Navy to Replace ‘Birth Control Glasses’

Okay I admit that this is not the kind of story we normally post, but I couldn’t avoid the headline with the words “birth control glasses.” It brought back memories of boot camp.

From the Military Report:

Servicemembers will soon say goodbye to the old school “BCG’s” as the Navy replaces the ‘90’s era “birth control glasses” with a slightly more stylish Buddy Holly style frame. [I’ll let you be the judge when it comes to style]

The U.S. Navy recently announced that all active duty and Reserve personnel, including recruits will soon have a new standard issue eyeglass frame available. Effective Jan. 1, the current cellulose acetate spectacle frame provided at all Armed Forces initial entry training sites began the transition from male and female, brown “S9” spectacles to a new, unisex, black “5A” frame. Within six months, the 5A frame will be made available to all active duty and Reserve servicemembers with full implementation expected to be completed over a two-year period. Retirees are currently eligible to receive standard issue S9, S91A and Half-Eye frames, and there will be no change to this authorization.

Read the full story.

About the Author

Terry Howell
Before becoming the Managing Editor for, Terry served 20 years in the U.S. Coast Guard as an Aviation Electrician’s Mate and aircrewman. In his final role in the Coast Guard, Terry served as a Career Development Advisor, where he provided career, finance, education, and benefits counseling to servicemembers and their families. Since retiring from the Coast Guard, Terry has authored the book, The Military Advantage, managed the content for TurboTap, the DoD's online transition program and VAforVets, the VA's transition assistance website. Terry earned both his Bachelor's and MBA at Corban University using Military Tuition Assistance and his GI Bill benefits to help cover the cost.
  • art

    Forget what the old ones looked like.

  • James

    They havn’t changed since I was a recruit back in 1979!

  • 1963..1969

    Try 1963…. They still looked the same.

  • FreeRangeRadical

    In the Army, we called these “RPGs”, short for ‘Rape Prevention Glasses’.

    Given the current DoD sexual misconduct issues, I’ll forego further comment but to say, ‘No Means No’.

  • Ken

    Stylish Buddy Holly style? Maybe in 1960! Should be issued with bow ties and a camo Zoot suit to complete the “look”. Give me a freaking break!

  • Jos C Moore-USN Ret

    Several years ago, I asked the VA in Manhattan if I could get an eye exam and glasses and they told me no. I am a 30 year Navy veteran (retired in 1985). I shall have to see (?) if they have changed their policy

    • Tom

      In order to get any VA health care, you have to apply and receive a health care group rating (group ratings are 1-8) by the VA health care system. If you are a rated disabled vet (getting service connected injury rating) you should qualify in one of the first 6 groups. If not, you can still apply for health care, but on a cost share basis (groups 7 & 8)

    • Tom Mueller

      Jos. I lleft the Navy in 1966 but did not require glasses until 20 years ago
      My medical is through the VA. Although Agent Orange Exposed, I am not yet have my “service connected rating”. The VA doctor that did my annual eye exam stated that vets ARE entitled to free glasses, service connected rating or not. . The point….they give you free crutches if you have a broken leg, Free oxygen support equipment if you have COPD etc. If you can’t read your Sunday paper, you can get free glasses. Depending on your financial “threshold” you may or my not have to pay a co-pay…but free glasses are part of the exam if they determine you need them MEVER take the word from one or two people supposedly in the know, at the VA The VA changes policy on Vets medical benefits (it seems like daily) many times a year and the one person you talk to may not be aware of latest “rule”

    • john

      I had the same response from the VA here in Norfolk Virginia. I am a 20 year Navy Veteran. This is the kicker, I injured my eye while I was on active duty.

  • don gabbert

    my old army glasses from 1980 look just like the new navy ones. guess they thought no one would remember or were already dead.

  • glawsure

    ther you go Dave

  • Ken

    Navy 1972 , I had the same glasses then, wow Deja-vu……haha

  • JMD82

    You can get one pair of glasses a year (no eye exam) typical BCGs..

  • RMC, USN (Ret)

    Navy’s running behind as usual. Been retired >20 years now, split my eyecare needs between the area VAMC and a vicinity Army MTF. Active duty army gets LASIK now, instead of glasses – and VA optical shops offer a selection of frames that rival a civilian optical shop of similar size.

