oversight

Need for Uniformity in Processing Military Disability Retirements

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1977-04-18.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                         DCCURENT BESURE
01966 -   A1C92087]

[Need for Uniformity in Processing ilitary Disability
RetirementE]. FPCD-77-45; B-168308. April 18, 1977. 6 pp.
Report to Secretary, Departmdnt of Defense; by . L. Krieger,
Director, Federal Personnel and Ccopensation Div.
Issue Area: Personnel anagement and Compensation (300);
    Personnel anagement and Compensation: Coejensation (305).
Contact: Federal Personnel and Compensation Div.
Budget Function: National Defense: Department of Defense -
    Military (except procurement & contracts) (051); National
    Defense:  ilitary Assistance (C52).
Organization concerned: Department of the Army; Department of
    the Air Force;  epartment of the avy.
Congressional Relevance: House Comrittev on Armed Services;
    Senate Coumittee on Armed Services.
Authority: P.L- 94-225. 10 U.S.C. 61. Department of Defense
    Directive 1332.18.
         A followup review of military disability retirement
processing was conducted. Findings/Conclusions: Both the
current and prior reviews show that the military departments are
not uniform in processing disability retirements and
separations. There has been a lack of monitoring and enforcement
by the Department of Defense (DOD) to assure uniform
consideration .nd disposition of the disabled members. There are
significant differences ancng the departments between the
elapsed time periods for preparing retirement orders following
the retirement determination and for establishing effective
dates of retirements. There are also inconsistencies among the
military departments in the processing of disability cases for
members with terminal medical conditions. Reccmendations: DOD
should issue a revision to DOD Directive 1332.18 which
incorporates the following recommendations: establish the 20-day
standard for processing disability retirements; insure that
service regulations conform to the revised directive; and
establish a uniform policy on expediting processing of
disability retirements for terminally ill members. The directive
should also provide for uniform consideration and disposition of
disabled members who are also eligible for nondisability
retirement. To insure that service disability retirement
practices are uniform and conform to DOD regulations, DOD should
perform periodic audits and inspections of the operational
systems. (SC)
                     UNITED STATES GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE
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                                                                APR   1977

    B-168308




    The Honorable
    Tne Secretary of Defense

    Dear Mr. Secretary:

         We have completed a followup review of military disabil-
    ity retirement processing (Code 963049).  Our current work
    confirms our prior finding that there is a need for improved
    efficiency and uniformity among the military departments in
    managing and processing disability retirement separations.
    We believe consolidating military disability retirement proc-
    esses under a single manager would probably improve this
    situation and provide more equitable treatment for disabled
    service members.   owever, similar results may e obtained
    if the Department of Defense (DOD) takes a more positive
    role in oversight and management of the disability retire-
    ment/separations systems.

    PROBLEMS IN THE PROCESSING OF MEMBERS
    FOR DISABILITY RETIREMENT/SEPARATION

         Our current and prior reviews show that the military
    departments are not uniform in processing disability retire-
    ments/separations.  Also, there has been a lack of monitoring
    and enforcement by DOD to assure uniform consideration and
    disposition of the disabled members.

          There are differences among the departments in placing
    members into the system and the disposition of those mem-
    bers.   The following chart shows the number of personnel
    evaluated for disability retirement/separations between
    April 1, 1975, and March 31, 1976, and the dispositions
    directed by the military departments.




                                                               FPCD-77-45
B-168308



                                                                            Navy-
                                                    Air                     Marine
                       Army                        Force                    Corps
                              (Per-                        (Per-                    (Per-
                              cent)                        cent)                    cent)
Assigned
  strengths
  as of
  June 30,
  1975          780,890                         608,137                 730,835
Number of
  personnel
  evaluated
  and per-
  centage of
  assigned
  strength        4,212        .539              3,022     .497           8,296     1.135
Directed Dis-
  positions:
                                                                           Navy-
                                                    Air                    Marine
                       Army                        Force                   Corps
                              (Per-                        (Per-                 (Per-
                              cent)                        cent)                 cent)
Retired          3,036          72               1,611       53          3,262         39
Discharged         952          23                 686       23          4,009         48
Returned to
  duty                224           5              545       18             701         8
Disposition
  not shown       -             -                  180        6            324          4
      Total      4,212                  -        3,022             a/    8,296

a/Separate statistics were not furnished by DOD.

Unfavorable conditions noted in prior reviews

     In a report of March 19, 1973, (B-168308) we pointed
out, among other things, significant differences among de-
partments between the elapsed time periods for preparing
retirement orders follcwing the retirement determination
(approval) and for establishing effective dates of retire-
.ents. Based on Navy and Marine Corps practices, we recom-
mended a 20-day time standard to allow 5 days to prepare or-
ders following retirement approval and a 15-day interval

                                            2
B-168308



between the issuance of orders and the effective retirement
date.

     In a letter dated May 14, 1973, the P. incipal Deputy
Assistant Secreta-y of Defense (Health and Environment)
informed us that DOD concurred in the need for uniformity
in effecting military disability retirements and the rec-
ommended 20-day standard, and that Army procedures and Air
Force policies had been changed to conform the processing
times of those services to the standard.

     In our May 11, 1976, report (FPCD-76-59) on our follow-
up review, we advised you that DOD ctions had not resulted
in disability retirements being processed witthin the agreed
standard. We reported that while the Air Force and Navy
were processing disability retirements within the 20-day
standard, the Army still exceeded the 20-dEy standard, and
the Marine Corps, which had been used as a model for the proc-
essing times, had also exceeded the 20-day standard. The
Marine CorDs officer responsible for the order-issuing activ-
ity informed us that he was unaware of our previous review
and that he had not been told of the 20-day standard.

