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Do You Know My VIST Coordinator?

Richmond VAMC VIST Coordinator, Evelyn Cabrera-Heatwole in action

Richmond VAMC VIST Coordinator, Evelyn Cabrera-Heatwole in action

Friday, June 20, 2014

When I meet blind Veterans for the first time that is often the first thing they say to me. Usually, they go on to tell some great thing that happened; how their VIST Coordinator arranged good care for them, solved a knotty problem in the medical facility, helped them get a benefit they were not aware of, helped them and their families through a trying time of adjustment, changed their lives. There are also the occasional – but rare – complaints.

"VIST" stands for Visual Impairment Services Team; the VIST Coordinator establishes and oversees the work of the VIST in a VA medical facility. The team is composed of VA medical and rehabilitation professionals who work together to assure that blind Veterans receive good care in their VA medical facilities. The VIST program began in 1967; the program was designed to assure personal contact with each blinded Veteran in the VIST catchment area, arranging periodic reviews of their medical conditions and needs.

There are currently 164 VIST Coordinators in the Veterans Health Administration. They cover 200+ VA medical centers and community-based outpatient clinics, and provide care for more than 50,000 blind Veterans on their caseloads. VIST Coordinators are case managers who have responsibility for coordinating care and services for severely disabled visually impaired Veterans, as well as Servicemembers receiving care in VA. VIST Coordinator duties include providing and arranging treatment in order to enhance blind Veterans’ functioning and adjustment. They arrange for Veterans to receive care in the VHA blind and vision rehabilitation clinics, from specialists who provide care in homes and communities, and from the inpatient blind rehabilitation centers. They inform and educate family members and significant others of blind Veterans to help them understand the disability of blindness – what it is and what it does - because blindness doesn’t just happen to the Veteran, it happens to family, friends and community, too. Other VIST Coordinator duties include providing outreach to locate Veterans who have severely disabling visual impairment and are not receiving VA care, providing counseling and problem resolution, and arranging reviews of benefits and needed services. They can also recommend assessment of Veterans for guide dogs.

Some VIST Coordinators have education and background in counseling, while others have education and background in blind rehabilitation. Through either channel, they provide very important and needed services. They are there to assure that blind Veterans get "the best care anywhere".

Learn more about VA’s Blind Rehabilitation Services at:


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