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by Abigail Van Buren

Free Eye Care Program Now Offers Service Year Round

DEAR ABBY: The American Optometric Association is pleased to announce that for the first time, VISION USA, our free eye-care program for low-income, working Americans, is accepting applications and examinations year-round!

Children, adults and seniors in working families can now benefit by applying any time throughout the year. This allows them to receive an eye exam when it is needed most.

Year-round VISION USA means that the 7,000 optometrists who donate these comprehensive eye exams will be able to serve more patients through the program. During the exam, an optometrist will not only examine vision acuity (how well the eyes can see distant and close), but also examine the eyes for focusing, visual alignment, tracking, binocular fusion and disease.

To qualify for free eye care through VISION USA, individuals must be working or be part of a household with one member who is working at least part-time, have no insurance that covers eye examinations, an income below an established level based on household size, and not have had an eye exam in the past 24 months. (Some states have different eligibility requirements.)

Abby, we appreciate your previous support of VISION USA. Please know that mentioning this free program in your column can help many people. -- J. PAT CUMMINGS, O.D., PRESIDENT, AMERICAN OPTOMETRIC ASSOCIATION

DEAR DR. CUMMINGS: I am pleased to publicize this worthwhile program for my readers. Since VISION USA began in 1991, more than 314,000 individuals have benefited from this free service.

Readers can register by calling toll-free: 800-766-4466, Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Central time. Application forms are also available from VISION USA, 243 Lindbergh Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63141, or on the AOA Web site: www.aoa.org/visionusa.

DEAR ABBY: My brother has been seeing this girl for less than a year, but we seem to have become friends. Recently her grandfather passed away. They were not close. My brother called and told me the news matter-of-factly.

I have a strong aversion to funerals and go only if I "have to." I know this sounds cold, but my aversion is strong. Everyone knows this about me.

My brother called me a couple of days after the funeral, yelling at me because I didn't attend. I was waiting to call his girlfriend until after everything settled, because I know how crazy it is when someone in your immediate family passes away.

Could you please explain the proper etiquette in a situation like this? Was I completely wrong in not going? -- K.D. IN CREST HILL, ILL.

DEAR K.D.: Your mistake wasn't in skipping the funeral. It was in not immediately reaching out and offering sympathy to your brother's girlfriend for her loss. Since "everyone" knows you have an aversion to funerals, your brother should not have yelled at you. However, I can understand his being upset that you didn't call, didn't send a card or flowers, or in any other way acknowledge the fact that his girlfriend -- and your new friend -- had lost a loved one. It would have been the proper and considerate thing to do.

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