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VA Announces Expansion of Disability Evaluation System Pilot

All Military Services Now Taking Part

WASHINGTON, Nov. 7 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- 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 the Department 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.

SOURCE U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
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