IDES helps soldier transition, receive benefits

Please read the below Redstone Rocket article on the assistance the Integrated Disability Evalutation System (IDES) process and subject matter experts provided a soldier in identifying and evaluating his medical conditions, ensuring care and ongoing treatment, and his transition to veteran status with Veterans Affairs benefits.

New military medical system expedites process
VA, Defense collaborate on disability evaluation
By Amy Guckeen Tolson, Staff writer

Jerome Jones, Robert Flemming, Marshall Brown, Capt. Larry Brown, Vera Shorter and Dr. Monica Gorbandt meet to discuss how the implementation of the Integrated Disability System (IDES) is going at Fox Army Health Center. (Photo courtesy of Redstone Rocket)

Jerome Jones, Robert Flemming, Marshall Brown, Capt. Larry Brown, Vera Shorter and Dr. Monica Gorbandt meet to discuss how the implementation of the Integrated Disability System (IDES) is going at Fox Army Health Center. (Photo courtesy of Redstone Rocket)

When Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Baugh’s medical issues began to interfere with his mission, he turned to IDES to help him transition to civilian life and receive the benefits he rightly deserved.

As a Tricare Prime remote beneficiary, Fox Army Health Center referred him to IDES, the Integrated Disability Evaluation System, a partnership program between the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs used to evaluate wounded, ill or injured Service members to determine whether they are fit for duty, and if not, what disability rating and benefits they will receive, prior to their separation from service.

“Decisions made through the IDES process have a significant effect on the soldier, his family and their futures,” Vera Shorter, Physical Evaluation Board Liaison Officer (PEBLO), said.

While it’s a position many soldiers do not want to find themselves in, the new IDES program simplifies the process to cut through the red tape and get the Service member what they need faster.

“The biggest thing about this program is that when they walk in to see me, for the most part, they’re not very happy they’ve been referred to the IDES program because they want to remain on active duty, and this is determining their fate in the service,” Robert Flemming, VA Military Services Coordinator (MSC), said. “After they realize that the DoD and the VA are working hand-in-hand, they know that we’re here to help.”

“I think the process was excellent,” said Baugh, who served 14 years active duty. “I’m happy with the outcome. I didn’t run into any kind of issues during the process.”

Baugh will be the first IDES case to be completed at Fox Army Health Center (FAHC). His last day of active duty will be April 16, 252 days after he began the IDES process. The IDES standard is 295. While the process may at times seem lengthy, compared to the old way of doing things, which took 500-plus days for a Service member to receive their VA benefits, the IDES program allows those benefits to start the month after separation.

“Financially, that’s the biggest concern,” Flemming said. “They’re making $50,000 a year and now they may be making $1,300 a month. Knowing that the VA benefits are there the next month helps ease that transition.”

While under the old program Service members may undergo several health examinations for DoD purposes, only to have to repeat them for the VA, under IDES a Service member undergoes one examination and receives one disability rating. After meeting with a PEBLO at Fox, the Service member meets with Flemming next door immediately afterward, who will schedule an exam with QTC, a contracted network of doctors used exclusively for the IDES program, who are trained and certified in completing VA examinations. IDES team member Dr. Monica Gorbandt assists Service members in determining when it may be time to go through the program.

“As the MEB (medical evaluation board) physician at FAHC, an important part of my actions in this new system is identifying and evaluating medical conditions that a Service member acquired during their service that may impact their ability to fully execute their military duty,” Gorbandt said. “Also, I work as part of the team ensuring that attention is given to soldier medical conditions for both current care and ongoing treatment as many of these individuals transition from their military duty to veteran status.”

With the DoD and VA collocated and working hand-in-hand at Fox, questions are easily answered and the overall process sped up, a goal for the Army and VA when they piloted the program in November 2007, and saw its implementation in 2010 and 2011.

“Capt. Larry Brown, chief, patient administration for Fox Army Health Center, was the lead for IDES implementation at Redstone and did a great job making sure we were on time with implementation,” Fox commander Col. Elizabeth Johnson said. “The fact that the first Service member going through the IDES process at Redstone Arsenal was able to exceed the IDES timeline is a testimony to the collaborative work with the VA.”

Said Flemming, “The collaboration is perfect. It reduces any confusion for the person, expedites the process and saves the Service member a lot of time.”

For more information on IDES, visit these DoD and Military Service resources: