Injured troops’ disability claims still lag
WASHINGTON — A new system to help wounded service members get disability compensation more efficiently has instead kept them in the military longer than intended, preventing some from taking job offers and starting college as they wait on average more than a year for a claim to be processed, Congress was told yesterday.
William Lynn, deputy defense secretary, and W. Scott Gould, deputy secretary at the Department of Veterans Affairs, told the Senate Veterans’ Committee that the new program is significantly better than the old system, which they say took on average 540 days to complete.
But they acknowledged improvements are needed. Lynn said it could take a year or two before the average processing time goal — 300 days — is met.
The Integrated Disability Evaluation System, which started as a pilot in 2007, has been introduced at nearly 80 military installations. By this fall, about 140 installations are expected to participate, completing the rollout. It consolidates the required medical exams and ratings so that a service member doesn’t have to go through the disability claims process first in the military and then through the VA.
The new program’s goal is to get war-wounded troops and others with disabilities through the system in a little more than nine months. But on average, it is taking nearly 400 days for a service member to go through the system.