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Highlights

The House Committee on Armed Services report that accompanies the National Defense Authorization Act of fiscal year 2006 directs GAO to review results of the military disability evaluation system. In response to this mandate, GAO determined: (1) how current DOD policies and guidance for disability determinations compare for the Army, Navy, and Air Force, and what policies are specific to reserve component members of the military; (2) what oversight and quality control mechanisms are in place at DOD and these three services of the military to ensure consistent and timely disability decisions for active and reserve component members; and (3) how disability decisions, ratings, and processing times compare for active and reserve component members of the Army, the largest branch of the service, and what factors might explain any differences.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Defense 1. To ensure that all service members--both active duty and reserves--receive consistent and timely treatment within the disability evaluation process, the Secretary of Defense should require the Army, Navy, and Air Force to take action to ensure that data needed to assess consistency and timeliness of military disability rating and benefit decisions are reliable.
Closed - Implemented
The Department of Defense (DOD) has instituted a Disability Evaluation System (DES) Annual Report in which the military departments report timeliness measures and program measures and program compliance factors. The requirement for this report was directed in the May 3, 2007, directive-type memo: "Policy Guidance for the Disability Evaluation and Establishment of Recurring Directive-Type Memoranda" and the PDUSD (P&R) memorandum, "Disability Evaluation System Annual Report for FY 2007." The annual report was reviewed by the DOD Disability Advisory Council (DAC). DAC meetings have focused on oversight and revisions to policy and process to ensure consistency and accuracy of the DES. Having reviewed the timeliness and outcome data contained in the DES Annual Reports, DAC made recommendations, as necessary and appropriate within their charter.
Department of Defense 2. To ensure that all service members--both active duty and reserves--receive consistent and timely treatment within the disability evaluation process, the Secretary of Defense should require these services to track and regularly report these data--including comparisons of processing times, ratings and benefit decisions for reservists and active duty members--to the Under Secretary of Personnel and Readiness and the Surgeons General.
Closed - Implemented
The Department of Defense (DOD) has instituted a Disability Evaluation System (DES) Annual Report in which the military departments report timeliness measures and program measures and program compliance factors. The requirement for this report was directed in the May 3, 2007, directive-type memo: "Policy Guidance for the Disability Evaluation and Establishment of Recurring Directive-Type Memoranda," as well as the Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness' memorandum, "Disability Evaluation System Annual Report for FY 2007." The annual report was reviewed by the DOD Disability Advisory Council (DAC). The DAC has reviewed the timeliness and outcome data contained in the DES Annual Reports and made recommendations, as necessary and appropriate within their charter. The Surgeons General are also included in the reports.
Department of Defense 3. To ensure that all service members--both active duty and reserves--receive consistent and timely treatment within the disability evaluation process, the Secretary of Defense should determine, based on these reports, if ratings and benefit decisions are consistent and timely across the services and between reservists and active duty members and institute improvements to address any deficiencies that might be found.
Closed - Implemented
The Department of Defense (DOD) has instituted a Disability Evaluation System (DES) Annual Report in which the military departments report timeliness measures and program measures and program compliance factors. The requirement for this report was directed in the May 3, 2007, directive-type memo: "Policy Guidance for the Disability Evaluation and Establishment of Recurring Directive-Type Memoranda" and the PDUSD (P&R) memorandum, "Disability Evaluation System Annual Report for FY 2007." The annual report was reviewed by the DOD Disability Advisory Council (DAC). The DAC has reviewed the timeliness and outcome data contained in the DES Annual Reports and made recommendations, as necessary and appropriate within their charter.
Department of Defense 4. To ensure that all service members--both active duty and reserves--receive consistent and timely treatment within the disability evaluation process, the Secretary of Defense should evaluate the appropriateness of current timeliness goals for the disability process and make any necessary changes.
Closed - Implemented
The Department of Defense (DOD) has instituted a Disability Evaluation System (DES) Annual Report in which the military departments report timeliness measures and program measures and program compliance factors. The requirement for this report was directed in the May 3, 2007, directive-type memo: "Policy Guidance for the Disability Evaluation and Establishment of Recurring Directive-Type Memoranda" and the PDUSD (P&R) memorandum, "Disability Evaluation System Annual Report for FY 2007." The annual report was reviewed by the DOD Disability Advisory Council (DAC). One of the major purposes of the DAC is to review data and metrics and provide assessments of effectiveness of the DES process. The DAC has reviewed the timeliness and outcome data contained in the DES Annual Reports and made recommendations, as necessary and appropriate within their charter.
Department of Defense 5. To ensure that all service members--both active duty and reserves--receive consistent and timely treatment within the disability evaluation process, the Secretary of Defense should assess the adequacy of training for MEB and PEB disability evaluation staff.
Closed - Not Implemented
The Department of Defense (DOD) agreed with this recommendation and began taking steps toward that end. The agency has been holding Disability Advisory Council meetings on a quarterly or as needed basis to facilitate oversight of the disability evaluation system and advise DOD. The Department is also coordinating a directive-type memorandum to address recent requirements in law associated with training, certification, and oversight reporting mechanisms. However, DOD has not yet begun to assess the adequacy of training, therefore, this recommendation is closed as not implemented.

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