By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 16, 2009 – Defense and Veterans Affairs officials today announced another step in their efforts to streamline the process of determining veterans’ disability ratings. Beginning in January, the Disability Evaluation System pilot program will expand to six installations. The new participants are medical facilities at Fort Benning, Ga.; Fort Bragg, N.C.; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Lewis, Wash.; Fort Riley, Kan.; and Portsmouth Naval Medical Center, Va. Twenty-seven other military facilities already take part in the program. “The decision to expand the pilot was based upon favorable reviews focusing on the program’s ability to meet timeliness, effectiveness, transparency and customer and stakeholder satisfaction,” said Nole Koch, deputy undersecretary of defense for wounded warrior care and transition policy, in a statement released by the Defense Department. The pilot program began in November 2007 within the national capital region and concerns servicemembers who separated from the military under honorable conditions for service-related injuries. It addresses redundancy and inconsistent decisions in medical evaluations in separate disability processes used in the Defense Department and VA.