated with a service-related condition, and this may include pre-existing vision problems like nearsightedness. However, veterans do not pay a premium for their VA health care or insurance. Veterans with a diagnosed service-related disability of 50 percent or greater are exempt from any copayments.