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Rehabilitation and Prosthetic Services

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History of Blind Rehabilitation Service

Legacy of Excellence

Since the 1940s, the leadership, programs, and principles established within VA Blind Rehabilitation have contributed significantly to raising the level of quality services for people who are blind in the United States and abroad. It has been through the VA's pioneering and sustained efforts in research, education, and training that many innovative advances have been realized. Much of the methodology currently being utilized in the field of blind rehabilitation can be directly traced to the beginnings of VA Blind Rehabilitation Service and the establishment of the first Blind Rehabilitation Center in Hines, IL.

Since that time, VA has continued caring for Veterans with visual impairment through the expansion of the Blind Rehabilitation Service Continuum of Care to include Visual Impairment Service Teams (VIST), Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialists (BROS), Intermediate Low Vision Clinics (ILVC), Advanced Low Vision Clinics (ALVC) and Visual Impairment Services Outpatient Rehabilitation (VISOR).

As the VA Blind Rehabilitation Service Continuum of Care expanded, so did the number of accomplishments and innovations. New adaptive training techniques and prosthetic devices were developed to meet the needs of Veterans with vision loss. Research has fostered advances in electronic travel aids, reading machines, low-vision devices, and computer access equipment.

The multi-disciplinary team approach to treatment now includes a physician, nurse, optometrist, dietitian, social worker, and psychologist in addition to the blind rehabilitation specialists. Regardless of discipline, all team members focus their efforts on promoting health, developing skills of independence, and improving adjustment to sight loss with the goal of successfully reintegrating the Veteran back into the community and family environment.

Currently, tens of thousands of Veterans with visual impairment are served by 13 Blind Rehabilitation Centers, over 50 outpatient clinics, approximately 160 VIST Coordinators, approximately 100 BROS, and more than 300 blind rehabilitation specialists and support personnel. A great number of new professionals entering the field of blindness and low vision are trained through stipends and internships within VA Blind Rehabilitation Services. VA is continually enhancing and expanding its blind rehabilitation programs to meet the needs of an aging Veteran population, as well as meet the needs of new Veterans and Service members returning from the current conflicts.