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Patty Murray Holds Hearing On Wait Times For Disability Evaluations

Patricia Murphy
05/23/2012

Wounded service members are waiting longer than ever for disability evaluations to determine medical disability rating and compensation benefits. A new report from the Government Accountability Office found that injured service members at Madigan Army Medical Center and other installations wait on average over a year to receive an official government disability evaluation.

TRANSCRIPT

Five years ago the Defense Department (DOD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) made an effort to streamline the process. It hasn't worked.

The evaluations are a critical step for injured service members who are preparing to leave the military.

Washington Senator Patty Murray is chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. Murray grilled VA and DOD leaders about the wait times during a committee hearing Wednesday.

Murray: "That's unacceptable for someone just waiting to figure out what they're going to do with the rest of their lives."

The Government Accountability Office's (GAO) report found that last year, active duty troops waited nearly 400 days for evaluations — longer for National Guard and Reserve.

Further, Murray says, she's concerned about the evaluation process itself, known as IDES, which can have the effect of seeming to pit commanders against soldiers.

Murray: "That kind of adversarial relationship can't be beneficial, either to the unit or the service member who's trying to move on with their life. And worse, frankly, I continue to hear about service members who are overdosing on drugs, committing suicide, committing serious crimes, and at Joint Base Lewis–McChord, six service members have died while going through the IDES process."

The GAO told Murray it's not fully understood why there's such a delay in processing evaluations.

Both the VA and The DOD told the committee they'll continue to work towards a performance goal of 295 days.

I'm Patricia Murphy, KUOW News.

© Copyright 2012, KUOW

04.23.14

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