WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Congressman Brian Mast (FL-18) today introduced the bipartisan Wounded Warrior Bill of Rights to cut through red tape, improve transparency and increase accountability for wounded warriors. The bill would ensure veterans are able to effectively appeal decisions made regarding their medical separation from service and entitlement to disability benefits.
“After I was blown up, my recovery was all consuming–regaining the strength to get out of bed, learning to walk again and adjusting to life on two prosthetics,” Rep. Mast said. “Unfortunately, bureaucrats at the Department of Defense, who have never had any of these experiences before, are currently making this process even harder by pointing fingers at each other instead of doing what’s in the best interest of these wounded warriors. This bill of rights will protect wounded service members, ensuring they aren’t screwed over by these nameless, faceless bureaucrats.”
Under current law, a little-known, civilian-run entity called the Defense Health Agency (DHA) determines if a servicemember is fit to continue military service and what disability benefits he or she will receive if separated. As a result of an unclear command structure and bureaucratic finger-pointing at this agency, servicemembers often find themselves unable to effectively appeal decisions.
The Wounded Warrior Bill of Rights would return authority to adjudicate appeals to military commanders within each branch, empowering active duty service members within the chain of command to determine the outcome of appeals. This change will protect the due process rights of wounded veterans by simplifying the appeals process to ensure a fair and speedy decision regarding medical separation decisions and disability benefit entitlement.
“Those who put on the uniform in defense of our country selflessly do so without asking anything in return. We must have their backs when they come home,” said Rep. Rodgers. “We have a responsibility to ensure wounded warriors going through the medical separation process are treated fairly with the respect and dignity they’ve earned. My hope is this legislation will restore accountability and implement the safeguards needed to prevent any future mistreatment during this process. I’m proud to introduce this bill with Congressman Mast, and I’m grateful to Major Will Ostan for his advocacy on this issue and service to our country.”
This bipartisan bill is cosponsored by Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05), Rick Larsen (WA-02), Michael Waltz (FL-06), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-02), and Scott Franklin (FL-15).
The full text of the legislation can be viewed here.
When a member of Armed Services is wounded, ill, or injured, he or she goes through a process known as the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES), implemented by civilians at the Department of Defense, to determine whether the servicemember is fit for continued military service.
Under the IDES program, the Medical Evaluation Board (MEB) appointed by the Defense Health Agency (DHA) determines whether the servicemember meets the medical retention standards. During this process, most cases get determined as to whether the servicemember is fit for continued military service or retirement, and as a result of current flaws in the system, service members are then left with no viable options to appeal the decision.
If the MEB determines a servicemember is no longer fit for active duty, the Physical Evaluation Board (PEB) determines appropriate benefits for soldiers who are separated or retired for disability. As a result of those same inadequacies of the current system, if a servicemember feels the benefits determined by the PEB are incorrect, there is no viable option to appeal the decision.