Medical or Physical Evaluation Board
I am hurt or sick, and Medical is seeking to discharge me
The demands of service in the military can have a dramatically negative impact on the both the body and the mind. Through service in combat, the normal demands of the job, the rough and tumble life style outside of work, or through the natural progress of disease, conditions may rise that call into question your fitness for continued service. In the normal course of things, a sick or injured service member is placed first on light or no duty; as time progress, they are placed in a limited duty status that involves formal evaluation of continued fitness; and finally, the initiation of a medical board whose purpose is to determine continued fitness for service.
Should I fight, or accept the Findings?
The creation of a medical board gives rise to a number rights and the requirement to make some significant decisions on your part. First of all, you need to decide whether you agree with the board—that is, whether you have the ability to continue to serve or not, or whether you want to fight to stay in the service despite the injury or illness that is hampering you. If you decide to fight, this is the beginning of a process involving rebutting the written findings of the board, obtaining a non-medical assessment from your chain of command that is favorable to your remaining on active duty, and demonstrated that you remain deployable, capable of meeting the physical fitness requirements and standards of your service, capable of performing in your MOS or able to be transferred to another MOS. This is the level where the assistance of a skilled military lawyer can begin to make a difference.
If you decide that you are not physically able to continue on active service, this does not end the decision making process. The recommendations of the board may fail to reflect that the cause of the disqualifying condition is related to combat, combat related activities or service connected. The board may under represent the degree of impairment caused by the condition, which effects whether or not you are medically retired, with the accompanying benefits of medical care through the military system, retirement pay and allowances, and the other benefits of retirement from the service, or medically separated, which leads to a one time payment of separation pay and access to medical care through the Veteran’s Administration alone. At this level, the actions of a military attorney can make a dramatic difference in the nature and amount of treatment or compensation you receive from the service because of your condition.
Appealing the Medical Board Results
After the medical board is complete, you can challenge the results. This will give you the right of appear before the Physical Evaluation Board, which is a “due process” evidentiary hearing that focuses on all of the same issues that were dealt with in the medical board at the local level. You have the representation of an appointed military lawyer, and may also retain a civilian military lawyers at this stage as well. At this level, the development of the prior record is crucial, but you are still permitted to present new evidence concerning your fitness for service, the degree of impairment, and the ultimate finding that will determine whether your are separated or retired, and the degree of your disability.
What should I do?
The processing for separation for a medical condition adds frustration and uncertainty on top of the physical pain that created the crisis in the first place. This is a time where you need someone with a clear head and an understanding to assist you through the process. Jeffrey Meeks and Bruce White bring to you not only professional experience, but as retired officers, they also have personal experience in having fought medical board processing. They understand your challenge, and can help you.
Do not hesitate in acting to protect yourself in this time of crisis.