The Departments of Defense (DoD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) announced today that beginning in January 2010, the Disability Evaluation System (DES) pilot will expand to an additional six installations across the country.
The new locations will include: Fort Benning, Ga.; Fort Bragg, N.C.; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Lewis, Wash.; Fort Riley, Kan.; and Portsmouth Naval Medical Center, Va. This expansion brings the total number of military facilities using the pilot to 27.
“The decision to expand the pilot was based upon favorable reviews focusing on the program’s ability to meet timeliness, effectiveness, transparency, and customer and stakeholder satisfaction,” said Noel Koch, deputy under secretary of defense, Office of Wounded Warrior Care and Transition Policy.
In November 2007, the DoD and VA implemented the pilot test for disability cases originating at the three major military treatment facilities in the national capital region. The pilot is a test of a new process design eliminating the duplicative, time-consuming, and often confusing elements of the two current disability processes of the departments. Key features of the DES pilot include one medical examination and a single-sourced disability rating. To date, more than 5,431 service members have participated in the pilot since November 2007.
“Streamlining our disability claims system and working closely with DoD to care for today’s generation of heroes are among VA’s top priorities,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “We will never lose sight of the fact that veterans and military personnel have earned their benefits from VA and DoD by virtue of their service to the nation.”
In October 2008, DoD and VA approved expansion of the DES pilot to 18 sites beyond the three initial national capital region sites. This process was successfully completed on May 31, 2009. The estimated completion date for the new six site expansion is scheduled for March 31, 2010.
“This expansion encompasses an additional 20 percent of total service member population enrolled in the program to achieve 47 percent overall enrollments, which will allow us to gather and evaluate data from a diverse geographic area, prior to determining worldwide implementation,” said Koch.
The pilot was authorized by the Defense Authorization Act of 2008 and stems from the 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.