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Military Physical Disability Board of Review Seeks to Improve Outreach

It is the policy of the U.S. Military Physical Disability Board of Review (PDBR) to allow veterans with military separation dates between 11 September 2001 and 31 December 2009 to, for medical reasons, have their file reviewed for fairness and accuracy. According to the PDBR, more than half of those re-evaluated became eligible for a disability retirement and fewer than four percent of those eligible for consideration requested a review. As of today, the PDBR has received fewer than three thousand applications out of the more than 77,000 qualifying veterans.

Getting the message out seems to be one of the effort’s most prominent challenges, as poor publicity is commonly cited as the reason for the relatively low turnout. “I’m not doing a very good job of outreach” claims Retired Air Force Col. Michael LoGrande, PDBR president. “Anything we can do to make sure those eligible are made aware, we’ll do it.”

Created in 2008 to address what critics claimed was disability rating inconsistencies across the services, the PDBR reviews the Medical Evaluation Board and Physical Evaluation Board disability ratings to determine whether or not a correct disability retirement assessment was performed. If the veteran is awarded at this stage, they will receive monthly disability retirement pay retroactive to the time of their original disability-related separation.

It is important to observe that veterans who have a disability of 20 percent or less and who did not receive disability retirement can have their claim reviewed, as can former reserve members who have more than 20 years of federal military service but less than that amount of active duty. Those successful will also become eligible for a survivor’s benefit plan insurance and TRICARE health care coverage.

Applications take an average of 430 days to process, which LoGrande called “unacceptable” but also unavoidable. “From day one, we had a backlog,” he said. Despite this, he still strongly urges veterans to request the review.

“The worst thing we can do is tell them their service got it right,” he said. “We cannot lower their [military] disability rating, and it has no impact on their VA disability rating.”

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