  • Mike Zulinski

    They always say wait long enough and styles return. Same glasses I had in the Navy 1967 +, they were called Birth control then and will be within two weeks of the “NEW” issued ones . So there is Hope for my wide whale cords. platform shoes,braided belts, I see the puka beads are already back also “GREAT” I knew I was right when I told mom not to throw that stuff out

  • GunnerGeorge

    I joined the Navy in 1963. The frames were then sort of a clear pink.

    • don


  • navy’88

    Newer “prescription” but still BCGs

  • Mavrick

    Hey come on now… free is free, well the gov’t does not give anything away free. It i s your money anyway… but let’s just say that at not immediate cost to you. Yes I will take them at no charge. I wear glasses from that are prescribed by the Phoenix VAMC and I have to pay approximately $150.00 additional for non BCG’s. So to quote RMC, USN, “and VA optical shops offer a selection of frames that rival a civilian optical shop of similar size.”. I will take those glasses from now on cause I am tired of paying the extra charge for the glasses that I wear. Of course, my are no-line bifocals, and non glare, but still, if I can save $$$$$ on them, I am here for my BCG’s. So free is free, if not free then pay for what you want, it’s your money isn’t it?? And your choice.

    • john

      I buy my glasses online for less than $40.00, there is no need for someone to purchase glasses for $150.00. They are making money, the blanks for the glasses cost around $20.00 and add the frame and you have $150.00?? It’s a rip-off. I buy my wife’s online as well and it’s more than $40.00 due to her wanting transitional and no-line bifocals but still a huge savings.

  • R T Judge

    Googled CHEAP GLASSES, (maybe ‘cheap eye glasses’) Found outfit in Sacramento. HUNDREDS of styles glasses. Typed in numbers on prescription. Glasses here in 10 days, thirty two dollars! Costco wanted $200, Optometrist’s office wanted $300. Lay them side by side and you can’t tell the difference. Site offered exact same brands and styles as more expensive places.

  • squidoutofguam

    Ha!! Always had the P3 frames issued to me. Some would call them “John Lennon Glasses”. I just call them comfortable. Only have to replace the frames about every twenty years or so as they hold up well. I can even bend the arms around my fat head, which is something I could never do with the plastic or bakelite frames.

  • Jinglesusn

    I didn’t know you could get one pair of free glasses thru the VA, I was USN 61-81, and am listed as 0 for disability, but they cover anything connected with my “bones” for free service. Last year I applied for hearing aids thru the VA, I got them, used the Reason of being close to off-shore bombardment with the tin cans I was on for 3 WestPac tours in the 60’s and 70’s on the gunline..

    I’ll ask about the glasses my next visit to the VA later this month, Thanks.

    • Ken

      Next time you are VA go to the eye clinic and you should be able to set up an apppt. I did and get a check every year now.

    • DON

      All vetrans may have free hearing aids, It is a given, that all vetrans were exposed to loude noise at sometime during their service. I any vetran out there has not signed up for VA medical care, do so! The VA system is funded by the number of vets who sign up. Even if you don’t need something now, sign up anyway, it will help a vet that does need care,


  • John

    I wish I had kept my “pink” glasses from 1961, they make for great nostalgia.

  • homespunlady

    As a 20+year female retiree this is news to me. I’ve repeatedly asked the KCVA about whether I could get glasses there and have been told no- despite flyers outside the door advertising that eyeglasses were available at a reasonable price.
    I pay for Tricare Prime and the only option I’ve been told is to pay for everything except maybe with “approval” a basic eye exam that they cover ONCE every 2 years despite needing an annual exam minimum for an optometrist to provide glasses. I’ve been repeatedly told eye exams, etc aren’t available to me at Whiteman AFB.
    2 weeks ago that meant a $400 expense that I had to put on credit since I cannot afford to pay for that much. The ironic insult is that none of that expense over the years has ever been “tax-deductable” since my income and other expenses are too low to “qualify”.
    It’s not the first time I’ve faced such a double standard concerning purported benefits and I’d bet that if I went there today and asked once more I’d receive the same denials and lies.

    • DON

      Most retirie care at a military clinic will be on a space available basis.
      Don’t hesitate to make an appointment with the Director of base medical services…hospital/clinic commander.
      On thing to keep in mind is your benifits at a VA Medical facility. Many retired military do not realize that they can access a whealth of benifits from the VA If you have not gotten a VA card, do so post haste!


