Operation Peer Support
Operation Peer Support (OPS) is a program designed to support the
hundreds men and women who are returning to the US blinded or
experiencing significant visual impairment in connection with their
service fighting the Global War on Terror; Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF)
and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF).
The initiative, which occurs in conjunction with BVA's annual Convention in August, is an opportunity for the blinded service
members and their families to meet others who now face the similar
challenges in adjusting to life with vision loss.
The presentations, which occur in small group settings,
focus on treatment and rehabilitation options, recent medical and
rehabilitation research, locating resources, veterans benefits
requirements and procedures, education opportunities, employment
training, and introductions to newly released adaptive technologies, in
addition to other topics of relevance to the veteran and their families.
The activities also include recreational challenges that foster
recovery and help veterans overcome their perceived limitations.
During the convention, the participants learn from one
another and from veterans of past conflicts. They create a unique bond
that typically lasts well beyond the conclusion of the convention. They
often discover that despite their vision loss and other injuries one can
lead a meaningful and productive lives. Operation Peer Support starts
during the first few days of the convention but does not end at the
conclusion of the week. Participants keep in touch via email and other
resources, they and share information with the group as they become
aware of such resources.
BVA attempts to raises funds to covers each participants
expenses for the week. Each year more and more alumni finance their own
trips to the convention to serve as mentors and continue the tradition
of imparting knowledge to one another. We would like to sponsor all
OIF/OEF veterans. The program has also developed an international component, with veterans from Great Britain and South Africa participating in OPS sessions, and American veterans travelling to the UK to learn about different approaches to blind rehabilitation and vision research as part of the Project Gemini Exchange.