Department of Veterans Affairs Visual Impairment Services

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