    • wes comer

      You are entitled to 1 pair of standard military eyeglassses per year from your mtf. I get 1pr of clear and 1pr of sunglasses per year. I have been receiving his benefit every year since I retired in 1996.

  • Joyce Perry-Norton

    I so remember the BCG’s. I hated mine because I also was light sensitive and my lenses were tinted pink… LOL. I get a free pair of glasses every year through the VAMC. I am a 20 year USAF retiree but I am also 60% disability rated…so that could be my edge on the free glasses. I have to pay for no line bifocals or transitions, but that is cheap compared to what I used to pay for glasses when I was in the Military… :-)

  • Old Navy

    In the Navy we called them Birth Control Devices or BCDs.


      Duh that’s what they’ve been saying all along!! Pay attention to detail shipmate!!

  • SDickenson

    Well there is what you are entitled to and what you qualify for and what service is available. Living near or driving to a small rural VA or MTF that has limited services or without an eye doctor means no available benefit. Talking to the director or commander validates your eligilibilty but doesn’t guarante access to something not there. Then there is the problem with apts being given and then rescheduled by them every time for months on end. After 10 mo of apt cancellations I gave up and paid out of pocket. I am glad the care is there for those that need it but I would rather control my ability to get seen with a provider that has the time and ability to see me under Medicare/Tricare.
    I recently moved to be closer to a larger urban VAMC and MTF. Might change my mind now but it’s hard to trust them. They don’t care about me and I get the feeling that they are all exhausted from being overworked and are there just for a paycheck and a benefit package.

  • Lancelot

    I live near an AF base, so can get the retiree glasses for free. They are no-line bifocal and tinted. Can also get new glasses at the VA for free in many more styles than the AF base. Free is free and no one else knows the difference. Plus, I only wear my BC glasses when riding my motorcycle. No one can see them then.

  • Steve Z

    You can get 2 free pair a year/or every 2 yrs (not sure)…I got a pair of clear and a pair of sun glasses

  • Father of six

    Don’t believe a word of it. These glasses do NOT, and never did, provide any form of protection against pregnancy. Use traditional birth control instead.

    — Father of six.

    • Karen I

      Love it; too funny!!!!

  • tomte

    I go to Sams Club and get a 50 dollar exam (you don’t have to be a member) and then I buy my glasses at I usually get good quality no line transitions with titanium frames and it costs around$125. They are very good quality and a lot cheaper than I would pay otherwise. I’ve had these for over a year with no problems whatsoever. The last couple of pairs worked great too.

    • Judy

      That’s a great buy

  • Duane Foote CPO ret

    Been getting free glasses for several years now with no complaints.
    However just lost my last free pair and have 6 months to wait, guess I’ll
    need to bite the bullet and pay for next pair. Tricare-Prime is still the best priced supplemental I can find. Had By pass surgery and get all my meds for no additional cost.

  • Mike F.

    Got some new glasses from the Navy a few months back. They look neither like “Buddy Holly” or traditional BCGs. More like “Indiana Jones in his college classroom.” :-)

  • Retiree

    For an inexpensive pair of glasses, check out Zenni Optical on the web. Also, America’s Best offers 2 pair and an exam for $69.99. Getting an appointment, hoping for the best in finding a frame, and the hour+ ride to the base…for me, it’s worth checking out the other two options. As a retiree, saving $$ is imperative.

  • Eugene Hampton

    The Black glasses were not that bad but the clear pink one would kill the mood in a minute.

  • SFC (R) KLC

    I retired from the Army in 94 and the new glasses look similar to the ones I was issued in the 70s and early 80s. I am a level 1 service connected DV and I have been getting 1 pair if free glasses every year from the VA for more than a dozen years. I had heard about the free glasses for retired service members but I have never messed with it. I live in a city with a major VA hospital and 3 military bases so maybe I should check into the glasses for retirees. I would be interested in hearing about anybody’s experiences with getting them from the military.

  • Niels Anderson

    Reference to Birth Control Glasses brought back memories of receiving them when I entered the Air Force back in 1966.

  • Army Nurse, retired

    The only time I got gov’t issued sun glasses was during a 19702 “hardship tour” in Hawaii! The VA will authorize transition (turn dark in sun) lenses if you have early cataracts but first takes at least 3 months to get an appointment. Use those benefits while we still have them! Thank you’ll for your military service.