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250 airmen eligible for disability re-evals

Dec. 14, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
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An Air Force review has identified 250 airmen who may be eligible for disability re-evaluation.

They are among some 9,200 military members who are eligible for re-evaluations. Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in October 2012 ordered reviews of all evaluations of mental health diagnoses that were downgraded or eliminated between Sept. 11, 2001, and April 30, 2012.

Although the Air Force has attempted to contact the 250 airmen through a mass mailing, only 31 had responded as of this month, a Dec. 9 Air Force Personnel Center news release said. A second mailing is planned Dec. 31.

Problems with the evaluations were exposed in 2011 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., where psychiatrists downgraded the diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder in 290 patients. More than 100 of them later had the diagnosis restored.

PTSD is a condition eligible for disability compensation. But diagnoses such as personality and adjustment disorders that are considered to have existed before troops joined the military are ineligible for disability compensation.

Organizations representing veterans of the wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq have said the military unfairly uses personality and adjustment disorders to discharge service members. Lawmakers and advocacy groups have also said the diagnoses have been improperly used to discharge victims of sexual assault.

The services had notified nearly 9,200 troops of their eligibility for the mental health review as of last month, according to James Davis, president of the Physical Disability Board of Review. The board received nearly 1,000 applications for re-evaluation, 97 percent of them from the Army. The review of those applications is underway and could take about 18 months to complete.

By press time, the Air Force had not provided information about how many records were reviewed, how many met the board and how many were separated during the period in question.

Airmen who received a notification letter are asked to reply. Veterans who think they qualify can submit a DD Form 294 to the board. For information, visit the PDBR website at www.health.mil/PDBR or email PDBRPA@afncr.af.mil.

— Kristin Davis and Patricia Kime

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