Refractive Surgery FAQS
Who can have refractive surgery?
Answer: You are eligible for the Warfighter Refractive
Eye Surgery Program if you are Active Duty or AGR personnel. However, conditions do apply so
please see the "How
do I enroll for surgery?"
If I’m retired from the military service
can I have surgery?
Answer: No. This is a mission readiness program for AD
personnel only at this time.
Question: I am
activated National Guard, how do I get surgery
Answer: Unfortunately at this time you are unlikely to
be eligible for surgery under the Warfighter Program. A basic
requirement is that you must have at least 18 months left on your AD
tour at the time of your surgery.
Question: Do you have
a waiting list?
Answer: No we don't have a waiting list. We have a
Question: Who has priority?
Answer: You need to be active duty and have a combat arms MOS (i.e. 11, 12, 13, 14, 18, 19, 21, 51, 88). Or you need to be deploying to a hostile environment in support of the Global War on Terrorism. If you do not fall into these categories you will receive refractive surgery if space is available. If your status changes at any time, please contact and inform your local eye clinic.
Question: I am a
priority candidate, how long is the waiting time before I can have
Answer: It depends on if your commander has signed off
on your authorization and when you for the surgery and have at least
30 days following for healing and recovery time.
Are National Guard or Reserves eligible for refractive surgery?
Answer: National Guard (full time or part time) and
Reserves are generally not eligible for surgery under this plan.
If your active tour is going to be longer than 18 months then yes,
you would be eligible for refractive surgery.
Do I need to have an eye exam before I apply for refractive surgery?
Answer: You need to have at least two stable eye exams
over the last two years on record before you can apply.
I am just
about to retire and I would like to have surgery before my ETS date.
How do I apply?
Answer: Unfortunately the Warfighter Refractive Eye Surgery
Program is a mission readiness program and not an entitlement
program. You must have at least 18 months left in AD status at the
time of your surgery to be eligible.
Can I lose my best corrected vision (best vision with glasses or
contact lenses)? How likely is that?
Answer: Possibly. Published reports indicate up to 1%
of patients may end up with a small decrease in their vision. For
example: best corrected pre-operative vision of 20/20 could drop to
20/30, 20/40, or worse). For reference purposes: driving without
glasses requires about 20/40 vision, while reading requires about
If I am doing fine with my glasses and/or contact lenses,
should I consider this procedure?
Answer: Maybe, depending on your expectations.
The realistic expectation of these procedures is to reduce (possibly
eliminate) the requirement for glasses or contact lenses after
accepting some risks associated with the surgery. Unrealistic
expectations include: "I want to be guaranteed that I will never
have to wear glasses or contact lenses again" or "I expect and
demand 'perfect' vision after absolutely risk-free surgery." Clarify
your expectations and then get information. Refractive surgery is
not for everyone!
Will I need to arrange time off from work?
Answer: Personnel will typically be given up to
4 days of convalescent leave immediately following surgery. There
will be additional time requirements (e.g.: pre-operative exam,
consent briefing, etc) in addition to amount of days it takes to
travel to and from the surgery center. All preoperative and
postoperative appointments need to be coordinated and approved
through your chain of command. You may return to your local military
eye doctor (if available) for follow up appointments required after
Is this treatment reversible?
Answer: No. Once the treatment is done, it cannot be
undone. Modifications or "enhancements" of the original procedure
may be done if required.
Is this treatment painful?
Answer: No. The procedure itself is not painful
(topical anesthetic is used). Postoperative healing for PRK does
have some discomfort (generally mild to moderate for a few days).
This discomfort is transient and pain relievers are provided. LASIK
postoperative healing is generally painless.
Will I have to take eye drops afterwards?
Answer: Yes. Most patients will typically be on
at least four different eye drop medications. These drops will
decrease rapidly to only one type of drop during the month after
surgery. Individual postoperative courses and treatments may vary.
How long does this treatment take?
Answer: The actual time in the treatment chair takes
only a few minutes and is done on an outpatient basis (no
hospitalization required). However, you will definitely need an
escort to take you home the day of surgery and the day after
surgery. NO ONE WILL BE ALLOWED TO OPERATE A MOTOR VEHICLE OR
DANGEROUS MACHINERY AFTER LASER EYE SURGERY UNTIL THEY ARE INFORMED
IT IS SAFE TO DO SO BY YOUR EYE DOCTOR.
Will I ever have to use glasses or contact lenses afterwards?
Answer: Maybe. The goal is to make you less
dependent on glasses or contact lenses. The treatment may even
eliminate your need for glasses, but that is NOT guaranteed. As
patients approach the early 40s, they usually will need to start
wearing reading glasses.
I'm active duty. If I get laser refractive surgery, is there a
minimum commitment / retainability for continued active service
before I can retire or separate?
Answer: Yes. According to current Army guidance,
to ensure a return on investment for the Army, a Warfighter Program
Patient will have 18 months on active duty from the date of surgery.
These are just a few "frequently asked questions". More detailed
information is available from your local military eye doctor -
ophthalmologist or optometrist. More information is also provided in
local preoperative evaluations.