Comparison of Department of Defense, Veterans Administration, and Social Security Administration Disability Determination Processes
On November 28, 2017, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) marked the tenth anniversary of the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES) (U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, 2017). The IDES was developed to integrate and streamline disability evaluations for service members across the two agencies. Prior to the implementation of the IDES, the steps of the disability evaluation system utilized by the various military branches within the Department of Defense (DoD) differed to some extent, and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability evaluation system differed significantly from that used by the DoD. In the IDES, a single set of medical examinations is used for determining both fitness for duty and disability by all branches of the US military. In addition, by transitioning to the IDES, evaluation of a service members’ fitness for military duty now runs concurrently with a Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) determination of a disability rating. The IDES is intended to provide a more seamless and faster transition by standardizing and coordinating the DoD and VA evaluation processes. Disabled service members may also be eligible for benefits from the Social Security Administration. This brief discusses the IDES processes, similarities and differences in the DoD/VA and Social Security disability determination processes, collaboration and between Social Security and DoD/VA, and Social Security outreach to service members/veterans.