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Guide to Optical Benefits

As a member of the UFT Welfare Fund, you and your covered dependents are entitled to an eye exam plus eyeglasses or contact lenses once every two years. Starting Feb. 1, 2021, you no longer need to request an optical certificate to obtain benefits. 

You can check your eligibility for benefits in one of three easy ways:

  1. Visit 24/7. You will be asked for identifying information, such as your UFT ID number or part of your Social Security number.
  2. Download the GVS app (coming soon on iOS or Android). From the app, you can find an in-network provider, preview your benefits and access a virtual ID card.
  3. Call GVS's dedicated phone line for UFT members at 212-729-5395.

See more plan details and check your eligibility

Visit GVS

If you are eligible for the optical benefit, you can make an appointment or walk in to a participating vision store (for in-network coverage) or a nonparticipating vision store of your choice (for out-of-network coverage). 

You can view and download our optical brochure for more program details. 

For more information on the optical benefit, please select one of the following topics:

Frequently Asked Questions

A list of the most commonly asked questions.
If there are no more optical certificates, how will I access my benefits?

Eligibility information will be available electronically via and the GVS mobile app (coming soon on iOS or Android) as well as via a dedicated phone line at 212-729-5395. As always, you have the option to access your benefits either in-network, or out-of-network.


Information on your eligibility for benefits will be available not only to you and your dependents, but also to participating optical service providers. This will make it easier to schedule appointments and use your benefits for covered services at participating providers. Once you confirm your eligibility, you can contact a participating provider’s office to schedule an appointment, or walk in. Participating providers can verify eligibility for you and/or your covered dependents. These providers will offer you all of the program discounts and benefits to which you are entitled.


Once you confirm your eligibility (either at or on the GVS app), and obtain covered optical services at an out-of-network location (including online providers) you can submit a claim. As is the present case, you must provide a paid, itemized receipt and a copy of your prescription. These can be submitted electronically via or the GVS app. Alternatively, paper claims can be mailed to GVS.

Have our benefits in the optical program changed? Will these changes cost me anything?

These changes do not affect benefit levels or eligibility; they only serve to improve speed and ease of access by eliminating the need to wait for a paper optical certificate before you or your dependents access your benefits. This additional benefit (as with all other Welfare Fund benefits) is available at no additional cost to our enrolled members and their eligible dependents.

Why is the UFT changing its optical program? How will I benefit from these changes?

In partnership with our optical benefit administrator (General Vision Services / GVS) we are upgrading the optical program so you can obtain your benefits more quickly and conveniently. Removing the logistical limitations of obtaining an optical certificate will enhance the speed and accuracy of your access to services while further protecting the security of your personal health information. Other than the optical certificate itself, all of the other program elements which provide value to you are either unchanged, or enhanced.

These changes provide advantages to you at every stage of the process. First, you no longer need to obtain a physical certificate for optical services, so there's no need to wait for it to arrive by mail, and no risk of losing it. With new online access to services, you will be able to access your benefits more seamlessly and receive claim payments more quickly.

What do the GVS website and GVS mobile app do in regards to our optical benefits?

Both the GVS website and the GVS app (coming soon on iOS or Android)) allow you to verify eligibility for optical benefits, locate in-network providers, and submit claims.

How is the UFT's optical program changing? What will I have to do to obtain my benefits?

As of Feb. 1, 2021, UFT members will no longer be required to obtain a paper certificate in order to access optical benefits for yourself or your eligible dependents. Once you confirm your eligibility (either at or on the GVS app, coming soon on iOS or Android), you can contact a participating provider’s office to schedule an appointment (or simply walk in.)  In-network providers will offer you all applicable plan discounts and benefits, with no claims for you to file.  To obtain reimbursement for out of network services, as in the present case, you must provide a paid, itemized receipt and a copy of your prescription. These can be submitted electronically via the GVS website or the GVS app.  Alternatively, paper claims can be mailed to GVS.