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Health Professional Roles in the Integrated Disability Evaluation System

Disability Evaluation

U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Lasonya Morales/Released

The Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES) is used to determine if service members coping with wounds that may prevent them from performing their duties are able to continue to serve. Previously, service members had to navigate two evaluation systems— one for the Defense Department and one for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Now, under the streamlined system, service members receive one medical examination (conducted by VA-certified medical providers) that determines both physical and psychological fitness-for-duty for the Defense Department and disability ratings for VA benefits claims. 1,2 The roles that health professionals have in each phase of the integrated system are described below, along with important training courses that are available for psychological health professionals.

Phase 1: Medical Evaluation Board (MEB) 3

Referral

Medical care providers refer service members with physical or psychological wounds to the IDES if it is questionable that the service member can return to full, unrestricted duty within a reasonable amount of time.

MEB Review

Once a service member is referred to the system, IDES-qualified medical providers complete the necessary physical and psychological examinations. For each concern, medical providers consider:

  • Clinical stability and prognosis for improvement
  • Impact on performance of military duties
  • Application of each service’s medical standards

The results of the medical examinations are added to the MEB report (also referred to as the IDES case file) and forwarded to the MEB for consideration.

The MEB consists of two to three medical officers that review the case file to determine the ability of the service member to return to full, unrestricted duty within a reasonable amount of time. If the MEB determines that a return to duty is questionable, the service member’s case is forwarded to the Physical Evaluation Board (PEB).

Phase 2: Physical Evaluation Board 3

The PEB is comprised of three senior military members, including one medical officer, that review the case file. If the PEB determines the service member is able to continue service, then the service member returns to duty. If the board determines the service member’s medical condition prevents him or her from returning to duty, the board will recommend separation from duty and determine a disability rating for the medical condition. Throughout the PEB phase, the service member has a right to legal counsel and to appeal the findings and disability rating determination of the PEB.

Phase 3: Transition

In the final phase of the IDES, service members either transition to civilian life or reintegrate into military service. While service members will receive ongoing medical care during transition and reintegration, medical providers are normally not tasked with any IDES-related roles during this phase. 3

Training for Health Professionals

It is important that all health providers, including psychological health providers, understand the indications for referral, the information needed to make equitable and timely decisions and the regulatory basis for the IDES. The Defense Health Agency offers the following online IDES training courses for all health professionals through Joint Knowledge Online:

  • IDES: 01 - Referral of Service Members into the IDES (One hour CME): This course provides guidance on when service members should or shouldn't be referred to the IDES. This course consists of two lessons, which should take one hour or less to complete.
  • IDES: 02 - Development of MEB Narrative Summaries (One hour CME): This course provides an introduction to the required information and format for the medical narrative summary, used by the services to communicate the findings of MEBs to their PEBs. This course consists of two lessons, which should take one hour or less to complete.
  • IDES: 03 - Correction of MEB Narrative Summaries (Two hour CME): This course provides practice in making corrections to MEB Narrative Summaries when the services’ PEBs return them to medical providers. This course consists of three lessons, which should take two hours or less to complete.
  • IDES: 04 - Evaluation of Disability Cases (Five hour CME) : This course provides medical providers practice in evaluating service members' cases for clinical stability by reviewing medical documentation to determine prognosis for improvement and the impact of their conditions on performance of military duties, enabling them to prepare MEB Narrative Summaries and make MEB decisions. This course consists of five lessons, which should take five hours or less to complete.

You can locate these courses directly by logging onto Joint Knowledge Online, then selecting “Course Catalog” and searching for the IDES course series.

Additional Resources

Sources

1 IDES Overview Handout, [PDF 250 KB] Office of Wounded Warrior Care. Last accessed Feb. 24, 2016.

2 Wounded, Ill and Injured Compensation and Benefits Handbook, AKO US Army. Last accessed Feb. 24, 2016.

3 Directive Type Memorandum 11-015 Integrated Disability Evaluation System. [PDF 560 KB] (2011, Dec. 19). Defense Department.

 

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