The Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently implemented a pilot test for disability cases originating at the three major military treatment facilities and the VA hospital in the national capital region. This pilot will run for one year. The leadership of DoD and VA will review pilot progress during this period to assist in determining when the program can be expanded to other locations.
The pilot will test a new DoD and VA disability system. The pilot will be a service member-centric initiative designed to eliminate the duplicative and often confusing elements of the two current disability processes of the departments. Key features of the pilot program include one medical examination and a single-sourced disability rating. One goal of the pilot is to enable service members to more effectively transition to veteran status and provide them with their VA benefits and compensation.
The DoD and VA are examining the continuum of care they provide from the point of injury through rehabilitation to community reintegration. 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.
To ensure a seamless transition of our wounded, ill, and injured from the care, benefits, and services of DoD to the VA system, the pilot will also test enhanced case management methods and identify opportunities to improve the flow of information and identification of additional resources to the service member and family. As soon as the service members in the pilot transition from the military, the VA is poised to provide benefits and compensation to these veterans.
The scope of the pilot includes all non-clinical care and administrative activities, such as case management and counseling requirements, associated with disability case processing from the point of service member referral to a military department medical evaluation board to the point of compensation and provision of benefits to veterans by the VA.
The pilot process has been developed over the last several months and is focused on recommendations that could be implemented without legislative change 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.
The pilot is part of a larger effort to improve care and services to our wounded, injured and ill. Some of the other ongoing initiatives include improved information technology and data sharing, facility enhancements, recruitment and retention of care professionals, new methods to care for brain injuries and mental health concerns including post-traumatic stress disorder, and the use of life long care plans to fully support wounded, ill, and injured service members from recovery through rehabilitation to community integration.