Getting to know your VA Military Service Coordinator

Robert Bozgoz (left), a Veterans Affairs Military Service Coordinator at the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center, discusses a claim with Cpl. Matthew Kinsey. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Army)

Robert Bozgoz (left), a Veterans Affairs Military Service Coordinator at the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center, discusses a claim with Cpl. Matthew Kinsey. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Army)

The Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES) is the joint Department of Defense (DoD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) process to determine fitness for duty and disability rating for Service members. DoD determines whether wounded, ill and injured Service members are fit for continued military service and DoD and VA determine appropriate benefits for Service members who are separated or retired for a Service-connected disability. The IDES features a single set of disability medical examinations appropriate for fitness determination by the Military Departments. It also features a single set of disability ratings provided by VA for appropriate use by both departments.

All Service members going through the IDES have a team of subject matter experts—chain of command, physicians, case management specialists, care coordinators, legal counsel, etc.—supporting them through the process. One of these experts includes the VA Military Service Coordinators (MCSs). VA MCSs help Service members file their VA benefits claim at the beginning of the IDES process which ensures their VA benefits can be paid as soon as possible after they separate from service. The VA MSC is a key member of the IDES team and should be utilized as a valuable information resource regarding VA benefits for the Service member and their family throughout the entire IDES process.

In most cases the VA MSC has an office in the same building as the Department of Defense (DoD) Physical Evaluation Board Liaison Officer (PEBLO), which provides convenience and ease of communication. A DoD PEBLO guides Service members through the entire IDES process to ensure that they are aware of all the process steps, options available to them and the many decisions they, or their families, need to make. The VA MSC’s primary role is to assist Service members with applying for VA compensation claims within the IDES.

Each Service member and family processing through the IDES should be scheduled for an initial interview with their designated VA MSC. This initial appointment usually takes place face-to-face, but may be conducted by teleconference or telephone interview, especially if it would create a hardship to the Service member to appear in person.

This initial interview is very important. The VA MSC assists the Service member with the aspects of the Disability Evaluation System relating to VA benefits, which includes: 

  • Explaining the purpose of the IDES program and VA’s role in the IDES disability rating process and benefits 
  • Providing VA contact information, website address, phone number, and location of VA facilities that they may need to know in the course of this process
  • Clarifying the evidence they need to supply in support of any referred or claimed conditions for VA disability benefits
  • Completing sections II thru V of the VA Form 21-0819, VA/DoD Joint Disability Evaluation Board Claim
  • Requesting VA examination(s) which will be conducted to evaluate all referred and claimed conditions

At the end of this meeting, the VA MSC should provide the Service member and family with their contact information. Service members and their families should reach out to their VA MSC whenever they have any questions about the VA’s process, expected timelines, or anticipated benefits at any time during their IDES process.

Resources

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