Veterans' Commission Discusses Recommendations For Disability System Overhaul
Retired Lt.Gen. James Terry Scott, chair of the Veterans' Disability Benefits Commission, on Thursday testified before the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee about the commission's recommendations foroverhauling the Department of Veterans Affairs' disability benefits system, CQToday reports. The commission's recommendations included alteringdisability payments to account for quality of life and developing new criteriafor determining disability payments for veterans with traumatic brain injuriesand post-traumatic stress disorder. According to CQ Today,"It is unclear whether [VA] has authority under current law to overhaulits disability compensation system."
Several of the commission's recommendations differed from the advice of the Institute of Medicine and the Center for Naval Analysis, in particular a recommendationthat veterans with PTSD receive a medical re-evaluation "every two or threeyears." Scott said mental illnesses require "a lot more carefulmonitoring" in many cases. He added that IOM "didn't think thereshould be a template that said every two to three years, everyone should belooked at" but that "if we don't tell (veterans) to do it on acertain interval, they might not do it at all."
Some veterans' groups expressed concern that the routine mental healthevaluations could lead to reductions in veterans' benefits, CQ Todayreports. American Legion Deputy Director Steve Smithson saidif the evaluation recommendation is approved and "it appears it's solelybeing done to decrease benefits, it's going to hamper benefits, and have anegative impact."
The commission also has recommended temporarily increasing veterans' benefitsby up to 25% on a sliding scale to account for quality of life.The quality-of-life benefits could cost up to $3 billion, Scott has estimated(Yoest, CQ Today, 1/24).
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