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POSTED: March 27, 2007 5:13 a.m.
Change in command Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey did not make a recent trip to Fort Benning as previously announced and was forced to resign last week over his response to problems of poor soldier treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates made the announcement. Gates had demanded Harvey’s resignation because he was displeased when Harvey, after dismissing the commander of Walter Reed, temporarily named Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley to take command.
Kiley, the Army’s top medical officer, had earlier appeared to play down the problems at Walter Reed, where he was in command until 2004.  There was no announcement of who would take the Army’s top position.  

Army Emergency Relief
The AER campaign kicks off today and continues through May 15. AER is a private, nonprofit organization chartered in 1942 to help soldiers take care of their own.
AER goes a long way to help soldiers, retirees, and their families in times of financial need by paying for food, rent and utilities, providing emergency transportation and vehicle repair, and covering other personal needs if pay is delayed or stolen.
AER provides some interest-free loans, grants, or a combination of the two to soldiers and their families.
Contributions to AER also provide undergraduate scholarships to children of soldiers and retirees.

Disability ratings under fire
The Defense Department is putting in place reforms to its disability evaluation system and working to ensure the decisions of the Disability Advisory Council are fast and fair, Pentagon officials recently.
The system is used to evaluate a service member’s disabilities and then weighs in on the decision to separate or retain them. Service members who are separated with at least a 30 percent disability rating receive disability retirement pay, medical benefits and commissary privileges. Veterans with a rating below 30 percent receive severance pay but no benefits. In the past, each service had its own disability evaluation system.
Now DoD has put in place an overarching DoD-level framework with a single information system, Pentagon officials said. Each service manages its caseload under that framework. The war on terrorism has taxed the system, officials said. Medical and transportation advances have allowed more service members to survive more serious wounds than in previous wars.
In fiscal 2006, service eligibility board caseloads were 13,162 for the Army, 5,684 for the naval services, and 4,139 for the Air Force. In 2001, the numbers were: 7,218 for the Army, 4,999 for the naval services and 2,816 in the Air Force.  
DoD officials acknowledged service members have complaints about the system.
According to recent media reports, service members have complained military services are not consistent in evaluations and do not follow the Department of Veterans Affairs schedule of rating disabilities.
They say it takes too long for evaluations to be processed, the process is unnecessarily complicated, and personnel running the system are inadequately trained in its nuances. The disability process begins with medical evaluation boards at military hospitals. Attending physicians evaluate each patient, looking at conditions that may make the service member unfit for duty. If the condition or wound is judged to make the service member unfit, the board refers the case to a physical evaluation board. The board has a mix of medical officers and line officers. They determine if the problem is service-related or not.
The panel further recommends compensation for the injury or condition and recommends the disability rating. Officials said most cases were processed within 70 days during last year.
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