New veterans get disability rate review

August 31, 2011 • Vistas

(NM Dept. of Veterans Services, Santa Fe, NM) — Military veterans who were medically discharged from service between Sept. 11, 2001, and Dec. 31, 2009, have at their disposal a process to review their disability ratings and check for fairness, consistency and accuracy. (Columnist’s note: Sorry all you WWII, Korea, Vietnam and, yes –, even you 1st Arab war vets.)
Unfortunately, not very many eligible veterans are taking advantage of this opportunity—or are even aware of it—and thus may be missing out on additional or more comprehensive services and benefits. (Columnist’s note: See my comment below on this “information gap.”)
Only about 2,500 out of more than 77,000 eligible veterans nationwide have sent requests to the Physical Disability Board of Review (PDBR) since its creation by Congress as part of the Dignified Treatment of Wounded Warriors Act and signed into law on Jan. 28, 2009.
To be eligible, a veteran must have been medically separated within this time frame with a combined disability rating of 20 percent or less and not have been found eligible for [auth] retirement. Former Reserve members with greater than 20 years of total active federal military service but fewer than 20 years of active duty are also eligible to apply.
“If you are a veteran who was medically discharged within this specified time frame, I strongly urge you to have your disability rating reviewed,” said NMDVS Cabinet Secretary Timothy Hale.
“There might be some errors, which if corrected, could mean a significant change in your disability rating and an increase in the level of benefits and compensation available for you.”
Since the PDBR began reviewing cases in June of 2009, more than 50 percent of the veterans who submitted cases had their original disability determination upgraded, resulting in a wider range of available benefits or newfound eligibility for disability retirement payments. For more information and to access application forms, go to Click on the “How to Apply” tab to access the claim form.
The PDBR reviews cases for all services and their reserve components. They examine each applicant’s medical separation, and make a recommendation to the respective Service Secretary as to whether or not the Secretary concerned should change a disability rating resulting in the veteran’s transfer to the Disability Retirement rolls. By law, the PDBR may not recommend a lower disability rating for any rating reviewed. All changes to disability ratings that are approved by the Service Secretary concerned will be backdated and effective the date of the original Physical Evaluation Board. The PDBR exclusively uses the Veterans Administration Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD) as its adjudication guidance in reviewing unfitting conditions considered by the Disability Evaluation System [Medical Evaluation Board (MEB) and Physical Evaluation Board (PEB)]. If a veteran has a condition he/she feels should have been considered by his/her MEB or PEB (not part of first MEB/PEB), the avenue of redress is not through the PDBR, but the Veteran’s Board for Correction of Military/Naval Records (BCMR/NR). Thanks so very much to Richard Moncrief and Ray Seva of the NMDVS for this information.
Now, my turn. A number of veterans are asking a poignant question, “Why are veterans from other wars not getting the same opportunities?” My opinion, — the vets coming home from this war might be running for Congress and challenging current politicians if not treated well! Another similar question, “Why are disabled vets from all the other wars not considered ‘Wounded Warriors’?” One Vietnam vet recently told me he had asked for some help from a wounded warriors group and was told, essentially, they only had resources for “today’s warriors.”
One final observation. Information from Dept. of Defense on really important veterans’ legislation is not getting to vets of those other wars. Example: a really vital change (January 2003) in the Concurrent Receipts law has yet to be communicated to eligible veterans. Technically, it should have been set up to be an automatic adjustment, but if you don’t apply (by sending stacks of supporting documents), you will not receive the change. Could that be the underlying reason for no notification, —less VA money spent means more money for political spending ($174,000 per year, each, Senate/Congress salary? God bless.

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