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by Abigail Van Buren

Free Eye Care Is Available to Eligible Kids and Adults

DEAR ABBY: Every January for the last eight years, thousands of your readers have called and written the American Optometric Association to apply for free eye care available to low-income working people through VISION USA.

During that time, more than 7,500 optometrists have given free eye exams to nearly 245,000 children and adults. Among those helped last year was a teen-ager who had never had an eye exam and who was treated for crossed eyes that caused him to see double when he tried to read. Another young man was diagnosed and treated for glaucoma, and surgery was arranged for a middle-aged man who had a massive tear in his retina, which lines the back of the eye. Without surgical repair, he would have gone blind in that eye.

We hope you will alert your readers to the 1999 VISION USA program. Abby, we appreciate your steadfast support of VISION USA. You are helping many hardworking, deserving people to see better and have healthy eyes. -- JOHN A. McCALL JR., O.D., PRESIDENT, AMERICAN OPTOMETRIC ASSOCIATION

DEAR JOHN: Thank you for sharing your success stories with me and my readers. I'm pleased to publicize your generous efforts. Readers: Application forms are available now from VISION USA, 243 N. Lindbergh Blvd., St. Louis, Mo. 63141, or on the American Optometric Association (AOA) Web site ( in the "Meet the AOA" section. Completed forms must be postmarked by Jan. 22, 1999. Or, from Jan. 4-29, 1999, low-income working people can be screened for eligibility for VISION USA by calling 1-800-766-4466. Phone lines will be open weekdays from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.(CST).

To qualify for the free eye care, persons must: have a job or live in a household where there is one working member; have no health insurance that covers eye examinations; have income below an established level based on household size; and have had no eye exam within the last two years. Eligibility requirements may vary in some states.

DEAR ABBY: My wife and her brother took our children and theirs to visit their folks. It was a four-hour drive. My brother-in-law asked us to remove the middle seat from our van so his children could ride on the floor and play. Our children could be buckled in the third seat, but his would have no seat belts and would ride unprotected.

Abby, in my opinion, his request showed an outrageous lack of judgment. We have seat-belt laws in this state, and my brother-in-law had been issued a warning ticket for not buckling up his kids.

I was viewed as a fool for objecting to the removal of the middle seat. They all had a good laugh at my expense. Was I wrong? -- SAFETY-CONSCIOUS DAD IN MONTANA

DEAR DAD: You were not wrong. Had there been an accident, without seat belts, the children could have been seriously injured or killed. You were the only parent who showed common sense and concern for the safety of the children and respect for the law. I hope you stood your ground.

Abby shares her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "Abby's More Favorite Recipes." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 per booklet ($4.50 each in Canada) to: Dear Abby Cookbooklets I and II, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included in price.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600