     We also reported on May 11, 1976, inconsistencies among
the military departments in the processing of disability
cases for members with terminal medical conditions.  The
Army, Navy, and Marine Corps expedite disability retirement
processing for disabled members in a terminal medical con-
dition. The Air Force, however, requires that these cases
be processed on the same basis as routine disability re-
tirements.

     This is a sensitive issue, since survivors of disabled
retirees receive important benefits not available to the
survivors of members who die while in an active duty status.
Two benefits are the survivor annuity from the military
retirement system and special life insurance coverage from
tne Veterans Aministration. We believe a uniform policy
and practice conforming to the intent of the law is needed
to insure equitable treatment for all military survivors.

     In response to our report of May 11, 1976, the Acting
Assistant ecretary of Defense (Health Affairs) by letter
dated ugust 11, 1976, agreed with our recommendations and
stated that initially DOD believed the desired disability
standards could be achieved by the military departments
through internal management improvements and without any



                              3
B-168308



formally prescribed DOD standards. However, that approach
had not brought about the desired results; therefore,
stronger controls must be initiated from DOD, and vigorous
action was planned. The Acting Assistant Secretary also
informed us that an effort was being ade to establish a
uniform policy in processing terminally ill members on
which we would be advised at a later date.

Need for greater DOD involvement in
managing the disability processing systems
      The basic DOD policies for implementation of chapter 61,
title 10 U.S. Code, Retirement or Separation for Physical
Disability, are contained in Directive 1332.18. This direc-
tive, issued September 9, 1968, requires the Assistant Secre-
tary of Defense to periodically review the military depart-
ments' procedures to insure their uniformity, and despite
significant changes in retirement considerations, has been
revised only once, on January 7, 1970. For example, due to
apparent abuses in the disability retirement of highranking
and medical officers, DOD sought and obtained legislation
(Public Law 94-225) which vests approval authority of such
retirements in DOD rather than in the military departments.
      In addition to the above legislative change, the Deputy
Secre:ary of Defense issued memorandums dated December 6,
1972, and January 29, 1973, wherein DOD recognized that wide
variances existed in disabled personnel treatment and pro-
mulgated new guidelines. The memorandums emphasized that
disability retirements were not appropriate for members who
had completed a normal career and whose disabling conditions
did not adversely affect the performance of the duties of
their grade or office. But our analysis of the disability
retirees who were eligible for career nondisability retire-
ments indicates the departments did not uniformly implement
this policy. In the Army, 15 percent of the members
retiring for disability between April 1, 1975, ani March 31,
1976, were also eligible for nondisability retirement as
compared to 25 percent in the Navy-Marine Corps and 33 per-
cent in the Air Force. Apparently, the Army is more strin-
gently and properly implementing the DOD policy that a member
will not be retired for disability upon reaching normal
career retirement unless there is clear and convincing evi-
dence tnat such person was not satisfactorily performing
the duties of his office, grade, rank, or rating because of
a disability.



                              4
B-168308



     The January 1973 memorandum stated that these guidelines
would be implemented pending the publication of changes to
DOD Directive 1332.38, however, the directive has not been
revised.

     We believe that the lengthy delay by DOD in revising
the directive and incorporating the 20-day processing stand-
ard probably contributed to the failure of the Marine Corps
to follow the standard as reported in our May 11, 1976,
followup report.  We also stated in that report that DOD
personnel told us they ere updating DOD Directive 1332.18
but had no plans to include the 20-day standard because
they were unaware of it. After discussing it with them,
they stated they would incorporate the standard in the re-
vised directive.

     At a meeting in December 1976 with representatives of
the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Health
Affairs), we were advised that the vigorous action promised
in the August 11, 1976, letter had not been taken;   hat the
revision of DOD Directive 1332.18 will probably  be made in
the late spring 1977;  nd that such revision should pro-
vide better uniformity among the departments.   These offi-
cials stated that the delays in issuing tho revision are
partially the result of the extremely lim,..3 staff in DOD.

     Although the revision of DOD Directive 1332.18 is
necessary to improve disability retirement processes, the
revised directive will be of little value without adequate
DOD oversight, contrcl, and guidance.
RECOMMENDATIONS

     We recommend that DOD issue the revision to DOD Direc-
tive 1332.13 to incorporate recommendations cited in our pre-
vious reports. Tne recommendations are to:

     -- Establish the 20-day standard for processing
        disability retirements.

     -- Insure that service regulations conform to the
        revised directive.

     -- Establish a uniform policy on expediting processing
        of disability retirements f-r terminally ill members.

     We also recommend that the directive provide for uni-
form consideration and disposition of disabled members who


                               5
B-168308



are also eligible for nondisability retirement.  Furthermore,
to insure that service disability retirement practices are
uniform and conform to DOD regulations, DOD should perform
periodic audits and inspections of the operational systems.



     We would appreciate your comments and information on
actions taken on the above matters.

     As you know, sction 236 of the Legislative Reorgani-
zation Act of 1970 requires the head of a Federal agency to
submit a written statement on actions taken on our recom-
mendations to the House Committee on Government Operations
and the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs not later
than 60 days after the date of the report and to the House
and Senate Committees on Appropriations with the agency's
first request for appropriations made more than 60 days
afcei the date of the report.

     We are sending copies of this report to the Director,
Office of Management and Budget; the Secretaries of the
Army, Navy, and Air Force; and the Commandant of the Marine
Corps.  Copies are also being sent to the Chairmen, House
and Senate Committees on Appropriations; House Committee on
Government Operations and the Senate Committee on Govern-
mental Affairs; and House and Senate Committees on Armed
Services.

                              Sincerely yours,




                              H.L. Krieger
                              Director




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