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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 the organization’s conventions, 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.

We seek your assistance raising the funds necessary so that we may extend an invitation to 22 blinded service members. Each invitation to a service member and companion is estimated to cost approximately $3,250. This includes hotel accommodations ($1,153 one room for 7 nights), Transportation ($450-600 per airline ticket), and Food for 7 days ($420 x 2).

A check or money order can be sent to the address on our contact us page or

Make A Donation to Operation Peer Support

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New in 2009 International Exchange:

Two years ago, St. Dunstan’s and the Scottish War Blind, BVA’s counterpart in the United Kingdom, sent three blinded service members to participate in the Operation Peer Support Program. The same organizations recently contacted BVA about an exchange program in which six American blinded OIF or OEF veterans would visit their brothers in the United Kingdom. BVA looks forward to the implementation of such an exchange but at this time lacks the resources to fund and support such an initiative. Parties interested in providing financial support should contact Christina Hitchcock for additional information.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is Operation Peer Support?
A:
An ongoing effort to link recently blinded veterans with other OIF/OEF blinded service members and their counterparts from previous conflicts. Operation Peer Support’s highest priority is to assist these men and women through the process of adjustment to vision loss by introducing them to and connecting them with the tools and resources they will need to establish new goals. “Blinded Veterans Helping Blinded Veterans” is the Association’s motto and serves as the ideal in its advocacy efforts on behalf of all blinded veterans.

Q: What is the benefit to the newly blinded veterans?
A:
Physical and emotional isolation is a huge issue for those who have only recently lost their eyesight. The process of recovery from any tragic or traumatic event is characterized by a period of grieving followed by rehabilitation and restoration. The life cycle of a wounded soldier often consists of six states: injury, treatment, rehabilitation, evaluation, transition and maintenance. Substantial changes are required as a result of such shattering events before a meaningful and productive new life can be achieved. Similar to the grief experienced by people following any catastrophic event, blinded veterans must also grieve over their loss of vision. The veterans attending the BVA convention meet with other OIF and OEF veterans who are among the few who understand what they are truly going through. They will also be able to meet veterans blinded in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. They will hear and gain strength from their experiences. Throughout the process, BVA will be there in a variety of ways, but primarily through its Field Service Program, to help service members and their families along the way.

Q: How many troops have suffered eye injuries in the Global War on Terror?
A:
Exact numbers are hard to come by but 4,790 service members with penetrating eye injuries have been evacuated from OIF and OEF operations as of November 2008. The long-term consequences of these injuries are still unknown. More than 500 have eye injuries that classify them as low-vision. According to VA Blind Rehabilitation Service, at least 140 of these are legally blind as of May 2009. The Army in March 2008 reported that 395 service members had been blinded in one eye. The statistics on Marines and those in other branches of service have not yet been disclosed.

Q: How can groups and individuals in America help a blinded OEF or OIF veteran?
A:
Tax-deductible donations can be made directly to the Blinded Veterans Association by mail or phone by credit card. BVA can also be reached at 800-669-7079. Please help these brave American service members and family members get the support they need from fellow blinded veterans. The organization is a 501(c)(3) organization, ID #53-0214281.

Who are some of the recent Sponsors of Operation Peer Support?

Operation Peer Support 2010 Sponsors

Health Net Federal Services
Pennsylvania Regional Group
Allergan Foundation
American Academy of Ophthalmology
American Optometric Association
Eschenbach Optik
Team River Runner

2009 Sponsors
Health Net
Allergen Foundation
National Industries for the Blind
American Academy of Ophthalmology
American Optometric Association
Revision Eyewear
Envision
Seattle Lighthouse for the Blind

 

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