Q. What are the major differences between the DES Pilot Program and the older "Legacy" System?
A. Major Differences:
-A soldier is initiated into an MEB with a temporary profile indicating "requires MEB"
-If found unfit, the Soldier will only receive a rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The days of receiving a different rating from DOD than VA are gone.
-Instead of the MEB Physical, the Soldier will receive a full comprehensive exam that will be used both to determine fitness by the Army and a disability percentage rating from the Department of Veteran's Affairs for fitting and unfitting conditions.
Q. I was just given a Temporary profile that has a 3 somewhere near the top right! Will I be going through a Med Board?
A. Not necessarily. There is a lot of confusion as to what type of profile initiates a Medical Board on a Soldier. Per the Memorandum by LTC Thomas J Rogers dated 30MAY09, "When a provider identifies a Soldier with a condition that does not meet retentions standards and requires a medical board; he/she will ensure the problem is adequately worked up and prepared for a medical board". Due to the initiation of the VA/DOD DES Pilot process on 01JUN2009 the profiling requirements to initiate a medical board have changed.
The profile must indicate "Falls below retention standards in accordance with AR 40-501" and "Requires MEB". Generally this information is located in Block 10 however it may be located at the top of the profile near the diagnosis.
Q. Wait? The Army Regulations state "a permanent profile is required to initiate a Medical Board", so how does that work ???
A. The short answer, you will have a permanent profile. The reason for the temporary profile is pretty simple. Let's say SGT Snuffy goes to see the Dr Elkhorn, Orthopedic Surgeon, who writes him a profile requiring MEB for a joint condition. Being an Orthopedic Surgeon, Dr Elkhorn would not determine if SGT Snuffy's Post Traumatic Stress Disorder causes him to fall below retention standards. Under the new DES Pilot program, a full evaluation will be completed. A Medical Board Doctor will decide which conditions cause the Soldier to fall below retention standards. At that phase of your MEB, the MEB Doctor will write a profile for the Soldier that accurately reflects duty limitations for all disabling conditions.
Q. What is the difference between "does not meet retention standards" and "Unfit"?
A. During your narrative summary appointment, after all VA specialist evaluations, the MEB Doctor will determine if you meet retention standards. This determination does not mean that you are "unfit" to continue to serve. Only the Physical Evaluation Board can determine if you are "unfit" for further service.
Q. I heard this new DES Pilot Program takes 2 times as long as the old program. Is it a waste of my time?
A. Absolutely NOT. The DES Pilot program does not take 2x longer than the "Legacy" MEB Process. Under the old system, Soldiers were separated with only the disability rating from the Army. It was not uncommon for a Soldier to wait up to 18 months from discharge to receive their VA disability rating.
Under the DES Pilot, the Department of Veteran's Affairs (DVA) will evaluate all claimed conditions prior to the MEB being sent to the PEB for determination of fitness. The Soldier will only receive one disability percentage rating which is determined by the DVA. The Soldier will not be released from active duty until they have received their DVA disability compensation rating. Disability compensation pay starts on the first of the month following discharge.
Q. I've got a permanent profile because of my knee. Therefore, I must be "unfit". Yet, the PEB found me fit. How come?
A. The medical and other evidence in your case shows that you can still reasonably perform your job as a 75F, Personnel Information System Management Specialist. Now, if you were an 11B Infantryman with its heavy physical demands, the PEB might very likely reach a different decision.
Q. Is there such a thing as a 0% disability rating, and what does it mean?
A. It doesn't happen often, but a soldier found "unfit" can he given a 0% rating. Unfit soldiers with less than 20 years active duty whose medical conditions are rated at 0%, 10% or 20% are entitled to severance pay. The amount of severance pay for a soldier is not affected by either a 0% 10%, or 20% rating; the compensation will be the same.
Q. I am on the TDRL. What happens to my case after I have had my medical reevaluation and accepted the findings?
A. The results are forwarded to the PEB. The process is the same, with the same appeal rights, as it was when you were initially found "unfit" and placed on the TDRL. First, an INFORMAL PEB. If you are taken off the TDRL and are dissatisfied, you may elect a FORMAL PEB.
Q. Do I have to appear personally before a FORMAL PEB?
A. Only if you choose to do so. You may elect to be represented instead by your military counsel or counsel of choice.
Q. I've checked. My medical condition is listed in the VASRD. Does that mean that I will automatically receive a disability separation and given the percentage listed.
A. Once a Soldier is found unfit by the PEB, only then will the case be forwarded to the DVA Rating Specialist. If a Soldier is found fit by the PEB, the packet will not be forwarded for a rating.
Q. If placed on the TDRL does the soldier have a right to remain on the LIST for a full 5 years?
A. No. if the condition for which the soldier was placed on the TDRL stabilizes, the PEB must decide permanent disposition.
Q. Why aren't all soldiers with cancer or heart conditions found "unfit"?
A. Many are. The Army adjudicates each case one at a time, weighing all pertinent medical and non-medical evidence. While these particular diagnoses sound ominous, the PEB's decision is based not on the diagnosis alone, but on the evidence showing the effect of the impairment on the soldier's ability to do his/her job. The possibility that the cancer might recur, or that the soldier may suffer another heart attack in the future is a concern, no doubt, but the disability decision rests on the extent of current, not future impairment.
Q. What happens if I go back to work after being found "fit" by the PEB and later experience a worsening of my condition? Will I have another chance to undergo disability processing?