A U.S. Department of Defense panel charged in December 2007 with reviewing appeals made by wounded and injured veterans claiming they received inappropriate disability ratings from the military has yet to review a single case, the AP/Detroit News reports. The Army Physical Evaluation Board assigns injured troops a disability rating, which corresponds with the level of benefits for which they and their family are eligible.

Investigations by DOD and the Washington Post reported inconsistencies in how the ratings are assigned, indicating a tendency by APEB to rate disabilities lower than the Department of Veterans Affairs. The federal Veterans Disability Benefits Commission also found that the Army regularly assigned troops ratings that precluded them from coverage through the military. Although the troops can be covered by VA, such coverage includes no monthly payments and does not provide coverage for family members.

Congress last December created the Physical Disability Board of Review, operated by the Air Force, to review appeals from troops and veterans who received disability ratings below 30% disabled, the threshold at which coverage is not provided by the military and veterans must pay taxes on their severance payment instead of receiving a monthly retirement check. The board was intended to replace a "lengthy review by a military panel that rarely changed the ratings," the AP/News reports. Although the bill mandated that the board be in place 90 days after its passage, its formation was not announced until June.

Military officials said they hope to take the first application for review later this month. Defense Press Office spokesperson Eileen Lainez in an e-mail said that the panel's creation was delayed because an application process, informational Web site and training programs needed to be developed. However, veterans advocates said the delays indicate DOD efforts to avoid paying for long-term care required by wounded veterans. Lainez said, "I can assure you that budgetary constraints do not factor into adjudications at any point," adding, "This has never been a factor and it will not be in the future" (Maurer, AP/Detroit News, 12/12).

Reprinted with kind permission from kaisernetwork. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork/dailyreports/healthpolicy. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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