Official allegedly said there's a 'LensCrafters on every corner.'
Dr. Andrea Thau, president of the American Optometric Association, issued a strongly worded statement following a report that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is considering eliminating the VA Optometry Service.
"Today's report out of Washington, D.C., about the possibility of downgrading essential care for veterans is outrageous and unacceptable, and the AOA sincerely hopes that the information within the account is false," Thau said on Friday. "America's veterans need and deserve the assurance that their eye health and vision care needs will be met by doctors of optometry through the advanced, high-quality care we provide."
DisabledVeterans.org reported that Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin recently "suggested his VA healthcare directors get rid of optometry and audiology services."
The website quoted an unnamed VA healthcare director saying that Shulkin "told directors in Leesburg VA today that we should get rid of audiology and optometry since there are 'LensCrafters on every corner.'"
DisabledVeterans.org reports that it reached out to the VA for the story but that no comment was provided before publication.
In her statement, Thau said Shulkin "should know that the solution to his department's problems will not be found in policies that compromise care."
"On behalf of all of the patients who've bravely served our country, I've asked to meet with Dr. Shulkin to make absolutely certain that this report is false, and to discuss the changes the VA needs to make to fulfill its mission," Thau said.
Dr. Lindsay Wright, executive director of the Armed Forces Optometric Society, expressed her concerns in the same statement.
"The Armed Forces Optometric Society is shocked to hear of the alleged suggestion by the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs to eliminate eye care from the VA’s healthcare system," Wright said.
"Eyecare is an essential and core component of the integrated health care the VA provides our nation’s Veterans. Our VA doctors of optometry see more patients per year than any other health care specialty. Doctors of optometry are literally on the front line of care, often being the first health care professional to identify or detect systemic health issues in veterans."
Wright added: "To eliminate or segregate eye care from the VA would cause a significant degradation of the level of care provided to VA patients and ultimately break the government's longstanding promise to care for our nation’s veterans."