Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES)

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DoD and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) work together to make disability evaluation more seamless and transparent with the IDES. The IDES integrates DoD’s and VA’s disability processes and uses a single set of medical examinations to determine fitness for duty as well as a single set of disability ratings to determine the level of DoD and VA disability benefits. The IDES improves the accuracy and consistency of disability determinations and the timeliness of providing both DoD and VA disability benefits to eligible Service members and is the primary disability evaluation system used by the Military Departments.

Graphic of IDES Fact #103: IDES is a joint VA/DoD program which evaluates a Service member's fitness for duty and eligibility for DoD/CA disability compensation and benefits #IDESFactsA Service member is referred into the IDES when their doctor determines the member, within 12 months of the onset of their condition, is not likely to return to duty. Once referred, Service members are assigned a Physical Evaluation Board Liaison Officer (PEBLO) to manage their case, counsel them on the process, explain the sequence of events that will occur, and inform them what their responsibilities are while in the IDES. Once the PEBLO has gathered the medical record, the Service member’s case is transferred to the Military Service Coordinator (MSC), a VA employee. The MSC works with the Service member to identify all claimed conditions that are separate from those causing their referral into IDES. The MSC then schedules necessary VA medical examinations for all referred and claimed conditions. The examinations may be performed by a VA or VA-contracted doctor. Once the examination results are received, the PEBLO will coordinate with administrative staff at the Military Treatment Facility to convene a MEB.

Medical Evaluation Board (MEB)

The MEB is the medical portion of the DES process.  The results determine whether the Service member meets the Service-specific medical retention standards, but the MEB does not determine the Service member’s fitness for duty or level of disability.  The MEB has a minimum of two physicians, and in cases involving behavioral health conditions, it includes a mental health care provider.  The PEBLO builds the MEB case file, which contains:

  • Service Treatment Records, to include civilian records;
  • A narrative summary (NARSUM) of the Service member’s medical condition(s);
  • Results from tests and medical examinations performed related to the Service member’s condition(s);
  • Letters from the chain of command describing how the injury or illness impacts the Service member’s ability to perform their duties; and
  • Other information that the MEB may require.

When the MEB reviews a case, they are responsible for answering the question, “Does the Service member meet Service medi­cal retention standards?”

  • If the MEB determines the Service member meets the standards, they will be returned to full duty in their current job.
  • If the Service member does not meet medical retention standards, the MEB will refer the case to a PEB and identify the medical condition(s) that do not meet retention standards.

Service members may request an impartial physician review the medical evidence presented in the NARSUM and may also present a rebuttal to the results of their MEB.

Physical Evaluation Board (PEB)

The PEB is the personnel portion of the DES process that determines whether the Service member is fit for continued military service.  For members determined unfit because of duty-related impairments, it determines their eligibility for disability benefits.  The board looks at many factors, including the Service member’s medical information, letters from their chain of command, as well as their rate or military occupational specialty to determine how their medical condition(s) impact their ability to perform required military duties.

Once convened, the PEB first meets informally (Informal PEB or IPEB) to review a Service member’s case.  The IPEB consists of a minimum of two officers who are responsible for determining whether any of the conditions prevent the Service member from performing their required military duties.  The IPEB will review the following:

  • The MEB report recommendation, including any rebuttal, Service response, and impartial medical review (IMR);
  • Service Treatment Records, to include civilian records;
  • The NARSUM;
  • Letters from the Service member’s commander;
  • Other information that the PEB may require.

If the IPEB determines none of Service member’s conditions prevent them from performing required military duties, they are found fit and are returned to duty.  However, if the IPEB determines one or more of the Service member’s conditions make them unfit for continued service, the IPEB must determine if the conditions were caused or aggravated by military Service.  Service members with unfitting medical conditions not caused/aggravated by Service may be discharged without benefits.  If the Service member’s conditions were caused or aggravated by military Service, the IPEB forwards the IDES case to the VA Disability Rating Activity Site (DRAS) and requests the DRAS develop a proposed disability rating for each condition.  The IPEB uses the DRAS proposed disability rating to determine one of the following dispositions:

  • Separation—disability rated 0, 10, or 20 percent; Service members receive severance pay
  • Retirement—disability rated 30 percent or higher; Service member receives retirement pay and benefits. Service members may be placed on the Temporary Disability Retired List (TDRL) for up to three years if their disability, rated at 30 percent or higher, is not stable.  While on TDRL, they receive retired pay and benefits. During the three years, Service members are periodically reevaluated and may be returned to duty if the unfit condition is resolved.

The PEBLO notifies the Service member on the IPEB findings.  At this point, the Service member, if found “unfit,” can accept the finding or appeal the IPEB determination and request a Formal PEB (FPEB).  The FPEB consists of at least three members that includes the PEB president (a line officer), a field-grade personnel officer and a senior medical officer.  At the FPEB, Service members are allowed to appear in person to discuss their case with the board members and can also provide additional information related to their condition(s) which they deem important to their appeal.  Additionally, they have a right to be represented by legal counsel at the FPEB and have witnesses testify on their behalf.  The FPEB, after hearing the Service member’s case, makes one of the following determinations:  return to duty, separation (with our without benefits), or retirement.  Service members can accept the FPEB findings or they can appeal the FPEB finding and request their case be reviewed by their Military Department’s appellate review authority.

Service members found unfit may submit a request to continue military service in their component, whether it is active or reserve.  The procedures, eligibility requirements, and approval authority for these requests vary by Service.

Transition

For Service members with a final disposition of retired (permanently or temporarily) or separated (with or without benefits), the Military Department establishes a separation date that takes into account the Service member’s terminal (or pre-separation) leave.