The $3.2 million spent by the U.S. government for research in the treatment of battlefield eye injuries in 2012, would increase to $10 million next year, thanks to an amendment to the 2013 Defense Department spending bill recently approved by the House of Representatives.
The amendment, introduced by Rep. Timothy Walz (D-Minnesota), doubles the Fiscal Year 2013 funding for military eye-research from the originally proposed $5 million to $10 million, the largest amount set aside since the Veteran Administration's military vision research program began in 2001.
According to the American Legion, eye trauma is the fourth most common battlefield injury from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but traditionally gets the lowest amount of funding from Congress for medical research.
Research compiled by the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA), shows that military vision research was one of the lowest congressionally funded medical research programs in Fiscal Year 2012, receiving just $3.2 million. Better funded medical research programs included prostate cancer ($80 million), autism ($5.1 million), and the rare Lou Gehrig's Disease ($6.4 million).
"Vision research, and especially combat military eye-trauma research, has been severely underfunded," said BVA Director of Government Relations Dr. Tom Zampieri in a press release. "After months of work, and with support from three other groups -- Veterans Service Organizations, the American Academy of Ophthalmology, and the National Alliance for Eye Vision Research -- Representative Walz's leadership pushed it through the House vote."
According to Dr. Zampieri, eye trauma can often be the most devastating injury veterans can suffer, often preventing them from getting drivers licenses and prohibiting them from working at most jobs. Indeed, through prosthetics and physical therapy, veterans who have lost limbs in battle are often better able to adapt and resume their old lifestyles than blinded veterans.
The Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2013 (H.R. 5856), including Rep. Walz's military vision research funding amendment was passed in the House by a vote of 326 - 90 on July 19, and is now awaiting consideration by the Senate.