Saturday, November 08, 2008

VA Announces Expansion Of Disability Evaluation System Pilot
All Military Services Now Taking Part

WASHINGTON (Nov. 7, 2008) -- Wounded service members leaving the
military will have easier, quicker access to their veterans benefits due
to the expansion of a pilot program that will offer streamlined
disability evaluations that will reach 19 military installations,
representing all military departments.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced today the expansion of
the Disability Evaluation System (DES) pilot which started in the
National Capitol Region in coordination with Departments of Defense
(DoD). The pilot is a test of a new process that eliminates
duplicative, time-consuming and often confusing elements of the two
current disability processes of the departments.

"Providing Service members going through the disability process with
comprehensive information about their benefits from both departments and
delivering their VA benefits as fast as possible is our goal. This
single evaluation will help us do just that," Tom Pamperin, deputy
director of VA's Compensation and Pension Service, said. "The program
expansion will allow wounded warriors a smoother and more efficient
transition to getting services from the VA."

The initial phase of the expansion started on Oct 1, with Fort Meade,
Md. and Fort Belvoir, Va. The remaining 17 installations will begin
upon completion of site preparations and personnel orientation and
training, during an 8-month period from November 2008 to May 2009.

"The decision to expand the pilot was based upon a favorable review that
focused on whether the pilot met its timeliness, effectiveness,
transparency, and customer and stakeholder satisfaction objectives,"
said Sam Retherford, director, officer and enlisted personnel
management, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and
Readiness. "This expansion extends beyond the national capital region,
so that more diverse data from other geographic areas can be evaluated,
prior to rendering a final decision on worldwide implementation."

The remaining installations to begin the program are: Army: Fort Carson,
Colo.; Fort Drum, N.Y.; Fort Stewart, Ga.; Fort Richardson, Alaska; Fort
Wainwright, Alaska; Brooke Army Medical Center, Texas; and Fort Polk,
La. Navy: Naval Medical Center (NMC) San Diego and Camp Pendleton,
Calif.; NMC Bremerton, Wash.; NMC Jacksonville, Fla.; and Camp Lejeune,
N.C. Air Force: Vance Air Force Base, Okla.; Nellis Air Force Base,
Nev.; MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.; Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska.;
and Travis Air Force Base, Calif.

In November 2007 VA and DoD implemented the pilot test for disability
cases originating at the three major military treatment facilities in
the national capitol region. To date, over 700 service members have
participated in the pilot over the last ten months.

The single disability examination pilot is focused on recommendations
from the reports of the Task Force on Returning Global War on Terrorism
Heroes, the Independent Review Group, the President's Commission on Care
for America's Returning Wounded Warriors (the Dole/Shalala Commission),
and the Commission on Veterans' Disability Benefits.