Of Note


Research Examines TBI, Vision Dysfunction Costs


Dr. Kevin D. Frick, Professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, has examined what he believes is the best available evidence on the incidence and cost of vision dysfunction and blindness in the U.S. military from 2000 to 2010.

The figures were compiled by Dr. Frick under a consulting contract with NAEVR. They have been made available through a paper entitled "Costs of Military Eye Injury, Vision Impairment, and Related Blindness and Vision Dysfunction Associated with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) without Eye Injury." The paper was released to Capitol Hill in mid-May.

The results reveal the high costs of ocular injuries that cause vision loss and non-ocular injuries to the brain that are now also becoming associated with vision loss. Based on the published data from 2000 to 2010, the total incident cost of eye injury each year is $2.282 billion, yielding a total cost to the economy over this timeframe of $25.107 billion.

"For me, BVA's Project Gemini was a remarkable and life-affirming experience that validated the importance of such studies," said NAEVR Executive Director Jim Jorkasky.

A copy of the paper is available from Stuart Nelson, 800-669-7079, Ext. 316.

Blinded Veteran to Swim at 2012 Paralympics


Lieutenant Bradley Snyder, former Navy bomb defuser who last September lost both eyes in an explosion in Afghanistan, has gained a roster spot on the U.S. Paralympic team headed for London.

An MSNBC story on June 22 reported the feat, which required Snyder to swim what he agreed was "the race of his life" on June 19.

To earn his slot, Snyder needed to swim at least 41 seconds faster than his previous best in his top event, the 400-meter freestyle. In the end, he swam 54 seconds faster than he ever had since losing his sight. Snyder registered a time of 4:35.62, now the current world-best time at that distance for fully blind swimmers. The time was just 1.5 seconds behind the mark he posted at that distance while swimming for the Naval Academy seven years ago when he could see the lanes, the competition, and, most significantly, the wall.

VA "AboutFace" Campaign Offers PTSD Outreach


Observed in June as PTSD Awareness Month, VA's National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder has launched a new online initiative focused on helping veterans recognize PTSD symptoms and motivating them to seek treatment.

AboutFace introduces viewers to veterans from all eras who have experienced PTSD and turned their lives around with treatment. Through personal videos, viewers meet veterans and hear how PTSD has affected them and their loved ones. Visitors will also learn the steps to take in order to gain control of their lives.

"We must do all we can to help veterans identify possible indicators that they may be suffering from PTSD," said Secretary Shinseki. "It requires a comprehensive, multi-faceted approach to be effective and we hope that AboutFace will play an important role in that effort."

AboutFace is located on the National Center for PTSD website,www.ptsd.va.gov

Homeless Veterans Decline


VA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced on December 13 that a new national report showed a 12 percent decline in homelessness among veterans between January 2010 and January 2011.

The 12 percent decline keeps the Obama administration on schedule to meet the goal of ending veteran homelessness by 2015.

"We're absolutely headed in the right direction as we work to end homelessness among those who have served our nation," said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. "As we put forth in the first Federal plan to prevent and end homelessness, there's plenty of work ahead to reach our goal, but these numbers validate the work done by both HUD and VA to reach our nation's homeless veterans and get them into permanent housing."

The data was extracted from the 2011 supplement to the Annual Homeless Assessment Report, which indicated that 67,495 veterans were homeless in the U.S. on a single night in January 2011—a significant reduction from last year's single night count of 76,329.

New Videos Feature Stories of Women Vets


VA has released a series of four videos in which women veterans describe their experiences in the military, ranging from their important contributions to national safety and security to the challenges they faced during their service and after returning to civilian life.

The presentations are three to five minutes in length and are part of VA's ongoing "Rethink Veterans" campaign to increase awareness of women veterans and their vital roles in the nation's history. The videos can be viewed at www.womenshealth.va.gov or on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/user/VeteransHealthAdmin.

Their purpose is to increase awareness of women's roles in the military among VA staff and the public, according to Dr. Patricia Hayes, Chief Consultant of VA's Women Veterans Health Strategic Health Care Group. The ultimate objective is for women veterans to receive the respect, recognition, and care they deserve.

"We're challenging people to rethink preconceived notions about who is a veteran, what a veteran looks like, and what a woman veteran may have done or experienced while serving," she said.

VA Facebook Page Surpasses 200,000 Fans


The primary Facebook page for VA passed the 200,000 mark in early May, increasing the Department's ability to communicate directly with veterans throughout the country.

"We started our social media program with the vision of getting the right information to the right veteran at the right time," said Secretary Shinseki. "This achievement allows us to reach a significant portion of the veteran population by sharing information that is important to them."

The milestone was achieved less than three years after the creation of VA's office of online communications, which oversees all social media programs. VA has more than 150 total Facebook pages, most of which belong to individual VA Medical Centers, with a pool of subscribers reaching more than 440,000 fans. The Department also has 70 Twitter feeds, the VAntage Point blog, a YouTube channel with more than 400 videos, and a Flickr page containing more than 12,000 photos.

To access and connect to VA's social media sites, visit its social media directory located at http://www.va.gov/opa/socialmedia.asp.

New Partnership Brings Revamped Website


The American Foundation for the Blind and Reader's Digest Partners for Sight Foundation have launched the new VisionAware.org, a free, easy-to-use informational website for adults with vision loss, their families, caregivers, health care providers, and social service professionals.

The site combines two previous stand-alone resources from AFB and Partners for Sight (Senior Site and the former VisionAware, respectively) into a single, comprehensive website offering social networking and customized guidance for adults of all ages. It includes a more comprehensive set of resources than either of the two previous sites and additional practical tips on living with vision loss.

VA to Hire Additional Mental Health Professionals


Approximately 1,600 mental health clinicians and nearly 300 support staff will be added to VA's existing workforce to help meet the increased demand for mental health services, Secretary Shinseki announced June 11.

"The mental health and well-being of our brave men and women who have served the nation is the highest priority for this department," he said. "We must ensure that all veterans seeking mental health care have access to timely, responsive, and high-quality care.

The announcement included details of an aggressive national mental health hiring initiative to improve recruitment and hiring, marketing, education and training programs, and retention efforts for mental health professionals, to include targeted recruitment in rural and highly rural markets.