Late Breaking News
Wait Times Heading in Wrong Direction in New Integrated Disability System; VA Blames ‘Transition Difficulties’ Cont.
Of particular concern to legislators was the comparison between how the IDES is performing now and how it was performing less than a year ago. In a GAO report released in December 2010, active duty servicemembers going through IDES in August 2010 had an average wait time of 295 days. Those that went through the system in February of 2010 had an average wait time of 274 days. All of those times were slightly longer for reserve-component servicemembers.
Legislators asked officials why the IDES process seems to be slowing. “As we transition them in, what happens is that we get a lowering of the number of days as we work through the more routine cases on the faster system. Then the time comes back up as we hit the harder backlog of cases,” Lynn said. “And we need to work our way through the backlog, which is what we’re doing right now. We’re going through those harder cases in the new IDES system. When we get our way through the backlog, we’ll then have a system with members entering into the new system and finishing in the new system.”
When that happens, Lynn says, the average time will return to the goal of under 300 days. However, that could take as long as two years, he noted. “We would love to do it in a shorter amount of time. But when you go to a new system, you create transition difficulties.”
Committee chair Sen. Patty Murray, (D-Wash.), also expressed concern about the number of suicides by servicemembers going through the joint disability system. “The DoD provided this committee with information on those servicemembers who died while enrolled in the system,” she said. “Of the 34 deaths, 13 were suicides or drug overdoses. This is very troubling information.”
Lynn agreed that the level of suicides was too high and noted that it was higher in people facing a lifetime of disability. “We need to do everything that we can to ease those challenges,” he said. “That includes what we’ve discussed — making the transition from DoD to VA as expeditious and as congenial as possible.”