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Hearing of the Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs (DAMA) Subcommittee of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee - Re-evaluating the Transition from Service Member to Veteran: Honoring a Shared Commitment to Care for Those Who Defend our Freedom


Location: Washington, DC

Good morning and welcome everyone. This oversight hearing of the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs will now come to order.

We are here today to examine the current framework in the ongoing efforts to streamline the transition process between active duty soldier to veteran.

The lynchpin of this streamlining process has been the implementation of the Integrated Disability Evaluation System, otherwise known as "I.D.E.S." This program was created in December 2007 following the recommendations of the Veterans' Disability Benefits Commission, and the President's Commission on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors, otherwise known as the Dole/Shalala Commission.

I.D.E.S.'s goal is to improve the timeliness, effectiveness, and transparency of the former legacy DES review process, which had been in place for 60 years prior. In October of 2010, VA and DOD worked in concert to begin the permanent shift to I.D.E.S around the country in 139 locations. The ultimate objective remains to fully close the gap which occurs between separation from active duty service and receipt of VA benefits and compensation.

I am pleased to see progress being made to meet this objective under the new system, specifically, helping to cut the transition time between active duty and veteran status. However, there are several issues and unforeseen problems which need to be addressed.

First, issues with processing times remain problematic. Whereas some Recovering Warriors experience lengthy delays in their attempt to navigate through the IDES system, others are rushed through without receiving the proper medical attention that they need.

Second, many Recovering Warriors report that they find the IDES process to be extremely confusing and difficult to understand. Further efforts must be made to work directly with our Recovering Warriors to ensure that they are making the right decision for themselves, their families and their futures.

Finally, IDES is not as simple in practice as the various Commission Reports were hoping it would be when it was first proposed. Now, nearly five years after its inception, it is important for both VA and DoD to continue evaluating the system and their efforts to achieve its goals of increasing transparency, improving consistency, and eliminating duplicate processes.

As a new generation of active duty service men and women return home from conflicts oversees, we must be prepared to meet our commitment to see that their transition to civilian and veteran life is as efficient and simple as possible. It is our duty to see that their service is honored as best as our resources will permit.

It is my hope that this oversight hearing will shed some light on some of the problems we have encountered in the implementation of IDES so that we may work together to find the best solutions possible.

I want to thank the VA, the DOD, the present VSOs, Dr. Wilensky, Mr. Fisher, and General Scott for their valuable input as we work together to find important solutions.

I welcome today's witnesses and would now call on the Ranking Member for his opening statement.

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