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Army Times




From: James [mailto:starjm50@yahoo.com]

Sent: Tuesday, April 03, 2007 5:04 AM

To: Jim

Subject: ARMY Times: Faults in Disability Benefits

Studies identify faults in disability benefits system



By Kelly <mailto:kellykennedy@atpco.com?subject=Question from ArmyTimes.com

reader> Kennedy - kellykennedy@militarytimes.com

As members of the Veterans' Disability Benefits Commission wrestle with

simplifying the disability benefits systems of the departments of Defense

and Veterans Affairs, they have found they aren't the only ones mystified by

the systems' complexity.

Of the counselors who help former service members through the VA system -

which uses the same disability rating schedule as the military - 84 percent

said the system isn't easy to navigate.

And out of 437 raters - the people who make decisions about disability

ratings - 99 said the regulations and policies they use are inconsistent.

As veterans and service members complain that the system is unfair and that

it does not rate similar injuries equally, 51 percent of counselors told

researchers from the Center for Naval Analyses that if several raters from

the office rated a service member for post-traumatic stress disorder, it was

unlikely that they would all come up with the same rating.

Daniel Harris, an analyst for the center, told the commission March 22 that

raters and counselors have the most trouble with cases dealing with mental

health disorders, musculoskeletal issues, and sensory organs.

And even as 87 percent of counselors said medical cases are becoming more

complex, 80 percent said they felt they were not well-trained.

"It's not a process that's easy for the veterans or for the [veterans'

service officers]" who assist them, Harris said. "Making it not only clearer

for clients, but . for raters might be helpful."

Eric Christensen of the Center for Naval Analyses presented a breakdown of

military disability ratings by percentage and service from 2000 to 2006.

The data showed that:

. Airmen are 14 percent more likely than other service members to receive

lifetime disability retirement pay rather than one-time severance pay.

. One-fourth of soldiers who go through the system receive a zero percent

disability rating even as they are found unfit for duty.

. About 93 percent of all service members get severance payments for ratings

of 20 percent or lower rather than the disability benefits that include

medical care for the rest of their lives.

. Only 3 percent of Marines going through the system from 2000 to 2006

received disability retirement pay rather than severance pay.

Christensen also said that in a comparison of VA and Defense Department

ratings for the same injuries, the VA tended to rate at least 7 percent

higher - even though both use the same rating schedules and have the same

legal mandates.

For mental health issues, the differences are startling. The military tends

to hand out ratings of 10 percent for bipolar disorder, which the VA upped

to 38 percent. The military also tends to award 10 percent ratings for major

depressive disorder, which the VA upped to 34 percent.

"No one's going to convince me this system is spotless," commission member

Ken Jordan said. "It won't hurt this system to have a really good scrub,

line by line, piece by piece."


The Failed Policies will Haunt Us and the World for Decades, Just Like 'Nam!


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