The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides disability compensation to veterans disabled by injuries or diseases that were incurred or aggravated while on active military duty. Under Individual Unemployability (IU) benefit regulations, a veteran can receive increased compensation at the total disability compensation rate if VA determines that the veteran is unemployable because of service-connected disabilities. GAO has reported that numerous technological and medical advances, combined with changes in society and the nature of work, have increased the potential for people with disabilities to work. Yet VA has seen substantial growth of IU benefit awards to veterans over the last five years. In 2001 GAO reported that a growing number of private insurance companies in the United States have focused their programs on developing and implementing strategies to enable people with disabilities to return to work. Our testimony will describe how U.S. private insurers facilitate return to work in three key areas: (1) the eligibility assessment process, (2) work incentives, and (3) staffing practices. It will also compare these practices with those of VA's IU eligibility assessment process.
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