FORT BENNING, Ga. - A pilot program to streamline the disability compensation application process for service members retiring or leaving the military due to service-connected disabilities has reached Fort Benning.

Under the pilot program, only one physical exam and disability rating is required, expediting the delivery of benefits.

The pilot was expanded last month to include the Infantry post, along with five other installations, bringing the total number of participating installations to 27.

"Essentially, we are trying to get ratings completed for service-connected injuries and medical board purposes prior to the person's discharge from the military," said Michael Graves, lead military services coordinator.

Graves is one of three coordinators from the Department of Veteran Affairs regional office in Atlanta working on Fort Benning in conjunction with the post's physical evaluation board office.

Graves said approximately 50 Soldiers are currently filing claims under the new process.

"With the new process they will know well in advance of their discharge what their rating is, what benefits to expect from the VA and be advised on the whole envelope of available benefits before they leave the service," he said.

During the pilot portion, participating installations will work to identify areas for improvement and iron out the new process. A date has not been set for the program to go into effect though a decision is expected to be made by the end of April, said Tom Pamperin, associate deputy undersecretary for policy and programs at the VA.

The Disability Evaluation System pilot program began in November 2007 to test a faster, more consistent evaluation and compensation program by consolidating the processes required for determining if military personnel are fit enough to stay on active duty and eligible for Veterans Affairs disability compensation.

Prior to the pilot, service members had to go through two different, lengthy processes before eligibility for VA benefits was determined, according to a Department of Veterans Affairs release.

For more information on the pilot program, visit www.pdhealth.mil/hss/des.asp#fs.

For more information on DES, visit www.realwarriors.net/active/disability/disability.php.

Page last updated Thu April 15th, 2010 at 18:15