Disability Evaluation 101

 

DoD’s disability evaluation process provides disability compensation for Service members who are injured or become ill in the line of duty and are no longer able to perform their duties.

DoD’s disability evaluation process provides disability compensation for Service members who are injured or become ill in the line of duty and are no longer able to perform their duties.

Have you ever heard of DoD’s Disability Evaluation System (DES) or Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES) and wondered what, exactly, it is?  Or why it matters to you? DoD’s disability evaluation process provides disability compensation for Service members who are injured or become ill in the line of duty and are no longer able to perform their duties.  Dating back to World War II, the United States established separate disability compensation programs for DoD and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  Those programs remained relatively unchanged for decades and sometimes produced conflicting compensation decisions.  Fast forward to 2007, and the U.S. military looked very different than it did in 1949.  The nature of its operations and engagements evolved, and so did the types of wounds, illnesses, and injuries Service members experienced.   In response, DoD and VA integrated their separate disability evaluation systems and jointly launched a pilot program to provide wounded, ill, and injured Service members with a more consistent, transparent process, offering timely and equitable treatment throughout their transition to Veteran status.  This pilot program became today’s IDES.

IDES has evolved over the past six years, and is beneficial to Service members for a number of reasons.  The Service member receives a single set of physical disability examinations, conducted according to VA examination protocols, and disability ratings prepared by VA that both DoD and VA use to ensure the earliest possible delivery of disability benefits. What does this really mean?  More consistent evaluations and compensation, a single medical exam and disability rating, and improved case management.  IDES provides two other significant advantages to Recovering Service members.  First, it enables Service members to file their VA claim before leaving military service, so they continue to receive their military paycheck while being evaluated.  Second, it ensures Service members establish a relationship with VA prior to leaving the military so their transition to VA health care is smoother.  Additionally, IDES helps keep Service members and their families better informed.  Service members and their families enjoy a greater flow of information about DES and where they stand in the process, making the significant life event of transitioning to Veteran status a little easier.

DoD and VA jointly agreed that 295 days is an appropriate amount of time for a Service member’s IDES experience, from referral for disability evaluation through receipt of their DoD and VA benefits decision.  That provides sufficient time for the member to take the necessary actions to plan and prepare for transition back to civilian life, including enrolling in education courses and gaining certifications for their future career.  DoD is working with VA to reach the 295-day goal for more Service members, and in recent months the Departments have demonstrated significant progress in this area.

Although disability evaluation may seem like a complicated process, the concept is not. Simply put, you can be assured that DoD has a program in place to ensure that our Nation’s wounded, ill, and injured Service members who are no longer able to perform their duties receive timely, transparent, and fair compensation for injuries incurred in the line of duty.

For more information about DoD disability evaluation follow us on Twitter @WarriorCare and visit http://warriorcare.dodlive.mil/disability-evaluation/ides/