Military medical authorities can determine whether or not medical retirement is appropriate for an enlisted member in relation to a significant injury or illness that hinders a career.
Medical evaluation boards
If a condition is considered by a military doctor to inhibit the fulfillment of a member’s military duties, they refer the case to a Physical Evaluation Board (PEB). Active-duty physicians unattached to the individual’s medical care comprise the PED and evaluate the clinical case file, determining whether the enlisted member is fit to return to duty or be medically separated or retired employing medical standards for continued military service.
A list of medical conditions that are thought of as conflicting with continued military service is available at http://usmilitary.about.com/od/theorderlyroom/l/blmedstandards.htm.
The advice derived from the PEB is transferred to a central medical board that engages four conditions in determining if the individual’s disposition is fit for duty, separation, permanent retirement, or temporary retirement:
- Whether the service member can perform their military job
- Their assigned disability rating
- The stability of their medical condition
- Years of active-duty service in the case of already existing conditions
It is possible to appeal the central medical board’s determination. Individuals are permitted legal counsel at the PEB hearings.
Using the “Department of Veterans Affairs Schedule for Rating Disabilities,” the military is required to rate a disability. DOD Instruction 1332.39 authorizes the military to change the rating schedule based on conditions pertaining to the military. Ratings can vary from nothing to 100 percent, advancing in additions of 10.
Disability ratings given by the military and disability ratings given by the VA (Chapter 6) are different. The DOD and the VA use the “Department of Veterans’ Affairs Schedule for Rating Disabilities” but not all the policy rules proposed in the rating schedule apply to the military. Disability rating may consequently vary between these two. The military rates only conditions determined to be physically unsuitable, compensating for loss of a military careers. The VA can rate any impairment that is service related, compensating for loss of civilian employability.
Types of disposition
The central medical board can order a member to return to duty, to be medically separated without severance pay, to be medically separated with severance pay, permanently medically retired, or temporarily medically retried. The board uses a number of factors in determining these verdicts:
- Fit for duty: The board determines a member is fit for duty so long as they can reasonably perform the duties of rank and military job. If the board considers the member unfit to perform the duties of their military job, they can order medical retraining into a job that is more easily performed pertaining to their medical condition.
- Separated without severance pay: The board determines a member is separated without severance pay if the member’s medical condition existed before their enrollment in the service and wasn’t permanently complicated by their time in service, and they have less than eight years of active-duty service (or comparable Guard/Reserve retirement points).
Additionally, this category is applicable if a member sustained a disability while absent without leave (AWOL) or acting with misconduct.
- Separated with severance pay: The board determines separation with severance pay if the member is found unable to perform their duty, having fewer than 20 years of service, and has a disability rating of less than 30 percent. Disability severance pay equals two months of basic pay per year of service not to exceed 12 years of service. If a member is considered to have a service-related disability they may also be eligible in applying for monthly disability compensation from the VA (Chapter 6).
The law demands the VA to reimburse military severance pay before paying disability compensation benefits if the service member is approved for disability compensation from the VA.
- Permanent medical retirement: The board determines permanent medical retirement if a service member is found unfit, their disability is considered unchanging and stable, and they have a rating minimum of 30 percent disabled. Additionally, these members could also qualify for VA disability compensation if the VA determines the medical condition as constituting a service-related disability (Chapter 6).
Service members can be categorized as medical retired if they have 20 or more years of military service, regardless of disability rating. National Guard and Reserve members require 7,200 points to qualify. Visit “Computing reserve retirement points and pay” for more details.
- Temporary medical retirement: The board determines temporary medical retirement if the service member is unfit and entitled to permanent medical retirement except for their disability being unstable for rating reasons. Unstable for rating reasons refers to whether the condition can change within the next five years licensing a new disability rating. Members unstable for rating are registered on the temporary disability retirement list (TDRL) where they are applicable for medical reevaluation every 18 months and limited to 5 years total on the TDRL. If the individual is not removed from the TDRL before five years is reached, they are then removed from the list and either found fit and returned to duty or permanently medically retired.
Medical retirement pay compensation
Those on the TDRL receive compensation no less than 50 percent of their retired pay base measured by one of the two formulas:
Disability Rating × Retired Pay Base or 2.5 × Yeas of Service × Retired Pay Base
When configuring retired pay base it depends on when a member joined the military. Joining before September 8, 1980 requires pay base computed from military basic pay during the time of medical retirement. Joining after September 7, 1980 requires the average of the High 36 months of basic pay (“The High 36 Retirement Program”).