OPERATION PEER SUPPORT
Operation Peer Support was an outreach effort by B V A to link visually impaired O I F/O E F servicemen and women with each other, with fellow blinded veteran mentors, with rehabilitation staff and resources, and with key individuals in civilian life that have experienced low vision or blindness. Fellow blinded veteran mentors are often older veterans who have lost vision in earlier wars and have gone through successful rehabilitation and education. They have been employed in variety of occupations, raised families, and come to understand the challenges of daily life without sight.
Eight O I F/O E F veterans and family members participated in the B V A 62nd National Convention in Buffalo in 2006. A total of 18 veterans and family members attended the gathering in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 2007. The keynote speaker for Operation Peer Support in Albuquerque was Bob Woodruff of A B C News. Mr. Woodruff was himself seriously injured while on assignment in Iraq and suffered loss of peripheral vision from Traumatic Brain Injury.
The Blinded Veterans Association (B V A) is the only Congressionally chartered Veterans Service Organization exclusively dedicated to serving the needs of our nation's blinded veterans and their families. The organization recently celebrated 62 years of service to blinded veterans. Each year B V A holds a national convention in August. As part of upcoming conventions, the Association will continue a special program called "Operation Peer Support for O I F and O E F Blinded Veterans." According to D o D sources at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, some 1,162 combat eye injured have returned from duty. That figure constitutes some 13 percent of all wounded service personnel.
B V A has been raising funds to bring as many of these soldiers, Marines, airmen, and seamen, along with one family member, to the annual convention as special guests. "Veteran B V A peers" from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and other wars share their experiences. The convention lasts five days for Operation Peer Support service members. B V A also operates various volunteer programs to provide support for veterans with low vision and blindness. The programs assist the newly blinded in the development of a positive attitude toward readjustment training and the dissemination of information about recent eye research, V A benefits, and new treatment methods and adaptive technology for the blind. Since being incorporated in 1947, B V A has worked to become a strong advocate for all blinded veterans. The association is a F01(c) (3) I R S not-for-profit organization.
B V A will provide travel, hotel expenses, and registration to these brave Americans who have sacrificed their vision, and to one family member, in order that they attend the convention. The process of recovery from any tragic or traumatic event is characterized by a period of grieving followed by rehabilitation and restoration. Normally, substantial changes are required as a result of shattering events before a meaningful and productive new life is to be achieved. We have found that meeting with other generations of blinded veterans and families at convention helps to provide a network of support.
B V A and the Department of Veterans Affairs together have pioneered and refined the blind rehabilitation process for more than 62 years, providing America's blinded veterans with every opportunity to successfully acquire the essential functional skills necessary to lead productive lives and eventually develop a healthy attitude about blindness.
For more information, be sure to check out the B V A's official website BVA.org