Perceptual and Visual Training as a Potential CHAMPUS Benefit

HRD-79-81: Published: May 31, 1979. Publicly Released: May 31, 1979.

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The Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Uniformed Services (CHAMPUS) provides financial assistance for medical care provided by civilian sources to dependents of deceased members, active duty members, and retirees of the uniformed services. Perceptual and visual training was provided as part of the CHAMPUS benefits until 1975. GAO reviewed various Department of Health, Education, and Welfare programs to determine which ones provided perceptual and visual training and whether this training eliminated the need for surgery. The training was covered in 28 states. Only 3 of the 28 states would not pay for training when provided by an optometrist, and only 3 states did not have any cost limitations. Opthalmologists believe that a complete eye examination should be made before treatment is begun for eye problems such as strabismus (cross-eyed) or amblyopia (lazy eye). Eye dilation is an essential procedure to identify serious eye diseases, but optometrists lack the medical background to dilate the eyes. Opthalmologists question the value of perceptual and visual training to treat vision disorders. National Eye Institute officials believe a study is needed to evaluate the effectiveness of visual training as a treatment and to determine whether perceptual and visual training should be included as a health insurance program benefit.

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