Most service members who get wounded or injured or become sick due to their military service recover quickly and are then returned to duty. If you develop a medical condition that renders you unable to conduct your military duties, and full return to duty is not expected within a year of the onset of your condition, your doctor will refer you to a Medical Evaluation Board (MEB). In today’s blog, we cover what to expect with the MEB Process.
About the Medical Evaluation Board (MEB Process)
The MEB is the first step in the Integrated Disability Evaluation System, or IDES. IDES is a set joint DoD/Veterans Affairs procedures and standards designed to determine whether a potentially disabled service member can be returned to duty, separated, or medically retired. The IDES system allows the services, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Veterans Affairs to effect a seamless transition as you potentially transition out of the military due to your medical conditions.
The IDES is the primary means by which the services conduct the physical disability evaluation for injured service members.
The Medical Evaluation Board also allows the military to document treatments received for your medical condition while on active duty and any potential limitations or long-term disabilities.
The MEB consists of at least two medical doctors. If you have a mental health or psychological condition, the MEB must also include a mental health provider.
The Military Evaluation Board is an informal process. The MEB itself does not make any final determinations for you, nor does it solely drive any administrative process. Its finding merely serves to inform the Physical Evaluation Board (PEB). It’s this board, not the MEB, that makes the final determination as to whether you will be retained in service, separated, or medically retired.
The IDES Process
If your doctor believes your medical condition will not resolve within a year, allowing you to return to full duty, you may become an IDES case. At that point, you’ll be assigned a Physical Evaluation Board Liaison Officer, or PEBLO.
Your PEBLO’s job is to help you understand the IDES system and prepare for your MEB evaluation. You’ll be counseled on the process, the role of the Military Evaluation Board, the subsequent informal physical evaluation board (IPEB) process, and your rights and responsibilities under the IDES system.
The PEBLO will also work to ensure the system is working smoothly, and your case is properly evaluated in a timely manner. Once all needed medical examinations are complete, The PEBLO will schedule and convene your MEB and ensure your file is completed for their review.
Your PEBLO also works with a counterpart in the Department of Veterans Affairs, called the VA Military Services Coordinator (MSC).
The MSC’s role is to ensure any needed medical exams get scheduled and to initiate any claim for VA disability compensation. They will provide you with a referral at a nearby military treatment facility (MTF).
Once you complete your C&P exam with the VA doctors, your medical records will be sent back to your PEBLO, and then forwarded to your MEB.
Your Narrative Summary (NARSUM)
Your physician will also prepare your NARSUM. This is a separate document that simply describes your case history and the severity of your medical condition. The NARSUM will also explain how your condition affects your ability to perform your military duties. Your doctor will also provide his or her assessment about whether your medical issues are service-related (incurred in the line of duty) or whether they existed prior to service (EPTS). All that will be part of your NARSUM, which will be in your MEB file.
The PEBLO will arrange for your commanding officer to submit a statement as well. The commanding officer’s statement will focus on your ability to perform your military duties at your unit.
You may include a personal statement in your MEB file. The members of the Board will carefully consider your statement along with the medical evidence and prognosis, together with the commander’s statement and the NARSUM.
Medical Evaluation Board Proceedings
When the MEB meets, they’ll go over your MEB file and any other civilian or military medical treatment or health care records. They will evaluate your medical information, and whether any of your medical conditions renders you unfit for retention in the service.
Once the MEB makes the determination on the service member’s medical conditions, based on the medical evidence before them, they will produce a report called the Medical Evaluation Board Proceedings.
If the MEB determines your military condition does not render you unfit for service, you can be returned to full duty, and the process ends there. However, you may still have a later claim for disability benefits with the VA, after you are discharged, depending on the circumstances.
However, if the MEB decides that your condition does not meet your service’s medical acceptability standards, they then refer your case to the Physical Evaluation Board, or PEB.
At that point, the Medical Evaluation Board process is normally complete. The MEB does not determine whether you are fit for duty or not. That is the role of the Physical Examination Board, which is the next step in the process. MEB’s sole function is to determine whether your medical condition meets the medical acceptability standards for your branch of service.
However, if the MEB decides your medical condition does not meet service-wide medical retention standards, that does not necessarily mean your military career is over. You may still be retained in service if the next board, the Physical Evaluation Board (PEB), determines that despite your medical condition, you are still able to perform your military duties. The member’s ability to perform his or her military duties on the job is the primary driver in their decision.
For example, the loss of a foot may make it impossible to function as an infantryman. You would be considered unfit for duty. This would be one of a number of unfitting conditions for an infantryman. But if you are an admin or finance NCO and still able to perform your military duties, you may well be retained – especially if the outlook is that you can be returned to full duty within a year of the onset of your condition.
It’s also possible that you can return to duty in a different military occupational specialty or classification.
This is where your personal statement can come in to play: If you want to stay in the armed forces, and believe you can be of valuable service -whether in your current or another occupational specialty, make the case in your personal statement.
You can also appear in person before the Physical Evaluation Board.
The PEB process generally occurs after the MEB process is complete. The physical evaluation board can be informal (IPEB) or formal (FPEB). The PEB is initially an informal board, called an IPEB.
The Physical Evaluation Board will determine the following:
- Fitness or unfitness for duty
- Your disability rating, expressed as a percentage from 0 to 100%.
- Eligibility for VA disability compensation
- Whether the injury or medical condition is combat or service-related.
If the PEB determines you cannot be retained in service, you may be separated without severance pay, separated with severance pay, or they may place you on the Department of Defense Temporary Disability Retired List (TDRL).
If you are medically retired, you may be entitled to retirement pay.
If you disagree with any part the IPEB’s findings, you have a right to appeal their decision. You also have the right to submit a rebuttal to their position for consideration.
If you appeal, the next step is convening a formal PEB (FPEB) for reconsideration of your case file.
How to prepare for the MEB Process
The most important thing injured service members can do is stay in close touch with your PEBLO and the VA Military Service Coordinator. Attend all medical appointments and exams.
Your commanding officer normally submits the CO’s statement directly to the MEB, but you or the PEBLO may have to remind him or her.
During the MEB process
If there are further developments in your case, such as medical complications, new test results, or new examinations, be sure to let your PEBLO know, and have the records forwarded to that officer.
The more your MEB and PEB members know about your condition, the more accurately they can assess your retention and any benefits after you leave the service.
How long does the MEB last?
Typically, the normal timeframe of the MEB process is about 100 days. However, some installations have more of a backlog than others. There may be difficulties scheduling a medical exam that can delay the process. Some offices may be moving slower due to COVID-19 practices.
The process may also be delayed if the PEB determines that there isn’t enough information in the MEB proceedings report. In that case, the PEB may refer your case back to the MEB for reevaluation.
It’s important to document your case thoroughly, and not withhold information. If you are not retained in service, the PEB will determine your VA rating — What percentage VA disability compensation you may be entitled to fas a result of your service-related medical condition.
IDES and the Medical Evaluation Board are complicated processes that may be overwhelming to many service members and their families. Your ability to document your service-connected medical conditions and disabilities now can have significant effects on your ability to qualify for VA disability benefits and medical treatment for many years to come.