One of the most difficult situations service members may face comes from injuries or a medical condition that impacts their ability to perform their military duties. These situations may result in the service member being evaluated by the Department of Defense Disability Evaluation System. The Department of Defense Disability Evaluation System addresses medical conditions and injuries related to, or caused by, a service member’s military service. The Disability Evaluation System consists of two parts:
- A medical evaluation by a Medical Evaluation Board; and
- An evaluation of physical disability and fitness to perform military duty evaluation by a Physical Evaluation Board.
Medical Evaluation Boards
The first step in the Department of Defense disability evaluation system is the Medical Evaluation Board (MEB). The MEB determines whether you have any injuries or medical conditions that disqualify you for continued retention in the military based on your service-specific regulations. The MEB will not make a fitness determination. The MEB’s purpose is to accurately diagnose all of a service member’s injuries and/or medical conditions and to develop a summary of these injuries or medical conditions.
Using the service-specific regulations for a given service member, the MEB will document the medical status and duty limitations. These regulations generally identify what medical status is necessary to be retained within a particular service. These regulations also provide guidance on how to document physical limitations of a service member and often identify specific medical or physical conditions that will cause a service member to fall below his or her service’s retention standards.
The MEB consists of a physical examination of the service member. The report of the board states whether each individual condition or injury forms a basis for referral into the disability evaluation system.
Physical Evaluation Boards
The next step in the disability evaluation system is the physical disability evaluation. This step determines the fitness of service members with medial impairments to perform their military duties. If a service member is found to be unfit to perform his or her assigned military duties, the PEB will determine whether you should be retired or separated with a severance payment based on the severity of your condition. Service members can be rated by the PEB only for conditons that make them unfit to perform their military duties.
The PEB happens in two stages. An informal PEB is first conducted, during which all the documentary evidence is reviewed. The service member is not present during this review. The informal PEB provides the service member with the initial findings and recommendations, including the service member’s fitness to perform military duties. The service member must then review the packet and decide whether to accept the findings or appeal the findings and request a formal PEB hearing. With a formal hearing, a service member may appear through an attorney.