Washington, DC (NAPSI) - The story of Army Specialist Travis Fugate may be eye-opening for many Americans.

Fugate experienced the challenge of vision loss—twice. He lost vision in his right eye from an improvised explosive device (IED) blast in Iraq in 2005, and a few years later, he lost the sight in his remaining eye, too—but he’s also experienced how other veterans can lighten their challenges. Fugate served as a member of the Kentucky Army National Guard until his combat injuries. The blast caused the loss of his right eye, traumatic brain injury, and injuries to his left eye, resulting in severe visual impairment.

Where He Turned

Fortunately, he met other injured veterans through the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) and it helped him toward rehabilitation.

Programs include:

• Benefits Counseling: BVA’s Field Service Officers are blinded veterans who help others make their way through the complicated system of veterans’ benefits. They help veterans find the services they need, including rehabilitation training, health care, and job training and placement.

• BVA’s timely magazine-in large print and in various other formats—keeps blinded vets up-to-date on changing regulations, benefits, job opportunities, and technology to help them cope.

• Local Regional Groups: These offer activities, social support, and services to blinded veterans.

• Volunteer Service Offices: A national network of Volunteer Service Offices provides counseling and support services to blinded veterans.

• Family Scholarships: For the spouses, children and grandchildren of blinded veterans.

• National Actions: BVA works with federal, state and local governments to advocate for and protect the rights and benefits of blinded veterans.

• Operation Peer Support: An ongoing effort to link recently blinded veterans with veterans from previous conflicts. The unique understanding their fellow blinded veterans have of the challenges they face is an invaluable source of support for these veterans, many of whom later serve as mentors and role models.

• Project Gemini, an international outgrowth of the Operation Peer Support initiative.

These programs and services have helped Fugate and other veterans who have lost their sight recently. Today, thanks in part to BVA assistance and support, Fugate is a college student studying computers.

To Help and to Learn

To volunteer to help blinded veterans and their families, call (800) 669-7079. For further information on the organization, go to www.bva.org.