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Disability Evaluation System (DES)

Definition The Disability Evaluation System (DES) is a process used by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to assess and determine a veteran’s disability rating. This rating is based on the severity of a service-connected disability and affects the amount of compensation the veteran receives. The DES considers medical evidence, personal statements, and […]


The Disability Evaluation System (DES) is a process used by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to assess and determine a veteran’s disability rating. This rating is based on the severity of a service-connected disability and affects the amount of compensation the veteran receives. The DES considers medical evidence, personal statements, and service records to make an accurate and fair determination of the disability rating.

Key Takeaways

  1. DES is a comprehensive system designed to evaluate military personnel’s medical conditions and determine if they’re eligible for disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
  2. This system combines the efforts of both the Department of Defense (DoD) and the VA to provide a seamless and efficient process for service members transitioning to veteran status and seeking compensation for their disabilities.
  3. DES considers factors such as the severity of the disability, the impact on the service member’s ability to work, and service connection to decide the appropriate level of benefits and services that the veteran is eligible to receive.


The Disability Evaluation System (DES) is a crucial aspect of the VA benefits system, as it ensures that military service members and veterans receive the appropriate compensation and assistance for any debilitating physical or mental conditions sustained during their service.

Evaluating disabilities accurately and fairly is essential in determining the proper level of benefits and support, which can significantly impact a veteran’s quality of life and their ability to reintegrate into civilian society.

Furthermore, the DES provides a standardized and consistent process for assessing disability ratings, promoting equity and transparency in the allocation of resources.

Ultimately, the importance of the DES lies in its role as a cornerstone to uphold the commitment of honoring and supporting those who have served and sacrificed for their country.


The Disability Evaluation System (DES) serves a critical purpose within the realm of VA benefits, as it plays a vital role in determining disability and compensation for service members and veterans. The primary goal of the DES is to ensure that timely, accurate, and consistent evaluations are conducted for all qualifying individuals.

This process forms the basis for determining the level of assistance and benefits that veterans receive to address their specific disability needs. By doing so, the DES allows for better support and resources to be provided to those who have served their country and now require assistance due to disabilities incurred during their service.

The DES is used to assess a veteran or service member’s medical condition by employing a standardized fitness for duty examination and disability rating system. This objective assessment takes into account the severity of the individual’s medical conditions, the limitations they face, and the impact that these disabilities have on their overall quality of life.

Consequently, the DES enables a fair and accurate compensation plan, which ensures that veterans with similar medical conditions are provided with consistent benefits and support services. By utilizing the DES, the Department of Veterans Affairs is better equipped to fulfill its responsibility to adequately care for and provide for the many brave individuals who have served and sacrificed for their nation.

Examples of Disability Evaluation System (DES)

Case of a Veteran with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): A veteran who served in a combat zone and experienced a traumatic event develops PTSD as a result. They have frequent nightmares, difficulty sleeping, and problems with regulating their emotions. The veteran seeks help from the VA and goes through the Disability Evaluation System (DES) to assess the severity of their PTSD and determine an appropriate disability rating. Based on the rating, they could then receive appropriate benefits, including financial compensation and access to healthcare services and support.

Veteran with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI): A service member suffers a traumatic brain injury during their time in the military, which affects their cognitive function and makes employment difficult after being discharged. The veteran applies for VA disability benefits and enters the DES process, where they undergo a medical examination to evaluate the extent of their cognitive deficits. The VA assigns a disability rating based on the exam results, which then determines the level of financial support and vocational rehabilitation services provided.

Veteran with Service-Connected Hearing Loss: A veteran experiences hearing loss due to prolonged exposure to loud noises during their military service. After leaving the military, they find it challenging to communicate and maintain a job. They seek assistance from the VA and navigate the DES process, submitting the necessary documentation, medical records, and undergoing a hearing exam. The VA determines the veteran’s disability rating based on the severity of their hearing loss, granting them appropriate benefits such as monthly compensation, hearing aids, or other medical equipment required to manage their condition.

FAQ: Disability Evaluation System (DES)

What is the Disability Evaluation System (DES)?

The Disability Evaluation System (DES) is a cooperative program between the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) designed to streamline the disability assessment process for injured or ill service members, ensuring timely and accurate evaluation and access to medical care and benefits.

How does the DES process work?

DES has two main components: the Medical Evaluation Board (MEB) and the Physical Evaluation Board (PEB). The MEB assesses the service member’s medical condition and is responsible for documenting injuries, illnesses, and disabilities. The PEB reviews the MEB’s findings and determines the service member’s fitness for duty. If found unfit for duty, the PEB provides a disability rating and refers the service member to the VA for benefits processing.

What benefits are awarded through the DES process?

VA benefits through the DES process include disability compensation payments, health care services, vocational rehabilitation, and educational benefits. The types and amounts of benefits awarded depend on the service member’s disability rating and individual circumstances.

How long does it take to complete the DES process?

The duration of the DES process varies depending on the complexity of the service member’s case and the timeliness of required evaluations and documentation. On average, the process takes between 100-305 days from initiation to final determination and benefits processing.

Can service members remain in the military following the DES process?

In some cases, service members may be permitted to continue military service following the DES process if they are found fit for duty with accommodations or assigned to a limited duty status. In cases where the service member is found unfit for duty, they will be separated or retired from the military with disability benefits.

How can service members track the progress of their DES cases?

Service members can track the progress of their DES cases through their respective service branch’s case management system, such as the Army’s Physical Disability Evaluation System (PDES) or the Navy’s Medical Evaluation Board Tracking Office (MEBTO). These systems allow service members and their advocates to monitor case status, submit documentation, and communicate with the MEB and PEB.

Related VA Benefit Terms

  • Compensation and Pension (C&P) Examination
  • Veterans Affairs Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD)
  • Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES)
  • Service-related disability claim
  • Percentage of disability determination

Sources for More Information

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