LAKEWOOD, Wash. -- Five years ago the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration instituted the “Integrated disability evaluation system,” or IDES, to streamline the process of transitioning injured soldiers out of the military. But some soldiers receiving treatment at Madigan Army Medical Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord said that's not happening.
Army Spec. Jared Enger, a highly decorated soldier, came back from Iraq suffering from PTSD and a debilitating back injry. He's been waiting for close to a year for the Army to discharge him.
"The only issue I have with the Army is that no decision has been made. I'm just sitting in limbo."
An audit by the Government Accountability Office found the wait time on the Army's four-pronged review process can be upwards of 400 days -- nearly double what it took five years ago.
Army Specialist Christopher Boettcher is fighting a heart condition and has been waiting 8 months for the Army to do something. “I went from a combat leader to sweeping floors everyday,” said Boettcher.
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the chair of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, is holding a hearing on the issue of wait times on Wednesday; the hearing will also look at how soldiers going through the process are being treated. Soldiers like Boettcher and Enger are on rear detachment, and said they’re assigned to menial tasks including pulling weeds and sweeping floors.
The Government Accountability Office's full report will be released on Wednesday. Murray is the chair of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee.
The Army and the Department of Veterans Affairs said they are aware of the backlog and are trying to improve the system. Last week, the Pentagon announced the start of a comprehensive, Army-wide review of soldier behavioral health diagnoses and evaluations.