Dear Abby: I was desperately in need of new eyeglasses and couldn't afford to buy any. A friend had read the column you ran last January about free glasses and gave me the 800-number.

Through that number, I was put in touch with the nicest gentleman who determined that I qualified for the free eye examination, so he set up an appointment for me with a local doctor.Well, I had the exam - and now I have new glasses!

I want to thank you for running such important information in your column and also thank whoever is behind the program. I am more grateful than I can express. Abby, please convey my appreciation to those responsible.

- Lois Moir, North Vernon, Ind.

Dear Lois: It's VISION USA, sponsored by the American Optometric Association. They offer free eye care to qualifying low-income working Americans.

I recently received this letter from their president, Larry DeCook, O.D.:

Dear Abby: This January, the American Optometric Association (AOA) will begin the fifth year of our VISION USA program to provide free eye care to low-income, uninsured working people and their families.

Last year, "Linda L." read about the program in your column. She had been laid off her job and couldn't get another one because, at the age of 49, her vision was too blurred to read a job application and do the detailed computer data entry work for which she was qualified. Although her daughter, who lives with her, was working, there wasn't any money for an eye exam and glasses.

Through VISION USA, Linda received the eye care she needed. Three weeks after getting her new glasses, she found a job. She was one of approximately 32,000 people served last year by nearly 8,000 optometrists who donated their services through this program.

Nine out of 10 of these people had eye health or vision problems. These included such conditions as a detached retina, glaucoma, cataracts and many common vision problems that make it difficult for adults to work and for children to learn in school.

From Jan. 3 to 31, 1995, low-income working people can be screened for eligibility for the 1995 VISION USA program by calling (800) 766-4466. (Phone lines will be open weekdays from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Central Standard Time.)

People can also apply by mail. Application forms are available from VISION USA, 243 N. Lindbergh Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63141. COMPLETED FORMS MUST BE POSTMARKED BY JAN. 25, 1995. Because the phone lines are sometimes very busy, it may be easier to apply by mail.

Last year, almost 8,000 callers to our toll-free number said they heard about the program from Dear Abby.

Will you please alert your readers to the VISION USA program again this year?

- Larry De Cook, O.D., American Optometric Association

Dear Dr. De Cook: Yes!

Readers: To qualify for the free eye care, you must have a job or live in a household where there is one working member; have no health insurance of any kind; have income below an established level based on household size; and have had no eye examination within the past two years. Eligibility requirements may vary in some states.

The comprehensive eye exams will be given in optometrists' private offices in March, coinciding with the celebration of Save Your Vision Week - March 5-11.

Dear Readers: Have a merry Christmas - and a safe one, so if you're driving, don't drink; and if you're drinking, don't drive!

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