WASHINGTON (Army News Service, May 12, 2011) -- Army leaders told lawmakers Wednesday the service is revamping its disability evaluation system because the current process is inefficient.

"The disability evaluation system is complex, disjointed, hard to understand, and takes way too long -- and that's the good news," said Thomas R. Lamont, the assistant secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs. "It is highly inefficient, and truly does impact our readiness. We have got to get a grip on this and we are making every effort to do that."

Both Lamont and Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, deputy chief of staff, G-1, appeared May 11, 2011, before the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on personnel. Bostick explained how the Army is working to fix the disability evaluation system.

"We are working very close with OSD (Office of the Secretary of Defense) to figure how we can streamline it," Bostick said of the Army's old system. "As you know we have worked closely with the VA on the Integrated Disability Evaluation System, so instead of doing two physicals we now do one physical."

The Army worked with the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs to develop the Integrated Disability Evaluation System, or IDES. That system is expected to streamline the disability evaluation process, and the Army hopes to expand that program across the service by the end of September, officials said.

It's expected the IDES program will help all current and future Soldiers and servicemembers by delivering enhanced case management, a single comprehensive disability examination, a single-sourced disability rating, increased transparency, and faster disability processing.

Lamont also responded to lawmaker's concerns about the number of civilian contractors employed by the Army. He said the number was about 200,000, and told legislators the Army requires its military organizations to know of which of their contractor positions can be converted to government-employee jobs.

"Each Army military organization is required to maintain an inventory of all their functions to assess whether those functions are inherently governmental, closely associated or not at all," he said. "From that we determine then which positions can be converted to internal, full-time employees, as we look at our total force policy."

Also of concern to lawmakers was the relatively low number of recruitment-age Americans that are actually qualified to join the Army.

Bostick said the Army considers that less than three out of 10 are fully qualified to serve in the military. He cited education, aptitude and medical reasons for the low eligibility rate.

"They are not qualified for several reasons," Bostick said. "But it is education and aptitude -- they don't have a high school diploma or they don't score high enough on the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery). Medical reasons which include all sorts of things from asthma, eyesight, hearing, bad knees and lately some of the types of psychological drugs they may have had to take for ADD and that sort of thing. And finally conduct, or misconduct -- misdemeanors and felonies of that sort."

Weight and education are two of the biggest reasons that disqualify civilian youth from enlisting -- something he said the Army can be helped with.

"I think weight and education are two areas that the country needs to go after," he said. "But education is something the country needs to help us with."

The general also responded to questions about how Soldiers who have separated, especially those in the 20-to-30-year age group, might find employment outside the Army. Bostick said that both those who have served and those who have not served are having a difficult time finding work in the private sector.

He called for assistance by waiving civilian requirements for certification in some jobs to allow former Soldiers who have the training, but not the civilian certification, to begin work.

"Our Soldiers that come out may not be certified in the areas that they need," he said.

Some examples, he said, include Army truck drivers, medics and instructors -- all who have training in those areas, but who do not have civilian certifications to do similar jobs.

"What can the country do to accept those military without those certifications, get them into those jobs, and then allow them to work the certifications as they go along," he asked legislators.

The general said the Army is doing something similar to what he suggested to make it easier for civilian alcohol and substance-abuse counselors to come aboard.

"We are desperately short of alcohol and substance-abuse counselors," he said. "And the one thing that those counselors really need to be independent counselors is they need two years of study and tutelage under a supervisor. And no one on the outside really has the time to deal with folks that need two years of study."

"We are bringing them on, we are making them commit to moving with us when we tell them they have to move to a part of the country that is not a big city," he said. "And they have to stay with us for a certain amount of time."