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Defense, VA Combine Retirement-Disability Physicals

American Forces Press Service

Washington, Dec. 16, 1997 – Separating or retiring service members expecting to file a claim for VA disability compensation will undergo a single physical exam prior to discharge under a new agreement between DoD and Department of Veterans Affairs.

When fully implemented, the new national policy will meet VA requirements for claims determinations and DoD needs for a separation medical examination. The new policy will be phased in as soon as possible while details are worked out at the local level, according to DoD health officials.

Previous procedures required two separate examinations several months apart. Military personnel had to get a DoD physical exam prior to discharge from active duty. Because of differences between VA and DoD protocols, they usually had to undergo a second exam by VA after filing claims for disability compensation. The results of these examinations are a determining factor in eligibility for VA health care.

"This change will help us avoid unnecessary or redundant physical exams, improve the quality of the examination process and improve service for separating personnel by eliminating lengthy delays in claims decisions and health-care eligibility determinations," said Dr. Kenneth Kizer, VA undersecretary for health. "We are hopeful the new policy also will enhance ongoing efforts to reduce the time it takes to process compensation claims, and further, it should reduce costs."

The Pentagon's top doctor also lauded the initiative. "By re-engineering the system to require only one physical, we are making life easier for our beneficiaries," said Dr. Edward Martin, acting assistant secretary of defense for health affairs.

In pilot tests of the dual-purpose exam at VA and Army medical facilities, claims processing time was reduced to less than one-third of national levels under the existing system. The current national average for processing an original compensation claim is 133 days. Under the new policy, VA physicians generally will conduct the predischarge exams. In areas where VA physicians are not available, DoD physicians will conduct the exams according to VA protocols.

(From a DVA release)

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