VDBC Report Looks Good: However...


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The Veteran's Disability Benefits Commission has reported (October 3, 2007) their findings. At first read it appears many of the concerns I and others had were unfounded, however.... This is just a report -- one of at least three over the last few years that favors veterans -- and does not require any action by anyone, as the others also did not. Seeing how it appears to favor us veterans, at a cost, and as others have already suggested (another "tip 'o the hat" to Larry Scott of VA Watch Dog Dot Com fame), there is a question whether this report will do anything more than take up space on a shelf. Or, be quoted when elected officials mention how they wanted to implement one of its 113 recommendations, however....

Who Is The VDBC?

The Veterans' Disability Benefits Commission was established by the National Defense Authorization Act of 2004. Between May 2005 and October 2007, the Commission conducted an in-depth analysis of the benefits and services available to veterans, service members, their survivors, and their families. Congress created the Commission out of concern for a variety of issues. Those matters included care for severely injured service members, treatment and compensation for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the concurrent receipt of military retired pay and disability compensation, the timeliness of processing disabled veterans' claims for benefits, and the size of the backlog of those claims, and the program known as Individual Unemployability, which allows veterans with severe service-connected disabilities to receive benefits at the highest possible rate if their disabilities prevent them from working.

They Were Primarily Concerned With?

The Commission wrestled with philosophical and moral questions about how a nation cares for disabled veterans and their survivors and how it expresses its gratitude for their sacrifices. The Commission agreed that the United States has a solemn obligation, expressed so eloquently by President Lincoln, "to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan...."

They identified eight principles that they believe should guide the development and delivery of future benefits for veterans and their families:

1. Benefits should recognize the often enormous sacrifices of military service as a continuing cost of war, and commend military service as the highest obligation of citizenship.

2. The goal of disability benefits should be rehabilitation and reintegration into civilian life to the maximum extent possible and preservation of the veterans' dignity.

3. Benefits should be uniformly based on severity of service-connected disability without regard to the circumstances of the disability (wartime v. peacetime, combat v. training, or geographical location.)

4. Benefits and services should be provided that collectively compensate for the consequence of service-connected disability on the average impairment of earnings capacity, the ability to engage in usual life activities, and quality of life.

5. Benefits and standards for determining benefits should be updated or adapted frequently based on changes in the economic and social impact of disability and impairment, advances in medical knowledge and technology, and the evolving nature of warfare and military service.

6. Benefits should include access to a full range of health care provided at no cost to service-disabled veterans. Priority for care must be based on service connection and degree of disability.

7. Funding and resources to adequately meet the needs of service-disabled veterans and their families must be fully provided while being aware of the burden on current and future generations.

8. Benefits to our nation's service-disabled veterans must be delivered in a consistent, fair, equitable, and timely manner.

They Reported?

Among many things:

- The VA Rating Schedule must be designed so that ratings result in equity in terms of compensation for average impairments of earning capacity. Persons with the same ratings percentage should have experienced the same loss of earning capacity. The loss of earning capacity should increase in proportion to an increase in the degree of disability.

- Ensure Parity with Non-Disabled Veterans

- Compensate for Loss of Quality of Life

- Allow Young, Severely Injured Veterans to Receive Social Security Disability Insurance

- Link Benefits to Cost-of-Living Increases

- Simplify and Expedite the Processing of Disability Claims and Appeals

- Improve Transition Assistance from Active Service to Civilian Life

- Improve Support for Severely Disabled Veterans and their Caregivers

They Concluded?

The Commission made 113 recommendations. All are important and should receive attention from Congress, DoD, and VA. The Commission suggests that the following recommendations receive immediate consideration. Congress should establish an executive oversight group to ensure timely and effective implementation of the Commission recommendations.

About Their Report

Veteran's Disability Benefits Commission Report - Honoring the Call to Duty: Veterans' Disability Benefits in the 21st Century

- Full Report (in PDF, 562-pages -


- Executive Summary (in PDF, 18 pages -


- Hot link to Chapters (



-- Contents of Full Report

- Table of Contents
- COVER PAGE and Front Matter:
- Transmittal Letter to President & Congress
- Commission Member List/Signature Page
- Staff List
- Commission Photo
- List of Figures and Tables
- Acknowledgements
- Preface
- Abbreviations
- Executive Summary
- Guiding Principles
- Results of the Commission's Analysis
- Priority Recommendations

Chapter 1: Introduction
I. Charge to the Commission and Scope of Work
II. Methodology
III. Definition of Disability
IV. Definition of Quality of Life
V. Other Government Program Comparisons

Chapter 2: Guiding Principles

Chapter 3: Veterans' Past, Present, and Future
I. Historical Summary of Veteran's Benefits
II. Demographics of Today's Veteran Population
III. Demographics of Tomorrow's Veteran Population

