Pentagon launching a new disability system

I picked this story up from Al’s Morning Meeting, which is an interesting site for journalists looking for story ideas.

“Pay attention to this story from The Navy Times about the Pentagon launching a new disability system.

This could make a big difference for veterans by cutting the time they wait for disability payments in half. The system could be operational in a month. The story says:
The Defense Department will soon unveil a new, streamlined disability evaluation system that, in tandem with the Department of Veterans Affairs, will replace the current cumbersome process with a single exam and single disability rating.

According to a copy of the plan obtained by Military Times and confirmed by Pentagon
officials, veterans medically retired from service will be able to apply for, and get, VA benefits immediately.

Overall, the time spent in the system, from the point a service member is found unfit for duty until he or she begins receiving VA disability payments, will be cut “by about half,” said Bill Carr, undersecretary of defense for military personnel policy. The plan is the Pentagon’s best effort to make some fixes to the system immediately, without having to seek congressional approval.

A broader, longer-range plan unveiled by the White House Oct. 16, based on recent commendations from a blue-ribbon commission, will require congressional approval and will take longer to implement.

The Pentagon’s interim plan will be phased in with a pilot program to be launched in late November at three military hospitals: Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.; National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.; and Malcolm Grove Medical Center at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. The plan will expand to other facilities as officials evaluate its effectiveness, with the emphasis on facilities that treat greater numbers of troops wounded in the wars. Carr said expansion will take place “as fast as it can.”

The plan, a top priority of Defense Secretary Robert Gates, is the Pentagon’s answer to the Walter Reed scandal earlier this year. Media reports described wounded troops caught in facing a tangle of red tape during their treatment and subsequent medical evaluations.”


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