Interdisciplinary panel will evaluate veterans' disability benefits 

August 14, 2006 

Worcester, Mass — Expertise in health policy and disability, and his specific work history, has led Jay Himmelstein, MD, MPH, director of the Center for Health Policy and Research and professor of family medicine and community health at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS), to an appointment on the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) Committee on Medical Evaluation of Veterans for Disability Compensation. “It is an honor to be on this distinguished committee and to examine the challenging issues faced by the Department of Veterans Affairs and military,” said Dr. Himmelstein. 

Earlier this year, Himmelstein was selected to join the committee, which is comprised of 16 members. Former president of the American Medical Association Lonnie R. Bristow, MD, MACP, chairs the mostly scientific committee, and the committee features leaders in various fields including neurology, rehabilitation, mental health, health policy, workers’ compensation and occupational therapy. The committee has been asked to perform a comprehensive review of the Veterans Administration’s current procedures for evaluating and rating disabilities and assess the scientific basis for the adequacy and appropriateness of medical criteria used to qualify veterans for disability benefits. The current Individual Unemployability application, methods for determining and coding impairments, and the use of medical expertise to evaluate veterans will also be reviewed. This review was requested by the Veterans Disability Benefits Commission, which was established by Congress.    In late 2007, the commission will issue its recommendations for improving veterans’ disability benefits. The IOM committee project will be completed by April 10, 2007. 

In addition to his position as director of the UMass Center for Health Policy and Research, Himmelstein also currently serves as the assistant chancellor of health policy. He is board- certified in Internal Medicine and Occupational Health/Preventive Medicine. In 1983, he began his career at UMMS as chief of Occupational Health Services, and five years later he became the director of the Occupational and Environmental Health Program. He was chosen to be a Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellow in 1991, and as a member of the Senator Labor and Human Resources Committee’s health staff, worked on national health reform and the integration of workers’ compensation and additional health and disability benefit systems. He returned to UMMS in 1992 as assistant chancellor for health policy, and he developed the Center for Health Policy and Research in 1997. Himmelstein continues to maintain his practice of occupational medicine as well as his health policy research interests in Medicaid policy, health care quality, workers’ compensation medical care and general health services research. 

As stated by Harvey V. Fineberg, MD, PhD, president of the IOM, in a letter to Himmelstein, the Institute’s studies depend on the voluntary service provided by committee members and other experts in the field under review. According to its Web site, , the IOM is a nonprofit organization that works to improve health by providing science-based advice to policymakers, health professionals, the private sector and the public. 


About UMMS 

The University of Massachusetts Medical School is one of the fastest growing medical schools in the country, attracting more than $174 million in research funding annually.   A perennial top finisher in the annual U.S.News & World Report ranking of primary care medical schools, UMMS comprises a medical school, graduate school of nursing, graduate school of biomedical sciences and an active research enterprise, and is a leader in health sciences education, research and public service. 


Contact: Nicole Soucy, 508-856-2000,