(Washington, D.C.) – “Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) commends the
leadership at the Veterans Health Administration for seeing the light and
rescinding its policy initiative permitting optometrists to perform laser
eye surgery on VA patients in VA facilities,” said Thomas H. Corey, National
President of VVA.
“This initiative – VHA Directive
2004-045 – had the potential of being detrimental to veterans and their
precious gift of sight,” Corey said. “Permitting optometrists, who are not
licensed surgeons, to perform this procedure not only puts patients at risk,
it also carries significant legal liability issues. The VA deserves credit
for recognizing an unworkable policy and ending it.”
One of the problems, acknowledged by VA
officials, is that a work group of optometrists and ophthalmologists could
not agree on how supervisory rules would be implemented. “Instead of
seeking to push through an agreement, the VA cut its losses and opted to do
the right and honorable thing,” Corey said.
VA policy as noted in the new VHA Directive 2004-070, now
calls for therapeutic laser eye procedures to be performed only by
ophthalmologists with the requisite training and expertise. Each medical
center director will be responsible for ensuring that privileges to perform
such surgeries are granted to ophthalmologists who meet the stated criteria.