The Army is deliberately shortchanging troops on their disability retirement ratings to hold down costs, according to veterans' advocates, lawyers and service members.
"These people are being systematically underrated," said Ron Smith, deputy general counsel for Disabled American Veterans. "It's a bureaucratic game to preserve the budget, and it's having an adverse affect on service members."
The Army denies there is any intentional effort to push wounded troops off the military rolls. But critics say many troops being evaluated for possible disability retirement accept the first rating they are offered during their first informal board - but that if they were to request a formal board, and then appeal the decision of that board, they would receive higher ratings.
Those who try to navigate the process beyond their initial evaluation - to include hundreds of combat veterans in limbo at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington - face long waits, lost paperwork and months or even years away from home as they try to complete the process. If they receive a rating of above 30 percent, they receive disability retirement pay, medical benefits, and commissary privileges. Those rated under 30 percent receive severance pay and no benefits.
Many eventually give up and take their chances with the Department of Veterans Affairs, which may give a higher rating for the same disability.
But 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.
The system "has become less friendly toward service members with compensable decisions on disability" in the past few years, especially since the war in Iraq began, Waple said.
Well, what did they expect to happen when we were led to war? That the only injuries were going to be thorn scratches from all the garlands of roses?
They should have decided it was going to cost too much before they sent the troops into harm's way and put it on the recruiting posters: "Get hurt, shit outta luck. A grateful nation will drop you like a hot rock."
"I think there is a definite bias on the physical evaluation board to medically separate service members with a zero-, 10- or 20-percent disability rating when it should be medical retirement."
No pull trigger, no get food. See ya, chump. Gotta save money on you to give to Bush's pals.
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