Veterans' Benefits:

Need To Update Medical Criteria Used in VA's Disability Rating Schedule

HRD-89-28: Published: Dec 29, 1988. Publicly Released: Dec 29, 1988.

Additional Materials:


Joseph F. Delfico
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GAO reviewed the medical criteria the Veterans Administration (VA) used in its veteran disabilities rating schedule to determine whether the rating schedule reflected current medical advances and terminology to enable rating specialists to make accurate and uniform disability decisions.

GAO found that: (1) VA has periodically revised parts of its rating schedule, but has not comprehensively revised the schedule since 1945 and has not revised 10 of 14 schedule sections since 1978; (2) VA lacked a systematic process for reviewing schedule sections; (3) VA, military, and private physicians reviewing the schedule identified examples of outdated terminology, poorly defined impairments, and common medical conditions missing from the schedule; and (4) VA rating specialists cited concerns about their ability to accurately and uniformly rate disabilities with the schedule, since it used diagnostic codes which did not distinguish between degrees of severity and did not list all medical conditions identified in medical examination reports.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: VA is revising medical criteria in its disability rating schedule on a staggered basis. VA obtained studies of various body systems from outside contractors. VA has published Advanced Notices of Proposed Rulemaking for 13 of the 14 sections of the rating schedule and plans to publish revisions of all sections by April 1993. VA review of the rating schedule will be a cyclical process.

    Recommendation: To better ensure that the rating schedule serves as a practical tool in assigning uniform disability ratings to veterans, the Administrator of Veterans Affairs should: (1) prepare a plan for a comprehensive review of the rating schedule and, using the results of the review, revise medical criteria accordingly; and (2) implement a procedure for systematically reviewing the rating schedule so as to keep it up to date in the future.

    Agency Affected: Veterans Administration


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