Article Date: 7/1/2008

Operation Clear Vision
reflections THE HUMAN SIDE OF OPTOMETRY

Operation Clear Vision

Because the military serves and protects your family, why not return the favor?

JOHN P. FITZPATRICK, O.D., F.A.A.O.
SAN DIEGO, CALIF.

During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, I regularly watched the news on the valiant efforts of our military. (Regardless of one's opinion of the war, everyone shares a genuine respect and affinity for the men and women who put themselves in danger for our country.) Before long, reporters began covering the personal lives and challenges of those in uniform and their families. During one broadcast, in particular, the reporter said the words "food stamps." I couldn't understand how this could be possible. Saddened and angry by this information, I wanted to do something to help.


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I soon learned that some of the financially struggling military families practically lived in my backyard at Camp Pendleton — a Marine Corps Base — and the Naval Air Station, North Island. I also learned that while active military persons receive eyewear through TriCare — the military's healthcare program — their family dependents receive a vision exam with no allowance for eyewear. As a result, many of the family members of our military men and women have had to sacrifice their visual needs for requirements, such as food, to live.

In knowing how important vision is to one's quality of life, in 2004 I decided to develop Operation Clear Vision — a non-profit program that depends on the public's generosity to dispense free eyewear (spectacles and frames) to family members of the military personnel at these bases who receive a pay grade of E-6 ($25,128 to 37,904.40 — increases depend on number of years in service) or lower. Representatives of both military bases sanctioned the program.

How it works

The California Optometric Association (COA) partnered with Operation Clear Vision to be the screener and referral agent for the program. Patients can apply for eyewear vouchers from the COA, by visiting www.coavision.org/about/OperationClearvision_Application.pdf or calling (800) 877-5738, ext. 243. If the COA approves the application, it sends the patient a voucher for a free pair of spectacles from an optical dispensary at the V.A. San Diego Medical Center in La Jolla, Calif. The program has no administration fees, so all contributions go directly toward optical lab expenses.

Now four years old, Operation Clear Vision has provided more than 1,300 free pairs of spectacles, thanks to the generous financial contributions of various local individuals and organizations that continue to support the program.

Currently, I'm working to solicit enough donations to make Operation Clear Vision permanent, though I'd love to see it become a permanent national program as well. I believe the best way to achieve this is to start a grass-roots campaign. Therefore, I'd be happy to discuss how to implement the program with anyone interested.

Our U.S. armed forces are on the front-lines every day to ensure our country's safety. We, as optometrists, can, in part, pay them back for all they do by being on the front-lines of their families' health care. OM

For further information on Operation Clear Vision, call Dr. Fitzpatrick at (760) 729-5921, or e-mail him at JPFOD@aol.com.


DO YOU HAVE A MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE? DISCUSS YOUR STORY WITH JENNIFER KIRBY, SENIOR ASSOCIATE EDITOR OF OPTOMETRIC MANAGEMENT, AT (215) 643-8139, OR KIRBYJ@LWWVISIONCARE.COM. OM OFFERS AN HONORARIUM FOR PUBLISHED SUBMISSIONS.

Optometric Management, Issue: July 2008