Sometimes a service member will disagree with their military disability rating. They may be able to ask the Physical Disability Board of Review to increase the rating, which can provide them with greater retirement pay and benefits. This is because the extent of the disability is often a key component in calculating the money that a retired service member will receive on a monthly basis.
Military disability ratings should not be confused with VA disability ratings. A military disability rating provides a basis for compensating a veteran for their loss of future military pay, while a VA disability rating provides a basis for compensating a veteran for their loss of civilian employment pay. The severity of the condition is the only factor considered in setting a VA disability rating, while a military disability rating takes several other factors into account. While a VA disability rating may change over time, a military disability rating does not usually change.
The Role of the Physical Disability Board of Review
The Air Force manages these reviews for all service members, although a representative from the appropriate branch of the military will participate in the review process. The Physical Disability Board of Review will review military disability ratings to make sure that they are accurate and consistent with VA disability ratings for service members with similar conditions.
You should be aware that the Board cannot reduce a disability rating. It can only increase the rating, which happens in the majority of the cases that it reviews. However, it will review disability ratings only for conditions that were evaluated while the service member was still in the military. If a condition was not evaluated when you were separated from the military, you can ask for a correction to your military records that will allow you to have that condition evaluated.
Pursuing an Upgrade
A service member can ask for a review by the Board if they were medically separated from the military between September 11, 2001 and December 31, 2009. They would need to show that they are being denied military retirement benefits, and they received a military disability rating from a Physical Evaluation Board that is 20 percent or less. If you served in the reserves, you may be able to ask for review if you meet those criteria and have spent more than 20 years in military service ordered by the federal government. You would not need to have spent 20 years on active duty.
The Board will determine whether the service member should receive a military disability rating of 30 percent or higher. If so, it will make this recommendation to the service member’s branch of the armed forces. Getting a disability rating of 30 percent or higher means that the service member will be able to immediately receive all military retirement benefits, as well as reimbursement for past medical expenses. Their dependents would be eligible for insurance through the Survivor’s Benefit Plan if the service member makes retroactive payments.
Payments following a rating upgrade will extend retroactively to the date of the service member’s separation from the military. Any previous disability severance pay will be subtracted from the service member’s new retirement benefits. This does not reduce the amount of their monthly payments, but it delays the increase in their disability retirement pay.