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GAO: Troops don't like IDES as much as DoD says

Oct. 4, 2012 - 08:52AM   |   Last Updated: Oct. 4, 2012 - 08:52AM  |  
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Troops in the Integrated Disability Evaluation System may be less pleased with the process than Defense Department surveys indicate, the Government Accountability Office says.

Those surveys, featuring questions with responses on a five-point scale ranging from "extremely satisfied" to "extremely dissatisfied," show that 67 percent of active-duty members and 65 percent of National Guard and reserve members report being satisfied with the process.

But if more conservative calculations are used — including whether service members are extremely dissatisfied with one phase of IDES but content with others, and counting a "meh" response as "dissatisfied" rather than "satisfied" — the GAO said satisfaction rates drop to 24 percent for active-duty troops and 25 percent for reservists.

"While not incorrect, DoD's scale can mask pockets of service member dissatisfaction," auditors wrote. "Measuring satisfaction, or even dissatisfaction, in different ways may provide a more complete picture of satisfaction and how it varies in different circumstances and may reveal areas where DoD could focus on improving management and performance."

GAO also found that DoD's satisfaction rates did not vary much among service members. Auditors said that could mean all troops get consistent treatment in IDES, which is good news — or that the surveys don't measure opinions in enough detail to discriminate.

"Either way, such results provide little insight into identifying areas for improvement or effective practices," GAO said.

GAO recommended expanding the surveys to include wider samplings and/or exit interviews.

In response, defense officials cited some "inaccuracies" with GAO's assessment of the surveys but generally concurred with the report's recommendations.

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