In August 2011, Fort Huachuca began implementing the Integrated Disability Evaluation System, or IDES, to create a simpler and time-efficient disability evaluation process.
The IDES is used to determine if service members who have been wounded or injured, either physically or mentally, are still able to serve in combat. If they are determined unable to continue service, the IDES provides them with a disability rating before they leave the military, minimizing the amount of time they are without benefits.
According to Col. Bill Moran, commander, Raymond W. Bliss Army Health Center, or RWBAHC, Fort Huachuca is one of the very few Department of Defense, or DoD, installations that have had 100 percent compliance meeting the 100-calendar day Medical Evaluation Board Phase goal, since the implementation of the program.
The average amount of time it has taken to process the 150-plus Soldiers through this phase has been 38 days.
“The old system was used to find the Soldiers’ one or two unfit conditions, give them an Army [disability] rating, send them out the door, and then they would go to the VA [Veteran’s Affairs Administration],” said Maj. Roy Alabran, officer in charge, Medical Evaluation Board, RWBAHC. “The VA would then take a year or two to get that VA claim done. Now they have started them jointly at day one, and it may take the Soldier six to nine months to get through the entire process, but they are getting full Army pay while in the process.”
Several factors have contributed to this success. The RWBAHC command team meets biweekly to discuss the status of every Soldier in the IDES process. The medical history packet, or narrative summary, is reviewed with every Soldier before it is signed, which has resulted in very few medical reviews or appeals.
“In addition, the leadership from the Fort Huachuca senior mission commander, the garrison commander, and the superb collaborative relations with the Veterans Affairs office in Tucson has ensured the success of the program,” Moran added.
After a physician refers a Soldier to the IDES program, a DoD Physical Evaluation Board liaison officer, or PEBLO, is assigned to the case. The PEBLO is the service member’s liaison from the point of referral until the Soldier’s return to duty or separation from military service. They coordinate all IDES actions between the service member and his or her command, and the disability evaluation appointments.
Each PEBLO handles about 40 cases at a time to ensure that adequate time is provided for each Soldier.
During the process, Family members are encouraged to attend the appointments. Col. Dean Pedersen, deputy chief of Clinical Services, RWBAHC, said, “We’ve always included the Family, where a lot of places do not. It is up to them whether the Soldier wants them there, but we offer it to them.”
For more information or questions about the IDES program, call 533.2490.