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MEB and PEB process

THIS INFORMATION SHOULD NOT BE CONSTRUED AS LEGAL ADVICE. YOU SHOULD STRONGLY CONSIDER THE BENEFITS OF CONSULTING WITH A TRAINED LEGAL PROFESSIONAL

The medical evaluation board (MEB) and physical evaluation board (PEB) are entities used to determine whether physically and mentally able to continue to serve in the US military. If the physician believes that they are unfit to serve, they will be referred first to the MEB, which will determine if medical conditions enable him/her to meet retention standards. If retention standards are not met, the case will be transferred to the PEB, which will formally name the service member unfit for duty and determine his/her disability benefits percentage.

One of the biggest challenges faced by those appearing before the MEB and PEB is proving that their disabilities are service-incurred. If the boards determine that the service member’s medical conditions existed prior to service and were not aggravated by service, the service member will not be entitled to disability compensation (see 10 U.S.C. §1201). The government must provide specific and undisputable evidence that the medical conditions existed prior to service. Too often, however, the MEB or PEB rules that a medical condition was not service incurred without providing any supporting evidence, denying service-members adequate disability benefits without proper justification.

This is exactly what happened to Sergeant Chris Johnson. Sergeant Johnson served in the Army on Active Duty for three years and on the National Guard for another sixteen years. He quickly ascended through the ranks and obtained several Military Occupational Specialties. The trauma he faced in the military aggravated his symptoms of anxiety and depression to a point where he could no longer serve, and he soon developed sleep apnea, foot and back pain, and uncontrollable headaches as well. Sergeant Johnson’s physician referred him to the MEB, which found that Sergeant Johnson’s general anxiety disorder, persistent anxiety disorder, and migraine headaches were permanently aggravated by his service. He was then transferred to the PEB to receive an adequate disability rating. The PEB, however, reached a completely contradictory decision, and ruled that Sergeant Johnson’s headaches and mental conditions were preexisting, granting him an unfairly low disability rating.

The PEB failed to cite competent medical evidence to prove that Sergeant Johnson’s conditions were not service incurred. The board did not produce medical sources or literature to support its opinion, preventing Sergeant Johnson from any meaningful appeal or rebuttal of the PEB’s conclusion.

It is inconceivable to believe that the stress of a 19 year military career would not aggravate Sergeant Johnson’s anxiety or depression. The MEB ruled accordingly, while the PEB followed with a completely contradictory decision while producing no evidence to support their ruling. The PEB is a crucial part in determining disability ratings, so it is critical that it follows its own rules and is held accountable for its decisions. The livelihood of thousands of veterans like Sergeant Johnson depends on it. Unfortunately, this requires delayed review at a service Board of Corrections where the necessary petitions are expensive and are reviewed by officers and military lawyers.

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