Board Reassesses Service Disability Ratings
By Air Force Master Sgt. Russell P. Petcoff
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 3, 2010 Recommendations from a congressionally directed Defense Department disability review board have resulted in 61 percent of applicants having their status changed from a medical separation to retirement on the permanent disability list, the board president said.
Michael LoGrande said the board reassessed the accuracy and fairness of the combined disability rating assigned to servicemembers who were separated due to unfitness for duty because of a medical condition with a disability rating of 20 percent or less and weren’t retirement-eligible. The review considered only servicemembers separated from the armed forces between Sept. 11, 2001, and Dec. 31, 2009.
The Department of Defense Physical Disability Board of Review came about as part of the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act, which standardized the disability evaluation system among the services by mandating the use of the Veterans Affairs Department's schedule of rating disabilities, LoGrande said.
The Defense Department has identified about 77,000 veterans eligible to apply for a board review, LoGrande said. The request for review may come from the veteran, surviving spouse, next of kin or legal guardian.
Once the board reviews a case and makes a recommendation, the appropriate service secretary or a designee will decide whether to accept the board’s recommendation. Veterans cannot appeal a decision made as a result of the review board process, LoGrande said.
Eligible veterans can request a board review by submitting a Department of Defense Form 294, Application for Review of Physical Disability Separation from the Armed Forces of the United States. It’s available at http://www.defense.gov by searching for “DD Form 294.”
Veterans requesting a review must mail their completed and signed DD Form 294 to SAF/MRBR, 550 C St. W., Suite 41, Randolph Air Force Base, TX 78150-4743. Applicants may submit statements, briefs, medical records or affidavits supporting their application, LoGrande said.
In addressing their involuntary separation, LoGrande emphasized, veterans should consider whether to go with the Physical Disability Board of Review process or apply to their service’s Board of Correction for Military Records.
“This is a very important point, and PDBR-eligible veterans should understand there are several differences between the scope and the consequences of the two reviews,” he said. The DD Form 294 contains a table outlining the differences and outcomes of the two review processes.
“The choice is important, and highly dependent upon the facts and circumstances of a veteran’s case,” LoGrande said. “The applicant should weigh all of the factors and make a choice only after careful consideration.”
(Air Force Master Sgt. Russell P. Petcoff serves in the secretary of the Air Force public affairs office.)