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Military & Veteran Lawyer > Blog > Military & Veterans > United States Public Health Service Administrative Hearings

United States Public Health Service Administrative Hearings


Whether you have five or 25 years, whether you are a USPHS Commander (O-5) or newly Commissioned, you need to protect your investment in your career.

Don’t take chances with your pension, Tricare for Life and even VA benefits.

Whether you are suffering from physical or mental health ailments or someone accuses you of creating

“a toxic work environment,” always a claim that I view with great skepticism, protect yourself.  If you face unwarranted disciplinary action, Letters of Reprimand or any type of investigation you should seek experienced counsel before involuntary separation might be initiated.

Fitness-for-Duty (FFD) Evaluations and Disability Retirement from the United States Public Health Service

You may need to request a two-week leave for mental health reasons.  By doing so, you will likely draw scrutiny for your behavioral health issues so we should consider your options and act decisively to pursue benefits and prepare.  Below you will see an explanation of the process and what we advise to prepare for the best result for you.

But, first, please do not contact colleagues, whether subordinates or superiors for statements without consulting with your lawyer or our paralegal first.  What you say or do could be construed as influencing the investigation or a witness.  Anything you can say, your legal team here at CitizenSoldierLaw can say better and you aren’t held responsible for what is said, we are.

The Medical Affairs Branch of Commissioned Corps Headquarters is responsible for assuring that all Commissioned Officers of the USPHS are physically and mentally fit to perform duties based on office, rank, and category, including deployment.  When a decline in an officer’s performance is possibly related to a medical condition, or if an officer’s medical status is deemed questionable for continuance on active duty, USPHS officials can request a Fitness-for-Duty (FFD) evaluation or the officer can make the request.  If you initiate the process, as opposed to USPHS ordering a FFD evaluation, there are advantages including the right to a contested hearing as part of an appeal if you are dissatisfied with USPHS’ initial rating decision.

Officers undergoing a FFD evaluation are required to submit the relevant medical and personnel documents.  Failure to do so can result in involuntary separation in accordance with Commissioned Corps Directive (CCD) CCD123.01, Involuntary Separation, §6-2 Termination of Officers’ Commissions, Sections c, d and e.  In addition, Medical Affairs Branch may request that the officer undergo additional testing or evaluation for the FFD evaluation.

1) A copy of all of your medical records over the past three years, along with signed consents for the release of information. If the medical condition(s) that limits your ability to do your duty has existed for more than three years, then the records should go back to when the condition(s) first began.

2) A brief narrative summaries from your specialists- the statements should be written on official letterhead, signed, dated, and sent by the providers. Each statement should describe:

  • Your medical condition(s)
  • Past and present management received
  • Prognoses of your condition(s)
  • Does the condition(s) prohibit you from working at your current assignment and deploying?
  • Are the condition(s) controlled and easily manageable?
  • Do you require limited duties?
  • If you are advised to be on sick leave, when is the prospective return to work date?

3) A formal statement from you, signed and dated, providing your perspective regarding your health and the impact it has on your ability to perform in your particular assignment. As part of your personal statement, please discuss whether or not you feel you are fit for duty. For example, in spite of your conditions are you able to perform based on your rank, category, and office (current assignment)?  On the other hand, if you feel you are not fit for duty at this time, please elaborate on all conditions that are disabling.  You must clearly describe the connection between a condition and the inability to perform within your current assignment.

4) A formal and signed statement from your duty station (supervisor or higher) providing information about your inability to perform in your particular assignment, or if you have returned to duty, how well you are performing in your particular assignment, as appropriate. This may be sent to Medical Affairs directly from the duty station.

After receipt of all information requested above, a Medical Review Board (MRB) will convene to review your case and make a recommendation. The MRB recommendations will be one of the following — (1) fit for duty, (2) not fit for duty, (3) temporary disability retirement (which can be for 6 months up to 3 years), (4) permanent disability retirement, and 5) continued sick leave if appropriate.  If not fit for duty, they will also determine temporary or permanent retirement, as well as a disability rating of the medical conditions preventing you from performing your duty or deploying.  The MRB will evaluate only the conditions which are disabling, all other medical conditions will be eligible for evaluation by the VA which started after an officer separates.

Appeal Rights:

  1. An officer may appeal a finding by the MRB that he/she is unfit for duty.
  2. An officer may appeal the findings if the officer requested the fitness evaluation and the MRB finds him/her fit for full duty.
  3. An officer may not appeal a finding that he/she is fit for full duty if the program official or Director, CCHQ, requested the fitness evaluation.

It is our privilege to represent and advocate for you to retire with a disability pension and Tricare health benefits.  We will zealously pursue your interests and are available for your questions.

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