Understanding the Disability Evaluation System
After a serious injury or illness, a wounded warrior’s fitness for duty may need to be assessed to determine if they are capable of continuing to perform military duties. The process of evaluating a Service Member’s fitness for duty is conducted through the Disability Evaluation System (DES). For recovering service members (RSMs) there are two options including the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES) or the Legacy Disability Evaluation System (LDES). The default for RSMs is the IDES. This is collaboration between the Department of Defense (DoD) and VA resulting in both DoD and VA disability rating determinations. LDES referral, a process by which the DoD alone determines whether referred RSMs are fit for continued military service and determines appropriate disability rating for those determined unfit who are separate or retired. RSMs should be aware they will not receive a VA rating while on active duty if they choose LDES. RSMs must request LDES enrollment with 10 business days of being referred into the DES but only after commanding officers approval.
The IDES includes both the DoD and VA medical evaluations. DoD evaluates the medical and physical condition of wounded warriors to determine fitness for military duty. The VA evaluates and rates the extent of disabilities, if wounded warriors are found unfit, and determines the level of compensation they are entitled to receive.