New Board to Review Disability Ratings for Veterans
The new Physical Disability Board of Review will reexamine disability ratings assigned by the Defense Department to veterans from Sept. 11, 2001 to present.
The board was mandated by Congress after information surfaced about inconsistent, variable disability ratings for soldiers returning from service in the Gulf and Afghanistan. The Military Times reported that the highest disability ratings tended to be given to officers who served in the Air Force rather than the enlisted Marines and soldiers. These disability decisions appear to be counter-intuitive, as it is well known that ground troops sustained the most combat injuries in these conflicts.
In addition, the data shows that the Defense Department typically gives lower disability ratings overall than the Veterans Affairs Department for the same medical conditions, though both the Defense Department and Veterans Affairs must refer to the same ratings schedule for disability evaluations.
The new board began accepting applications in February 2009, but some people are skeptical as to whether it will really make much difference to service members who believe they were unfairly rated on their disability retirement claims. For one thing, even if the board makes a disability rating change the change is not valid until it is approved by the service secretary. As there does not appear to be any timeline in place for this final approval it could mean that, depending on case backlogs, those who are approved for higher payments will not see them for quite some time.
On the plus side, if the board does rule that a soldier was not given his or her full disability benefit, the soldier will be entitled to retroactive back pay calculated from the date the original, incorrect rating was given.
Another fact that may cause some head-scratching, in light of past favoritism shown by the Defense Department to Air Force officers, is that the Air Force will be heading up this new review board. In addition, the new review board will consider only those conditions previously evaluated by the Defense Department. If an individual presented with more than one combat-related condition at the first review and the Department decided to evaluate only the most severe condition, soldiers will not have the opportunity to have any other relevant conditions considered the second time around.
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Labels: veterans disability