VA’s Visual Impairment Services Team Program

Eligibility For The VA’s Visual Impairments Services Team (VIST) Program

The VIST program provides services to veterans who are legally blind or visually impaired. Eligibility is defined in a number of ways. The VIS Coordinator is the local VA facility subject matter expert with regard to blindness and low vision. The Coordinator provides case management of blind and visually impaired Veterans. Visually impaired veterans are provided restorative services and referrals on a consultation basis. Non- legally blind veterans are provided services as needed (PRN). All veterans referred to the program receive an assessment of needs and appropriate interventional strategies. The three main ways to qualify includes:

  1. Legal blindness – Best corrected visual acuity of 20/200 on a Snellen eye chart or fields no greater than 20 degrees with both eyes.
  2. Functional vision impairment – Functional visual impairment is a significant limitation of visual capability resolution from disease, trauma or congenital condition that cannot be fully corrected by standard refractive correction, medication or surgery, and is manifested by one or more of the following; (1)insufficient visual resolution (worse than 20/60 in the better eye); (2) inadequate field of vision (worse than 20 degrees along the widest meridian in the eye with the more intact central field) or homonymous hemianopia; (3) reduced peak contrast sensitivity; and (4) insufficient visual resolution or peak contrast sensitivity (see 1 and 3) at high or low lighting within a range typically encountered in every day life.
  3. Excess disabilities – An excess disability is characterized by problems and task performance difficulties related to vision loss that have a substantial impact on the person’s functional independence or personal safety, and that are out of proportion to the degree of visual impairment as measured by visual acuities or visual fields.  Veterans whose vision is better than legal blindness may have excess disability due to; (1) sudden and/or traumatic visual disorder (especially related to military service); (2) disabling co-morbidities (e.g., hearing impairment, mobility impairment, etc.); (3) systemic diseases that cause fluctuating visual impairment; (4) combined losses of other vision functions (e.g. contrast sensitivity, stereopsis, etc.); (5) sudden changes in caregiver status; or (6) other reasons.

If you have or know a Veteran that meets any of these criteria, contact your nearest Veterans Affairs Medical Center and ask for their Visual Impairment Services Team coordinator. If you wish to talk with a blinded Veteran before taking this first step, contact the Heartland Regional Group of the Blinded Veterans Association at )816) 718-2792 or (785) 409-1838. The VA offers Veterans a variety of services from low vision clinics to extensive blind rehabilitation training for qualified Veterans. Additionally, legally blind Veterans receive the priority designation of Catastrophically disabled level 4 (or Cat4), opening numerous benefits and services.

Visual Impairment Services Team Coordinators for Kansas and Missouri

The Visual Impairment Services Team coordinators are our gatekeepers for the VA’s low vision and blind rehabilitation programs. Listed below are the VIST coordinators serving Veterans throughout Kansas, Missouri, and parts of Illinois, Arkansas, Iowa, and Nebraska.

Kansas City VA Medical Center

  • Paul Clary
  • Phone: (816) 861-4700, Ext: 56294

Columbia VA Medical Center

  • Lauren Swift
  • Phone: (573) 814-6458

St. Louis Cochran VA Medical Center

  • Kevin Jacques
  • Phone: (314) 652-4100, Ext: 54121

VA Medical Center of the Ozarks

  • Paula Ellington
  • Phone: (479) 443-4301, Ext: 65364

Eastern Kansas VA Medical Center

  • Dawn Clouse
  • Phone: )913) 682-2000, Ext: 53825

Wichita VA Medical Center

  • Bob Hamilton
  • Phone: (316) 685-2221, Ext: 53682

Thank You Mothers For Your Service

Happy Mothers’ Day to all of our mothers here. Your children and families thank you for instilling lessons about leadership, duty, selfless-sacrifice, and service from watching you balance military and family obligations. For the mothers with children in the military, we thank you for the countless mail, calls, touches of home, and other items you sent us. Thank you for being there on a moment’s call when we needed someone to cover down at home or watch and explain to our kids, families, and everyone else about our service. For our partners, thank you for being by our side and covering down for us or being the only one around to keep us from crumbling apart while deployed or recovering from injuries.

Without our Mothers out there, we would not be here. Thank you to all of the Moms for being mom.

Military Moms are a special type of Mom. If you want the picture of a true hero, imagine being deployed and with the duties and responsibilities to ensure the safety of your unit and professional development of your Soldiers, Sailors, airmen, or Marines. When you are back in your room, you then switch over to helping your kids with homework or conversing with your partner/family. So how you maintain composure and skillfully switch between roles without missing a step.

Now imagine you are the spouse of a Service Member and your partner is away, and you are now a geographical single parent. Juggling all of your normal duties and responsibilities alongside those your partner used to fulfill becomes a normal part of your life. Is it easy, no, but you pull if off without a second thought.

Now imagine you are a Mom who is worried about your child or children who are in the military and you know not what is in their future. You take on any opportunities to assist, and maintain a steadfast composure despite the constant worrying about the safety and wellbeing of your child.

These are just a few of the ways Moms find themselves when in the military. Somehow Moms find the strength, patience, and endurance to overcome these extraordinary situations, making them the true heroes.

Thank you Moms.

Heartland’s 3 Ways to Promote Dialogue

The Heartland Regional Group is tasked with fostering communications and planning activities for the blinded Veterans residing in Kansas and Missouri. These tasks require an innovated approach to promote dialogue between all of our members and supporters. If you wish to receive updates and let your voices be heard, we have several options to connect us all. You can subscribe to our blog, join our email discussion group, or follow our Facebook page.

Blinded Veterans of the Heartland Website

If you would like to receive announcements, relevant articles, and our newsletters straight to your inbox, consider visiting and subscribing to our blog at http://heartland.blindnotalone.com. The website features our latest news, how to connect with our peer support teleconferences, and information about blindness and beneficial technology for independence.

Email Discussion Group

If you prefer email updates and discussions, our email discussion group is perfect for you. The private group ensures only our fellow blinded Veterans and supporters may join the discussion, ensuring our privacy. If you wish to join or know someone who should be invited, send an email to us, and include your name and preferred email. Once added, you will receive an email with information on how to send and reply to the group.

Heartland on Facebook
Finally, show us how much you like us through Facebook. Visit, https://facebook.com/blindedveteran/ and be sure to Like and Follow the page. This will notify you about new posts and replies from the group.

As blinded Veterans of the Heartland regional group, its up to each of us to determine our group’s future. Our success depends on how we are able to come together to determine our own goals. So we hope you take the time to sign up and join the conversation.