By Jim Fausone, Veteran Disability Attorney
Were you medically discharged from service? Was your discharge between the dates of September 11, 2001 and December 31, 2009? Were you discharged with a combined disability rating of 0%, 10% or 20%? If you have answered yes to all of these questions, then the DoD has created a new program to assist you in getting your discharge upgraded to a disability retirement, the Physical Disability Board of Review (PDBR).
The PDBR has been accepting applications since 2009. Its purpose is to review disability cases and determine if the veteran should have been awarded a disability retirement (which is a 30% combined disability level or higher). The benefits of having disability retirement are numerous; it enables the veteran to receive higher pay and additional benefits that are only available to those retired from service. The PDBR cannot implement changes; rather, it makes recommendations to the veteran’s Service Secretary who will issue the final decision. As of right now, there is no cutoff date to apply and there is no standard length of time for the total process as it is a newer program.
When a veteran fits the criteria above, they mail a completed DD Form 294 to the Central Intake and Tracking Unit (CITU) at Randolph Air Force Base in Texas. You can get a copy of DD Form 294 by visiting www.dtic.mil/whs/directives/infomgt/forms/eforms/dd0294.pdf. Once your application and supportive non-DoD documents are submitted, your case will be summarized by a medical member of the PDBR for presentation and vote by the PDBR’s Board.
Although there are approximately 70,000 eligible veterans, a mere 2,100 veterans have applied for review as of March 2011. However, of those 3% of eligible veterans who have applied, a promising 56% of cases have been recommended by the PDBR as being eligible for a disability retirement.
Here are some things to consider before you apply for review by the PDBR. It only looks at rated decisions; if you have a disability that was denied and not rated by the military, the PDBR will not review it for recommendation. If the PDBR recommends a disability retirement and the Service Secretary grants it, the benefits are retroactive to the date of your Physical Examination Board’s (PEB) separation action. Finally, the decision of the Service Secretary is final- there are no appeals or requests for reconsideration if new material evidence becomes available.
The traditional option is for the veteran to apply to the Board for Correction of Military/Naval Records (BCMR/BCNR). The BCMR makes both recommendations and decisions. If you were not rated for a disability at the time of discharge, the BCMR/BCNR will consider changing the record to show that you were rated for the disability. If BCMR/BCNR decides in your favor, the benefits are retroactive to the date of separation from service. If an appeal was previously denied, and relevant, newly-discovered evidence becomes available, the BCMR/BCNR will conduct a reconsideration of the appeal.
For more information about PDBR, the application process, and the comparisons between the PDBR & BCMR/BCNR please visit: