Friday, March 02, 2007

The Rest of the Article

It appears that the link to the veterans' bulletin sends us to the Feb 15 update. This article is from the Mar 1 update, which I get via e-mail. Hopefully they will update the site soon.

This is the rest of the article:

"Under the separate disability payment systems of the Defense Department and the VA, a higher VA rating does not necessarily translate into more money, and forgoing military disability retirement also means giving up lifetime commissary and exchange privileges, military health care and other benefits.While the number of soldiers placed on permanent disability retirement has declined in the past five years, the number placed on temporary disability retirement with medical conditions that officials rule might improve so they can return to work over time or worsen to the point that they must be permanently retired has increased more than fourfold, from 165 in 2001 to 837 in 2005. Troops on temporary disability leave convalesce for 18 months while receiving reduced basic pay. After that they are reevaluated and either returned to duty, or rated for separation or permanent disability retirement, or sent back to temporary disability for another 18 months up to five years. Along with paying them reduced wages during that time, the eventual reevaluation often leads to downward revisions in their disability ratings and lower disability payments. Service members' conditions must be deemed stable before they receive a permanent disability rating, unless they are rated at less than 30%. In that case, they are discharged with severance pay whether they are in stable condition or not. If their conditions then worsen, they'll receive no more money from the military.

"Compared to the overall size of the defense budget, disability retirement costs are relatively small. In 2004, the military paid more than $1.2 billion in permanent and temporary disability benefits to 90,000 people, the GAO said. That does not include the costs of lump-sum severance pay (up to 24 months of basic pay) given to 11,174 disabled troops that year in lieu of disability retirement pay. The Pentagon was unable to provide data on severance costs, the GAO said. In 2005, Ellen Embrey, deputy assistant secretary of defense for force health protection and readiness, told House lawmakers the reason for the comparatively large numbers of troops placed on temporary disability was actually to keep end strength up. A premature medical evaluation board decision, she said, "may negatively impact the individual's ability to continue serving." Col. Andy Buchanan, the Army Physical Disability Agency's deputy commander, said the system is not as bad as government reports have led people to believe. "It really is a fair process," he said. "It's wide open. We have nothing to hide." Buchanan also said he had "no visibility" on the costs related to disability retirement pay, so he doesn't know if the budget is going up or down. He said he gives medical evaluation board adjudicators one instruction: "Do the right thing. That's the guidance I give them. There is absolutely no attempt on the part of the Army or this agency to deny soldiers any disability benefits or to push them off on the VA. [Source: NavyTimes Kelly Kennedy article 24 Feb 07 ++] "

That denial sounds rather hollow to me. If some one says "We have nothing to hide," let the search under the rocks begin.

The recent changes of command at Walter Reed suggest that there is much to hide. More light needs to be shed on the shameful treatment of our returning wounded. I think that the light will reveal more than rats and cockroaches in out-patient rooms.

BRB is Write (and wants justice and honor for our vets)


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