When it comes to getting chaptered out due to service-related injuries, many soldiers believe that when they get severely hurt, they can just get a medical board after having a long-standing profile. Believe it or not, this is extremely hard to obtain unless the solution is obvious. And depending on your injury, you’ll have an even harder time getting military pay approval from the medical and physical evaluation boards. Let’s discuss what you can expect from the medical evaluation process and pushing for a disability rating.
What Is the Medical Evaluation Board and the Physical Evaluation Board?
The MEB (Medical Evaluation Board) is the primary determining factor on whether a soldier has a long-term medical condition that meets medical standards. While they don’t necessarily drive actions on discharge, they do help determine whether a soldier will be able to continue service or not. They also take the data and send it forward to the Physical Evaluation Board, where a soldier’s medical disability rating and status is determined.
How is a Medical Board Termination Determined?
The United States DoD and the Veteran Affairs Commission team up to make the evaluation process for disability as quick and simple as possible. This evaluation system is designed to help both organizations decide disability ratings, review health and conditions, and review MEB decisions. While it seems confusing, it’s actually a system of lists that travel through phases from injury to physician assessment, then to the medical board phase, the physical evaluation board phase, the transition phase, and reintegration phase.
Does the system always follow the same process? Yes, however, the big question commonly asked is, “Does it mean I will get reimbursed and a disability rating for my injuries?” Unfortunately, no. One may go through the entire process only to be denied. There are veterans who have had to fight ten or more years to get compensation from the military.
Explaining the Medical Board Process
Known as a “med board” in every branch of military in the United States, you do have to go through this very extensive process. For a service member currently in active duty status, it’s important to be patient. The entire process is often done within 90-100 days of the initial packet submission to evaluate an outcome. Some cases take less time to complete, and unfortunately, some people are “weeded out” before they actually get the results they deserve. Nonetheless, the way it is supposed to go is as follows:
- The military service member develops a medical condition that makes them unfit to perform their duties as a soldier. They are then referred to the medical evaluation board at their base.
- The board usually consists of two physicians at minimum, and when it involves psychiatric or dental cases, a third specialist is put on the case. All medical records and a letter from the commander stating how the condition affects the soldier’s ability to perform their job are reviewed. These are often sent to the MEB by the commanding officer and the physician, but there is one key thing – as a service member, you are entitled to all information and SHOULD request it! Get copies of everything, and get every detail in writing.
- The MEB will then go through the findings and written documentation and submit their report to the PEB. Once that is done, there will be a waiting period, and it will be determined if the condition is acceptable to be flagged as an unfitting condition based on the job of the soldier. For example, a soldier with a desk job as a graphic designer who loses a foot may be deemed as unfit by the MEB because they can’t go overseas, however, it would not keep them from being a drill instructor, and it wouldn’t keep them from being a designer – hence, the PEB may not rule this as a condition that makes the soldier unfit for their duty.
- The PEB will make a decision and the soldier can either decide to appeal the decision or to accept it. The soldier can request a disability rating consideration at this point and they may ultimately be separated based on the determination.
- Once the process is complete, the PEB will use the IDES system in order to allow the soldier to return to regular duty/training, or to separate the service member. They then work with Veterans Affairs to provide the necessary benefits letters. After this time, the veteran can appeal the VA benefits, file for increases, etc. Some soldiers even try to get back into the military.
Is This Process Always This Seamless?
As mentioned earlier, it’s important that the service member or veteran do their part to make the whole IDES process easier and faster. However, it’s not always easy to do so. There are plenty of service members who are forced to remain in service or are wrongfully discharged. The system was designed to give everyone a fair chance when it comes to filing their claim for injury, and attempts to find the best possible results. While it doesn’t always happen for everyone, it certainly helps in many cases.
Is Everything Going to Change Soon with the IDES Process?
The National Defense Authorization Act takes effect in 2020 to help those to win cases against medical malpractice and negligence. What does this mean for veterans?
Well, it doesn’t mean you’re going to get a 100% disability rating, but you may have the opportunity to fight for something that is proven to be a service-related injury. All of these things will make a big difference and will help on the post-decision process in terms of being on the side of the service members or the veterans. This probably will not, however, change the base IDES system that is currently in place. Only time will tell.
Justin Williams is a certified Microsoft Specialist and U.S. Army Veteran. Serving in 2008, he was a Multichannel Transmission Systems Operator with the 15th Signal Brigade. After an Honorable Discharge, he struggled to get access to military benefits for service-related injuries. Justin has committed to helping other veterans navigate the system and get the most out of their hard-earned veteran status.