Chapter 4: Rating Process and System
I. VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities
1. Introduction
2. Historical Origins and Development
3. History of Revisions of the 1945 Rating Schedule
4. Currency of the Rating Schedule
5. Commission Findings and Recommendations on the
Medical Adequacy of the VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities
II. Evaluation and Rating Process
1. Introduction
2. Medical Evaluation
3. Rating Process

Chapter 5: Policies for Determining Eligibility for Benefits
I. Program Policies and Issues
1. Character of Discharge
2. Line of Duty
3. Reasonable Doubt
4. Age as a Factor
5. Time Limit to File
II. Presumption Decisions
1. Overview
2. A New Framework for Presumptions
3. Causation as a Basis for Presumptions
4. Categorization of Evidence
5. Scope of Scientific Reviews
6. Inventory Research Related to the Health of Veterans
7. Conclusion
8. Environmental/Occupational Hazards
II. PTSD and Other Mental Health Disorders
1. Diagnosis and Assessment of PTSD
2. Compensation for PTSD
3. Center for Naval Analyses Corporation (CNAC) Findings
Pertaining to Mental Disorders and PTSD

Chapter 6: Appropriateness of Benefits
I. Introduction to Veterans' Disability Benefits and Services
II. Appropriateness of Ancillary and Special Purpose Benefits
1. Special monthly compensation
2. Aid and Attendance or Housebound
3. Clothing Allowance
4. Automotive and Adaptive Equipment
5. Specially adapted housing
6. Health care
7. VHA Priority Workload
8. Insurance
9. Veterans' Preference for Federal Employment
10. Burial and Memorial Benefits
III. Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment
1. VR&E; History
2. VR&E; Program Description
3. VR&E; Program Reviews and Evaluations
4. VR&E; Staffing Issues
5. Employers Training & Hiring VR&E; Veterans
6. Satisfaction Reporting
7. Findings
IV. Concurrent Receipt
1. Issue
2. Historical Context
3. The Debate over Concurrent Receipt
4. The Present Status of Concurrent Receipt
5. Findings

Chapter 7: Appropriateness of the Level of Benefits
I. Impairments of Earning Capacity
1. Compensating for Impairments of Earning Capacity
2. Compensating for Loss of Quality of Life
II. Compensation for Individual Unemployability
1. Background
2. CNAC highlights
3. IOM highlights
III. Compensation for Loss of Quality of Life
1. CNAC Study of Quality of Life of Service- Connected Veterans
2. IOM Study of Loss of Quality of Life
IV. Consistency of Disability Rating between DoD and VA.
1. Analysis of DoD and VA ratings by CNAC
2. Why are DoD and VA Ratings Different?
3. Findings
V. Adjustments to the Cost of Living Allowance
VI. State Court Spousal Support Obligation
1. Issue
2. Apportionment
3. Garnishment
4. Traumatic Servicemembers Group Life Insurance (TSGLI)
5. Findings
VII. Lump Sum Payments
1. Issue

Chapter 8: Survivors and Dependents
I. Definitions of Survivors and Dependents
II. Appropriateness of the Benefits
1. Survivors
2. Dependents' and Other Survivors' Benefits
III. Appropriateness of Level of Benefits
IV. Determination Standards for Benefits
V. Pending Claims Ends with Death

Chapter 9: Program Administration
I. Overview
II. Filing a Claim or Appeal
1. Filing a Claim
2. Volume of Claims
3. Filing an Appeal
4. Reports that have evaluated the claims and appeal process
5. Perspectives on Claims and Appeals from Commission Site Visits
III. Duty to Assist
1. Issue
2. Findings
IV. Delayed Payments
V. Program Operations Comparison
1. GAO highlights
2. CNAC Highlights

Chapter 10: Transition
I. Introduction
II. Transition Philosophy
1. Transition Risk Issues
III. Coordination
IV. Case Management
V. Transition Assistance Programs
VI. Benefits Delivery at Discharge (BDD) and Separation
VII. Information Technology (IT) and Records management
VIII. Family Support Services
IX. Military Severely Injured
1. Severely Injured Marines and Sailors (SIMS) Pilot Study
2. Army Wounded Warrior Survey
X. Health Care
XI. Conclusion

Chapter 11: Findings and Recommendations
Appropriateness of Benefits
Appropriateness of Level of Benefits
Determination Standards for Benefits
Appropriateness of Benefits
Appropriateness of Level of Benefits
Determination Standards for Benefits
Health Care:

Back Matter

Appendix A - Commission Statutes and Charter
Appendix B - Commissioner's Biographical Sketches
Appendix C - Commission's Research Questions
Appendix D - Site Visit Summary
Appendix E - Legal Analyses
Appendix F - CNAC Executive Summary
Appendix G - VA-DoD Disability Rating Comparison
Appendix H - Summary of IOM Medical Evaluation of Veterans for Disability
Appendix I - Summary of IOM Presumptions
Appendix J - Summary of IOM PTSD Diagnosis
Appendix K - Summary of IOM PTSD Compensation
Appendix L - Statement of Alternative Views by Commissioner John Grady

--- Regards, Walt Schmidt