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 a/-·~~ ~WASHINGTON, D.C. 2048 .UROW04a ... AL: coMETNITON =VCON 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 6
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)