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Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES)
The Integrated Disability Evaluation System is a joint DoD and VA process by which DoD determines whether wounded, ill, or injured service members are fit for continued military service, and by which DoD and VA determine appropriate disability compensation benefits for service members being medically separated or retired. The IDES features a single set of disability medical examinations appropriate for fitness determinations by service branches, along with a single set of disability ratings provided by VA for use by both VA and DoD in rating a service member’s disabilities.
Medical Evaluation Board (MEB) Phase
The first phase of the IDES is the medical evaluation board (MEB), an informal administrative board that reviews a service member’s medical condition and recommends whether or not the medical condition will impede the service member’s performance of his or her duties. Prior to the MEB beginning its review, a service member will be sent to a VA C&P exam for each potential service-connected disability the service member may have. The completed C&P exams are then provided to the MEB for review and recommendation. The MEB does not physically exam the service member – its findings are based on the C&P exams performed by the VA, as well as the service member’s military treatment records.
The quality and accuracy of MEB findings are highly dependent on the underlying C&P examinations, and thus it is important to carefully review an MEB’s findings as this is the best time to dispute and correct inaccuracies. Upon receipt of MEB findings, a service member has appeal/rebuttal rights, as well as the right to request a review of the MEB findings by an independent provider.
Physical Evaluation Board (PEB) Phase
If the MEB finds a service member unfit for duty, the service member’s case is referred to an informal physical evaluation board (IPEB), which conducts a paper review of the record and adjudicates fitness to continue military service, disability compensation, and whether or not the condition is combat-related. The IPEB findings will be provided to the service member on DA Form 199 which designates the unfitting conditions and the proposed ratings assigned to those conditions.
At this point, the service member can either accept or appeal the IPEB findings. In addition, the service member also has the right to make a one-time request for reconsideration of the ratings based on mistake or new medical evidence. This must be submitted in writing, and the service member does not have a right to a hearing or any other in-person reconsideration.
If a service member disagrees with and appeals the IPEB findings, a formal PEB (FPEB) convenes and the service member can choose either an in-person hearing or a written appeal. It is generally recommended to choose the hearing so the service member can give in-person testimony.
Medical Separation or Medical Retirement
There are several potential outcomes to the IDES. In general, a service member will be found: (1) fit for duty and returned to service; (2) unfit for duty and entitled to single severance payment if the combined rating for unfitting conditions is 20 percent or less; or (3) unfit for duty and entitled to medical retirement if the combined rating for unfitting conditions is 30 percent or more.
If a service member is medically retired, he or she receives monthly retirement pay for the rest of his or her life, along with all other military retirement benefits (i.e. access to commissary or PX). On the other hand, if a service member is medically separated, he or she receives a single separation payment and no retirement benefits. Clearly the difference between a 20 and 30 percent rating is huge.
Appeal of Ratings / Board for Correction of Military Records
A service member has the right to a one-time request for reconsideration of ratings during the informal PEB. This request for reconsideration applies only to unfitting conditions, and must be based on mistake or new medical evidence. If unsuccessful, a service member must wait until discharge and then can appeal the ratings by filing a notice of disagreement with the VA within one year of separation. As for fitting conditions, those must be appealed after discharge as well.
If the appeal of the service member’s ratings to VA is successful, a service member can then appeal to their branch’s Board for Correction of Military Records which can modify a service member’s medical separation to a medical retirement.
How We Can Help
Service members have the right to private counsel while going through the IDES, and this is often the difference between coming out of the IDES in-sync with your expectations, versus having to appeal the IDES outcome with VA after you’ve already been discharged, which can take years. The MEB phase of the IDES is hugely important, and we focus on ensuring the VA examinations accurately capture and portray your medical conditions.
We a flat fee for representation during each phase of the IDES. This gives you 24/7 access to Attorney Rada without the worry of billable hours or invoices. And once you’ve been discharged, we will pursue any appeals with the VA on a contingency fee basis.
Attorney Gregory M. Rada handles every aspect of your case from initial intake to resolution. As a veteran, he understands what you are going through, and his knowledge of the process will go a long way to alleviating your stress and frustration.
Greg personally answers your phone calls and prides himself on always keeping clients informed and updated on their case.