FORT LEE, Va. (June 16, 2016) -- The Department of Defense has approved the Warfighter Refractive Eye Surgery Program in response to the operational environments in which service members are often found.

Many times, eyeglass wear and contact lenses are not optimal in conditions that require headgear, night vision goggles, or NBC gear or are in high altitude and sandy areas. In an effort to increase visual battlefield operational efforts, WRESP was initiated in 2001.

Several Army surgical centers offer photorefractive keratectomy, laser keratomileusis and intra collomer lens implants. These surgical options free service members from the constraints of eyeglasses and contact lenses and leave them to perform their duties more effectively, efficiently and safely.

Currently, the Fort Lee Optometry Clinic primarily refers to the Fort Belvoir Refractive Surgery Center, located in the National Capital Region. The Fort Belvoir WRESP has a 98 percent success rate for 20/20 vision post-surgery and has a one-month wait time.

The surgery is an elective procedure and service members who depend on glasses or contacts to drive are not good candidates. Beneficiaries are first assessed for stability in their current eyeglass prescription and any underlying optical disease processes. A comprehensive eye exam to include refraction, corneal measurements, eye pressures and dilation are required with additional testing done as needed. Only active duty service members and activated National Guard and Reserve service members are eligible.

All interested candidates must first be assessed at their local optometry clinic and then forwarded to the Fort Belvoir WRESP. Army candidates must have 18 months remaining on active duty after surgery and Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard candidates must have 12 months remaining on active duty.

All service members must be at least 21 years of age with no pending adverse actions in order to be eligible for surgery. Family members and retirees are not eligible. There are two priority groups: Category 1 are the highest priority and includes combat arms and deploying service member regardless of specialty; Category 2 are non-combat arms, non-deploying service members.

The Fort Belvoir WRESP facility can accommodate up to 40 patients a week with two visits to the facility, a surgery brief and pre-operative exam, occurring before the surgery date. The surgery performed is typically determined by what procedure is best for the particular candidate’s eyes. The PRK procedure takes approximately 15 minutes but has a longer recovery time.

The LASIK procedure takes approximately 30 minutes but the healing process is shorter. The three-month outcome of both procedures is the same.

For more information, visit the Fort Belvoir WRESP website at www.fbch.capmed.mil/healthcare/refractivesurgery.aspx. If people meet the stated criteria at the WRESP website and are interested in starting the application process, contact the Fort Lee Kenner Optometry Clinic at (804) 734-9253.