Tuesday, September 15, 2009

vets commission



The Commission made 113 recommendations. All are important and should

receive attention from Congress, DoD, and VA. The Commission suggests that

the following recommendations receive immediate consideration. Congress

should establish an executive oversight group to ensure timely and effective

implementation of the Commission recommendations.

Priority Recommendations

Recommendation 4.23 Chapter 4, Section I.5

VA should immediately begin to update the current Rating

Schedule, beginning with those body systems addressing the

evaluation and rating of posttraumatic stress disorder and other

mental disorders and of traumatic brain injury. Then proceed

through the other body systems until the Rating Schedule has been

12 Honoring the Call to Duty: Veterans’ Disability Benefits in the 21st Century

comprehensively revised. The revision process should be

completed within 5 years. VA should create a system for keeping

the Rating Schedule up to date, including a published schedule for

revising each body system.

Recommendation 5.28 Chapter 5, Section III.3

VA should develop and implement new criteria specific to

posttraumatic stress disorder in the VA Schedule for Rating

Disabilities. VA should base those criteria on the Diagnostic and

Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and should consider a

multidimensional framework for characterizing disability due to

posttraumatic stress disorder.

Recommendation 5.30 Chapter 5, Section III.3

VA should establish a holistic approach that couples posttraumatic

stress disorder treatment, compensation, and vocational

assessment. Reevaluation should occur every 2–3 years to gauge

treatment effectiveness and encourage wellness.

Recommendation 6.14 Chapter 6, Section IV.2

Congress should eliminate the ban on concurrent receipt for all

military retirees and for all service members who separated from

the military due to service-connected disabilities. In the future,

priority should be given to veterans who separated or retired from

the military under chapter 61 with

• fewer than 20 years service and a service-connected disability rating

greater than 50 percent, or

• disability as a result of combat.

Recommendation 7.4 Chapter 7, Section II.3

Eligibility for Individual Unemployability (IU) should be consistently

based on the impact of an individual’s service-connected

disabilities, in combination with education, employment history, and

medical effects of an individual’s age or potential employability. VA

should implement a periodic and comprehensive evaluation of

veterans eligible for IU. Authorize a gradual reduction in

compensation for IU recipients who are able to return to

substantially gainful employment rather than abruptly terminating

disability payments at an arbitrary level of earning.

Recommendation 7.5 Chapter 7, Section II.3

Recognizing that Individual Unemployability (IU) is an attempt to

accommodate individuals with multiple lesser ratings but who

remain unable to work, the Commission recommends that as the

VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities is revised, every effort should

Executive Summary 13

be made to accommodate such individuals fairly within the basic

rating system without the need for an IU rating.

Recommendation 7.6 Chapter 7, Section III.2

Congress should increase the compensation rates up to 25 percent

as an interim and baseline future benefit for loss of quality of life,

pending development and implementation of a quality-of-life

measure in the Rating Schedule. In particular, the measure should

take into account the quality of life and other non-work-related

effects of severe disabilities on veterans and family members.

Recommendation 7.8 Chapter 7, Section III.2

Congress should consider increasing special monthly

compensation, where appropriate, to address the more profound

impact on quality of life of the disabilities subject to special monthly

compensation. Congress should also review ancillary benefits to

determine where additional benefits could improve disabled

veterans’ quality of life.

Recommendation 7.12 Chapter 7, Section VI

VA and DoD should realign the disability evaluation process so that

the services determine fitness for duty, and service members who

are found unfit are referred to VA for disability rating. All conditions

that are identified as part of a single, comprehensive medical

examination should be rated and compensated.

Recommendation 7.13 Chapter 7, Section V.3

Congress should enact legislation that brings ancillary and specialpurpose

benefits to the levels originally intended, considering the

cost of living, and provides for automatic annual adjustments to

keep pace with the cost of living.

Recommendation 8.2 Chapter 8, Section III.1.B

Congress should eliminate the Survivor Benefit Plan/Dependency

and Indemnity Compensation offset for survivors of retirees and inservice


Recommendation 9.1 Chapter 9, Section II.5.A.b

Improve claims cycle time by

• establishing a simplified and expedited process for well-documented

claims, using best business practices and maximum feasible use of

information technology; and

• implementing an expedited process by which the claimant can state

the claim information is complete and waive the time period (60 days)

allowed for further development.

14 Honoring the Call to Duty: Veterans’ Disability Benefits in the 21st Century

Congress should mandate and provide appropriate resources to

reduce the VA claims backlog by 50 percent within 2 years.

Recommendation 10.11 Chapter 10, Section VII

VA and DoD should expedite development and implementation of

compatible information systems including a detailed project

management plan that includes specific milestones and lead

agency assignment.

Recommendation 11.1 Chapter 11

Congress should establish an executive oversight group to ensure

timely and effective implementation of the Commission’s

recommendations. This group should be cochaired by VA and DoD

and consist of senior representatives from appropriate departments

and agencies. It is further recommended that the Veterans’ Affairs

Committees hold hearings and require annual reports to measure

and assess progress.

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