The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have generated over the past 10 years a significant number of Soldiers with multiple and complex medical conditions that require a disability evaluation. Over the last four years, the number of Soldiers needing a disability evaluation has steadily increased. As a result, the U.S. Army and Army Medical Command (MEDCOM) implemented an expansion strategy on 1 April 2011, to deploy an augmentation team comprised of activated Reserve Component Soldiers and TRICARE Management Activity support contractors to Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center (AMC), Fort Gordon, Ga. The Army's estimates that over the next 12-18 months, there will be approximately 35,000 disability evaluations that will need to be processed and adjudicated.
The augmentation team enhances the Army's ability to provide timely, quality and compassionate Medical Evaluation Board (MEB) disability processing for Soldiers and supplements the resources and personnel who currently perform disability evaluations at Eisenhower AMC. The expansion also helps ensure continuity of care is maintained to ensure Soldiers do not lose Army or Department of Veterans Affairs entitlements or benefits.
Another enhancement is the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES), which The Department of Defense, VA and Army deployed as a pilot program in the National Capitol Region in 2007. The IDES combines the two separate rating systems currently used by the Army and VA into a single rating for Soldiers undergoing a disability evaluation. The Army plans to deploy IDES to all of its military treatment facilities by the end of the fiscal year.
Enhancements also are underway for the Reserve Component. Recently, the Army opened a new Reserve Component Soldier Medical Support Center (RCSMSC) in Pinellas Park Fla. The RCSMSC uses a centralized MEB packet submission process to coordinate and integrate the administrative and medical management for the wound, ill and injured Reserve Component Soldiers. The centralized process helps streamline and reduce duplicative process performed by Army and VA, to provide Soldiers from point of injury to case review, validation and adjudication a faster turnaround and enhanced MEB process. MEDCOM also established a Medical Evaluation Board Tracking Office to serve as a liaison and oversight agency between military treatment facilities processing medical boards and the RCSMC.
Use of the Electronic Medical Board (eMEB) is another enhancement the Army recently implemented to improve the MEB process for all Soldiers. In the future, an electronic Physical Evaluation Board (ePEB) will be added to enhance the disability evaluation process even more to allow for the seamless transfer of Soldiers' medical information between the Army and VA.
Improving the MEB process is important to Army and the MEDCOM who want wounded, ill and injured Soldiers to get the right care, at the right time and the right place. The enhanced staff and process improvements helps Army and MEDCOM to streamline the MEB process; promotes continuity of care for Soldiers and; supports Army readiness and mission "To Conserve the Fighting Strength".