Revised policy streamlines the Disability Evaluation process for wounded, ill and injured Service members

A Marine and his wife discuss his medical care with Navy officers at the former National Naval Medical Center (U.S. Navy photo).

A Marine and his wife discuss his medical care with Navy officers at the former National Naval Medical Center (U.S. Navy photo).

The recently updated Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES) Directive-Type Memorandum (DTM) includes several major changes to streamline the process for wounded warriors.

“The updated guidance will immediately help the Military Departments and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) ensure Service members and families experience the best possible disability evaluation system and delivery of benefits process,” said Al Bruner, Deputy Director in charge of Disability Evaluation policy, Office of Wounded Warrior Care and Transition Policy. “It establishes policy, assigns responsibilities, and prescribes procedures for the IDES.”

The IDES is a process that is administered jointly by the Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). DoD uses IDES to determine a Service member’s fitness for duty. If the Service member is found medically unfit for duty by DoD, then they are informed of the proposed VA disability rating before they leave the service so they know the approximate amount of compensation and benefits they will receive from the VA. Through the IDES process, VA Military Service Coordinators (MCSs) help Service members file their VA benefits claim before they leave the service so they can get their benefits as soon as possible after they separate from service. Physical Evaluation Board Liaison Officers (PEBLOs) guide Service members through the entire IDES process to ensure they are aware of their options and the many decisions they, or their families, need to make.

The DTM replaces previous guidance and consolidates all separate IDES guidance, policy and procedural updates. Some of the major features include:

  • Incorporates guidance for veterans temporarily retired for disability via the IDES, ensuring that they receive required follow-on examinations and evaluations. 
  • The Military Departments will now utilize VA databases to access current VA disability examinations and rating information, increasing consistency and transparency for the Service member.
  • Doctoral-level psychologists, in addition to psychiatrists, may sign Medical Evaluation Boards (MEBs), increasing the number of personnel authorized to finalize the boards and reducing the time required to complete the MEB.

The IDES reduces the total process time: so the time a Service member spends in the process—from being referred for a potentially unfitting medical condition to receiving a VA benefits package—is and will continue to be reduced. It eliminates duplicate disability examinations and ratings (which happened when there were two separate systems) and places VA counselors in Military Treatment Facilities (MTFs) to ensure a smooth transition to Veteran status with minimum gap in benefits.

Work on IDES guidance continues and this DTM will be incorporated into the DoD Instruction 1332.38. Stay tuned to the Warrior Care blog for updates on IDES. If you have questions about IDES, contact your MCS or PEBLO or visit the DoD Compensation and Benefits Handbook for an IDES summary.