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ABO Clears Up AOS Inaccuracies

December 17, 2012

The American Board of Optometry’s (ABO’s) recent string of victories against the America Optometric Society (AOS) represents a resounding blow to the AOS’s credibility as a purported “speaker of truth” about the ABO and board certification in general.

Last week, the presiding judge in the AOS’s false advertising case against the ABO followed up on his strongly worded Judgment against the AOS with an even more strongly worded Order that required the AOS to reimburse the ABO for nearly a half million dollars in attorney’s fees for bringing a “groundless and unreasonable” case.

The message has been consistent.  Since the start of the trial, the court has ruled in the ABO’s favor on every meaningful issue presented to it.  In so doing, the judge has not only vindicated the ABO but has taken the unusual (and telling) step of openly criticizing the AOS for pursuing a baseless claim.

Despite the rulings, the AOS persists in promulgating misinformation about the ABO.  Sadly, another recent AOS release once again seeks to “spin” information completely inconsistent with the facts.

For example, the AOS’s information states that “[a]n injunction remains in place prohibiting the ABO from claiming any superiority of their Diplomates above and beyond those who are not ABO certified.”  However, no such injunction has ever been issued in this case. In fact, the judge points out the following in the Order awarding attorney’s fees:

“…AOS contends that it was the prevailing party with respect to certain claims in the [Final Amended Complaint] because the Court issued an injunction prohibiting ABO from making six particular statements about board certification, and it argues that this should affect the court’s discretionary determination about awarding fees.  The issuance of the injunction was based on ABO having previously agreed by consent decree, without admitting any liability, to have the Court enter such an injunction in an effort to end the lawsuit.  The claims based on these six statements were not adjudicated on the merits. AOS is thus not a prevailing party.”

In an attempt to avoid an ugly court battle, the ABO proactively removed statements from its website that, although totally benign, showed good faith to the court in expediting an end to the case.  The impact of those concessions was and will continue to be negligible.

For instance, the ABO removed:

Board Certified Optometrists will be able to demonstrate their competence beyond entry level for optometric licensure.

But the Court’s Judgment establishes that the ABO is lawfully permitted to say:

Board Certified Optometrists will be able to demonstrate their competence beyond entry level.

The ABO also removed:

Board Certification is a voluntary process that establishes standards that demonstrate that the doctor of optometry has exceeded the basic requirement(s) for licensure.

But the Court’s Judgment establishes that the ABO is lawfully permitted to say: 

Board Certification is a voluntary process that establishes standards that demonstrate that the doctor of optometry has exceeded the basic requirement(s).

There is absolutely no truth in the AOS statement that “[a]n injunction remains in place prohibiting the ABO from claiming any superiority of their Diplomates above and beyond those who are not ABO certified.”

The AOS voluntarily put its claims to the test when it chose to file the lawsuit and submit those claims to a court of law.  The court has now heard all of the AOS’s evidence and found its claims to be “groundless and unreasonable.”

The ABO has constructed a meaningful board certification program of which the profession of optometry can be proud.  ABO board certification requires a residency or equivalent, followed by passing a criterion-referenced examination that tests competence beyond entry level.  The ABO believes that only a process such as this, with a tie-in to lifelong learning through maintenance of certification, is likely to hold up to the scrutiny of the government, third-party payers and our patients.

For more information, please visit the links below:

Court Orders AOS to Pay ABO Attorney’s Fees

Ruling Awarding ABO Attorney Fees

Final Judgment in Favor of ABO

Court Order in favor of ABO

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