Defense Department, VA Test New Disability Eval System

By Fred W. Baker III
WASHINGTON, Nov. 29, 2007 – The departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs have teamed to test a pilot disability evaluation program that officials hope will streamline the confusing and often frustrating process for servicemembers and their families.

For the next year, officials will test the new system at military hospitals in the national capital region, officials announced today. Officials will then decide if or when to expand the system.

In contrast to the current system, the pilot program will be based on only one medical examination and a single-sourced disability rating, instead of examinations and ratings from both departments separately. The hope is to transition servicemembers more smoothly to veteran benefits and compensation, officials said.

“The objectives of the pilot are to improve the timeliness, effectiveness, and transparency by integrating DoD and VA processes, eliminating duplication, and improving information provided to service members and their families,” according to a Defense Department news release.

The scope of the pilot program includes all nonclinical care and administrative activities, such as case management and counseling requirements, from the time the service member is referred to the board until veterans benefits are provided.

The test program is based on recommendations from reports including the President’s Commission on Care for America’s Returning Wounded Warriors and the Commission on Veterans’ Disability Benefits.

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