IOM Urges VA To Revise Veteran Compensation System
The Department of Veterans Affairs should revise the system for compensation of veterans who become disabled as a result of injuries experienced during their military service, according to a report released on Thursday by the Institute of Medicine, the Washington Post reports.
The Veterans' Disability Benefits Commission, which Congress established in 2003 to study the compensation system, requested the IOM report and likely will issue a separate report later this year.
Under the compensation system, eligible veterans receive monthly payments from $115 to $2,471 based on the severity of their disabilities. In 2006, about 2.7 million veterans received $26.5 billion in payments, or an average of more than $9,800.
The IOM report said that parts of the compensation system were established during World War II and that the system is not consistent with modern medical advances in the diagnosis and treatment of conditions such as traumatic brain injury.
According to the report, VA boards that determine payments should consider the effect that disabilities have on the quality of the lives of veterans and on their ability to engage in everyday activities, rather than only their ability to work.
VA also should ensure that the boards have access to medical experts to help interpret evidence, the report said. In addition, the report recommended that VA and the Department of Defense conduct comprehensive medical and vocational examinations of retired military personnel because such exams often are required to obtain health and other benefits.
VA officials in a statement said that they have begun to review the report and that the department has considered the formation of a joint compensation system with DOD.
Lonnie Bristow, chair of the IOM committee that published the report, said, "With troops being injured nearly every day, the VA's system for evaluating and rating former service members' disabilities should be as up-to-date as possible." Bristow added, "Right now, the rating schedule is out of sync with modern medicine and modern concepts of disability."
Joe Violante, national legislative director for the Disabled American Veterans, said, "A total revamp of the system is uncalled for because VA has continually looked at the rating schedule and made revisions over the years." He added, "It's not like this rating schedule was done in a vacuum in 1945 and has never been touched" (Lee, Washington Post, 6/8).