Written by Peter Gayton,
In a letter to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, Colorado Senator Mark Udall asked that the VA intensify the department’s efforts to educate all veterans about the appeals process. He also urged the VA to coordinate with the Department of Defense about a program established two years ago to ensure veterans’ disability and retirement benefits match their sacrifice for our country.
The Pentagon’s Physical Disability Board of Review (PDBR) was established as part of the Dignified Treatment of Wounded Warriors Act of 2008. It was designed to resolve the growing issue of thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans going without adequate treatment for service-related injuries. The Board allows vets to appeal their separation and service-assigned disability rating to make sure that the individual receives the benefits he or she has earned. Since it was created 56% of veterans who have appealed to the PDBR have received higher combined disability ratings follow review. According to Senator Udall, “The primary reason for the high recharacterization rates is that the PDBR uses the Veteran Affairs Schedule of Rating Disability.”
But here’s the problem. There are nearly 77,000 veterans eligible to appeal, but only 2,411 vets nationwide have taken advantage of this program. One reason is that many of the veterans have been out of the military long enough that the Department of Defense no longer has current contact information.
Senator Udall believes that VA has more up-to-date personal information on veterans. He urges VA to share its database with the Pentagon in order to inform veterans of their right to appeal their disability ratings, with the firm assurance that their original ratings can’t be downgraded in the appeal. In his letter to the VA, Senator Udall adds, “I request your assistance in making all eligible Veterans aware of this important board and allowing them to take the outreach effort to the next level by mailing a letter to each eligible Veteran to inform them of their eligibility to apply to the PDBR.”
For a transcript of the letter from Senator Udall to Secretary Shinseki, go to: http://markudall.senate.gov/?p=press_release&id=1369
Peter S. Gaytan is the author of For Service To Your Country – Updated Edition: The Essential Guide to Getting the Veterans’ Benefits You’ve Earned (Citadel, 2011), available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other booksellers. He has served as an advocate in securing and protecting the earned benefits of America’s veterans for more than a decade. Gaytan is the Executive Director of the American Legion, the largest veterans service organization in America.
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