Home → VA Prosthetics → VA Handbook 1173.5 - Aids for the Blind and Visually Impaired → Issuing Aids for the Blind
5.5. Issuing Aids for the Blind
NOTE: The procedures outlined in Handbook 1173.1, Eligibility, and Handbook 1173.2, Furnishing Prosthetic Appliances and Services, are generally applicable to furnishing aids to veterans who are blind.
a. Aids and devices for the blind may be issued by the local VIST Coordinator, BROS, BRC, VICTORS, VISOR, or Continuum of Care Program Staff provided the following conditions are met:
(1) Optical low-vision devices must be prescribed by an appropriately credentialed and privileged licensed eye care practitioner or provider (ophthalmologist or optometrist).
(2) The veteran has a stated need for each device issued.
(3) The veteran demonstrates the ability to use the device correctly.
(4) When training is required, it must be provided in accordance with the national standards for issuance of a particular device. If a standard for issuance has not been developed for a particular device, then the program (BRC, VIST, BROS, VICTORS, VISOR, or Continuum of Care Program) may develop local standards until such time that a national standard is published. The training must be provided by an individual with appropriate competencies to teach the particular device.
b. Veterans requesting issuance of a device through the VA will be provided evaluation, training (if necessary), and issuance if the preceding conditions are met in a timely manner. When local issuance is being considered, every effort needs to be made to begin evaluation and training within 30 days of request from the veteran. If all criteria are met for issuance of the device, the device is to be issued within 72 hours of completion of training. Devices that are related to patient safety need to be evaluated and issued immediately, or within a 24-hour period from the time of request.
c. Evaluation and training on equipment for the blind needs to be provided by specialists with appropriate competencies, in the least restrictive environment available and in accordance with the accepted issuance criteria established for each device. The evaluation and training can be provided by any qualified low-vision professional (optometrist, ophthalmologist, low-vision therapist, VICTORS, or blind rehabilitation professional (BRC, BROS, VIST, VICTORS, VISOR)) or Continuum of Care Program or non-VA (state or private) program.
d. Issuance of a device must be based on demonstrated proficiency and ability to safely and independently use the device. The issuance of a device must follow nationally established guidelines for issuance and must include written justification of need, training provided, and the capability of the veteran to utilize the equipment.
(1) Whenever eligible beneficiaries are referred to a regional BRC, BROS, VICTORS, VISOR, or Continuum of Care Program, all aids for the blind and special equipment recommended by that center for issuance to the veteran upon completion of training will be furnished by the prosthetic activity at the VA institution where the training was provided. At a BRC, the Chief of the program is the approving official. Copies of all procurement documents and records of issuance must be sent to the veteran's primary service facility.
(2) In most cases, veterans are to be encouraged to attend the appropriate VA program to address their needs (BRC, BROS, VICTORS, VISOR, or Continuum of Care Program). However, alternative non-VA (state or private) programs may be used as a resource for the evaluation and training of a veteran when appropriate for the needs of the veteran. The results and recommendations made following the referral to a non-VA agency must be reviewed by the local VIST for appropriate action.
e. Personal computers and certain add-on(s) electronic sensory equipment such as synthesizers, speech recognition systems, software, optical character recognition systems, etc., must be issued when medical and/or rehabilitative need is determined and the ability to appropriately use the device is demonstrated.
(1) The law permits the issuance of a wide variety of equipment to eligible veterans to overcome the handicap of blindness under Title 38 United States Code (U.S.C.) Chapter 17, Section 1714(b).
(2) Initial requests and/or prescriptions for computer-based electronic sensory equipment for veterans who are blind are to be reviewed by the field facility's VIST.
(3) Computer equipment issued to the veteran becomes the property of the veteran. Due to the possibility of private and personal information being stored on this equipment, VA does not recover this equipment for re-issuance or disposal.