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Disability Evaluation System (DES)

Definition The Disability Evaluation System (DES) is a cooperative program between the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in the United States. It is designed to evaluate service members’ medical conditions and determine their fitness for duty, as well as assign disability ratings for those found medically unfit. The system […]


The Disability Evaluation System (DES) is a cooperative program between the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in the United States. It is designed to evaluate service members’ medical conditions and determine their fitness for duty, as well as assign disability ratings for those found medically unfit. The system streamlines the transition process from military service to veterans’ benefits, ensuring that eligible veterans receive the appropriate compensation and assistance related to their disabilities.

Key Takeaways

  1. The Disability Evaluation System (DES) is a joint Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) program designed to evaluate the medical conditions of service members and determine their eligibility for disability benefits and related compensation.
  2. DES consists of two primary processes: the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES) for active-duty military members and the VA’s disability compensation process for veterans separated from the military. Both processes involve medical examinations, documentation, and the assignment of a disability rating to determine the level of disability benefits.
  3. Throughout the DES process, service members and veterans are afforded legal counsel, case management, and support to help them navigate the system, gather necessary documentation, and ensure they receive the appropriate benefits based on their individual circumstances.


The Disability Evaluation System (DES) is essential for veterans as it provides a comprehensive and standardized process to evaluate and determine the appropriate level of disability compensation and benefits tailored to the individual needs of each veteran.

This system ensures that veterans who have sustained injuries, illnesses, or impairments during their military service are fairly and consistently assessed, taking into account the severity of their condition and the impact on their quality of life.

By thoroughly evaluating each case, the DES helps to create a supportive infrastructure for veterans, enabling them to lead fulfilling lives post-service and acknowledging the sacrifices they have made for their country.


The Disability Evaluation System (DES) plays a critical role in providing our veterans the appropriate benefits and compensation that they deserve. The primary purpose of DES is to evaluate the extent of disabilities sustained by military personnel during their period of service, which includes determining the severity and longevity of the condition.

By doing so, the DES ensures that veterans receive proper financial support, healthcare, and other essential benefits based on their individual needs. This process aims to alleviate some of the financial and emotional burdens faced by service members and their families upon returning to civilian life, allowing them a smoother transition.

Apart from solely evaluating disability status, DES is also crucial in assessing a service member’s capacity for continued service or necessitating medical separation or retirement. Its thorough examinations and coordinated approach, involving both the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), help to streamline the process for veterans, reduced redundancy, and ensure fair evaluations.

DES serves as a testament to the commitment and respect the nation holds for its service members, ensuring their well-being and providing meaningful support to those who have bravely served and protected our country.

Examples of Disability Evaluation System (DES)

The Disability Evaluation System (DES) is a joint program between the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that determines the eligibility of service members and veterans for disability benefits. Here are three real-world examples related to the DES:

Example 1: A veteran who served in the Iraq War experiences Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after returning home. They go through the DES process to get an evaluation from the VA and DoD medical professionals. The veteran is assigned a disability rating based on the severity of their PTSD, which subsequently affects the level of benefits they are eligible to receive, such as monetary compensation, vocational rehabilitation, and healthcare services.

Example 2: A service member is injured in a training exercise and, as a result, has a permanent physical disability that will prevent them from continuing their military career. They enter the DES, which assesses their medical condition and assigns a disability rating. This rating determines their eligibility for benefits like VA compensation, medical care, and possible transition assistance for returning to civilian life.

Example 3: A veteran who was exposed to hazardous materials while serving develops a chronic respiratory condition. They enter the DES to have their condition evaluated. Once the DES confirms that the veteran’s respiratory problems are connected to their military service, the veteran is assigned a disability rating and becomes eligible for VA benefits, such as disability compensation and medical treatment.In each of these examples, the DES plays a crucial role in evaluating medical conditions, assigning disability ratings, and ultimately determining the level of support and benefits that service members and veterans receive to help them with their disabilities and improve their quality of life.

FAQ: Disability Evaluation System (DES)

What is the Disability Evaluation System (DES)?

The Disability Evaluation System (DES) is a process that assesses service members’ medical conditions to determine fitness for military duty and eligibility for disability compensation or other VA benefits. The goal of the DES process is to ensure service members receive fair and timely evaluations and benefits while enabling them to return to duty or transition into civilian life.

What does the DES process involve?

The DES process involves various stages such as referral to a Medical Evaluation Board (MEB), medical examinations, assignment of disability ratings, and final determination of eligibility for benefits. If a service member is found to be unfit for duty, the DES process leads to separation or retirement from military service, as well as the provision of disability compensation and other VA benefits.

What is the role of the Medical Evaluation Board (MEB) in the DES process?

The Medical Evaluation Board (MEB) is responsible for conducting a thorough review of a service member’s medical history, diagnoses, and treatment plans. The MEB then documents the service member’s medical conditions that may impact their ability to perform military duties. Based on the severity of the conditions, the MEB determines if the service member should be referred for further evaluation by a Physical Evaluation Board (PEB).

How are disability ratings determined in the DES process?

Disability ratings in the DES process are determined using the VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD). The VASRD assigns percentages to different medical conditions, reflecting the severity and impact of the condition on a service member’s functional capability. These percentages are then used to calculate the overall disability rating and determine the amount of disability compensation awarded to the service member.

How long does the DES process take?

The duration of the DES process can vary depending on the complexity of the case, the need for additional medical evaluations or disability ratings, and the overall workload of the involved agencies. Generally, the process can take several months from the initiation to the final determination of benefits. It is important for service members to maintain communication with their chain of command, medical providers, and VA representatives throughout the process to ensure a smooth and timely transition.

Can a service member appeal the outcomes of the DES process?

Yes, a service member has the right to appeal the outcomes of the DES process, including the disability rating assigned and the decision regarding their fitness for duty. Appeals can be filed with the assistance of a legal representative, a Veterans Service Organization, or other support agencies. Service members are encouraged to consult with available resources to ensure they understand their rights and options throughout the appeal process.

Related VA Benefit Terms

  • VA Disability Compensation
  • Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES)
  • VA Disability Ratings
  • Service-Connected Conditions
  • Medical Evaluation Board (MEB)

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