In recent years, much attention has been paid to the VA health system and disability ratings. However, for servicemembers who leave the military due to injury or illness, the military disability rating can be much more important.
Servicemembers who have an injury or illness that keeps them from returning to full duty, known as an “unfitting condition,” are medically separated from the military. At separation, the servicemember is assigned a disability rating by a Physical Evaluation Board (PEB). If that rating is 30% or higher, the servicemember is entitled to be medically retired, with all of the retirement benefits that status provides. A rating of less than 30% can provide monthly disability pay, but not the retirement benefits, such as military health care.
This rating is not the same as the disability rating the VA gives servicemembers. While the VA rating can increase as medical problems develop or worsen in the years following a servicemembers’ separation or discharge from the military, the military disability rating is usually permanent.
In 2008, Congress realized that the military was rating disabilities much lower than the VA system and so it established the Physical Disability Board of Review (PDBR). If you were medically separated from the Armed Forces between September 11, 2001 and December 31, 2009, and were awarded a military disability rating of 20% or less by a PEB, you may be eligible to have the PDBR review your rating. If the Board finds that the rating should be 30% or higher, and that recommendation is accepted by your branch of service, you will be medically retired and will be eligible for retiree benefits and can even request repayment of past medical bills.
There are some conditions to applying to the PDBR and it could affect your ability to pursue an upgraded rating from other administrative agencies, so you should talk to an attorney experienced in disability ratings and the various military agencies before applying. I have the experience you need. Please contact us today for a free consultation.