By Army News ServiceNovember 8, 2007
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Nov. 8, 2007) - To provide better care and simplify life for wounded and seriously-ill servicemembers, the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs signed two agreements this week to develop one physical examination system and to provide "federal recovery coordinators" to ensure servicemembers and veterans receive their benefits.
The two programs follow recommendations from the President's Commission on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors, co-chaired by former Sen. Robert Dole and former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala.
"This agreement commits VA and DOD to develop a single process to assess the medical conditions of wounded, injured or ill service members," said Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Gordon H. Mansfield of the pilot examination system. "We will make it easier for these heroes to go back to their homes, with the key questions about their eligibility for VA compensation already decided."
Signed Nov. 6 by Mr. Mansfield and Dr. David S.C. Chu, under secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, the agreement calls for a pilot program to evaluate a single physical examination that DOD can use to determine the medical fitness of injured personnel to remain in uniform and VA can also use for awarding disability compensation.
The agreement notes that physicals could take place in VA medical centers, military installations, VA-contracted examination centers or other facilities.
The pilot, which begins late this month, involves VA and DOD facilities in Washington, D.C. Servicemembers from Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, and the Air Force's Malcolm Grow Medical Center at Andrews Air Force Base will participate.
On Oct. 31, VA also agreed to provide "federal recovery coordinators" to selected military treatment facilities, including Walter Reed and Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. The new personnel and will coordinate services between DOD and VA and state, private and voluntary organizations. They will also serve as the life-long resource for wounded, ill and injured servicemembers and veterans who may have concerns about federal services or benefits.
"This agreement will help ensure our nation's wounded warriors and their Families receive the care they need and deserve at the right time, right place, and by the right person across the continuum from recovery through to their reintegration into their communities," said Michael L. Dominguez, principal deputy under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness.
(DOD and VA press releases contributed to this article.)