The Departments of Defense (DoD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) worked together to make disability evaluation seamless, simple, fast and fair with the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES).
DoD uses the IDES to determine a Service member’s fitness for duty. If the Service member is found medically unfit for duty, the IDES gives them a proposed VA disability rating before they leave the service. The proposed rating informs the Service member of the approximate amount of compensation and benefits they will receive from the VA. Through the IDES process, 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. VA Military Service Coordinators (MSCs) 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.
To make the system fast and fair, there are options available and appeal processes which a Service member can choose, to get decisions reviewed along the way. PEBLOs and MSCs guide Service members through the entire IDES process to ensure they are counseled on their options. The Services will also provide legal counsel at no cost to the Service member.
In designing the IDES, DoD and the VA examined the recommendations of several commissions and task forces established to improve the delivery of benefits to wounded, ill and/or injured Service members and Veterans.
A pilot program of the IDES was launched November 26, 2007, at three Military Treatment Facilities (MTFs). The pilot simplified the disability evaluation process by eliminating duplicate disability examinations and ratings, and placing VA counselors in MTFs to ensure a smooth transition to Veteran status. Continuous improvement processes were also built into the system. Quarterly assessments of the pilot and regular surveys of Service members in the system helped identify areas for improvement.
The pilot was expanded to 27 locations as a thorough test. In thousands of surveys, participants of the pilot and their families consistently reported higher average satisfaction with fairness, customer service, and the overall DES experience, than did participants in the non-integrated legacy system. They also completed the pilot faster than the legacy systems, and separated with VA claims in place, so their wait time for receipt of benefits was shorter than before.
Based on the success of the pilot, the integrated process expanded to all remaining worldwide locations, renamed as the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES), and is available to all Service members.
Expedited Disability Evaluation System
The DoD published guidance for an Expedited Disability Evaluation System in January 2009 as a special benefit to those Service members who sustain catastrophic injuries or illnesses from combat or combat-related operations. This voluntary process moves the service member quickly to permanent disability retirement to obtain benefits from the VA and other federal and state agencies.
Physical Disability Board of Review (PDBR)
The DoD established the Physical Disability Board of Review to reassess the accuracy and fairness of disability ratings of Service members who were medically separated, with a combined disability rating of 20 percent or less, between September 11, 2001, and December 31, 2009. The board examines each applicant’s medical separation and ratings, and makes a recommendation to the Secretary of the Service from which the Veteran was discharged. The board cannot lower a disability rating and any change to the rating is effective on the date of final decision by the Service Secretary.
For more information on the Physical Disability Board of Review, please visit: http://www.health.mil/About_MHS/Organizations/MHS_Offices_and_Programs/PDBR.aspx