If you’re seriously injured in the military while on active duty, you’ll be examined by the physical evaluation board (PEB). The PEB’s analysis of your injury and your ability to work can significantly impact your disability benefits if you require them from the VA after being discharged from active service.
Read on for more information about the physical evaluation board, its meaning, and how it affects your claim for VA disability benefits and other benefits from the Department of Defense (DoD).
If you are injured while on active military duty and the injury results in a long-term condition or disability, you will be examined by the medical evaluation board (MEB). The MEB is a streamlined process that the military uses to determine whether your condition or disability allows you to meet medical attention standards.
In other words, the medical evaluation board determines whether you are still fit for duty or need to be discharged because of your injury/illness. The medical evaluation board is typically comprised of two different medical doctors. However, three might be used for a specific issue, like a dental problem or mental health condition.
Generally, the MEB marks conditions that don’t meet the Standards of Medical Fitness as “medically unacceptable” for servicemembers. Therefore, if you don’t meet the Standards of Medical Fitness, you’ll be discharged and potentially eligible for Department of Veterans Affairs disability benefits.
The MEB is a lengthy process that usually takes 100 days or more. It’s comprised of three primary steps:
This is the same process to identify medical conditions and physical disabilities for Veterans in all branches, including the Navy, Air Force, Army, and Marines.
In a nutshell, the physical evaluation board is a group of civilian or officer medical professionals that determine whether a servicemember’s conditions make them “Unfit for Duty.” If they are found to be unfit for duty by this medical board, they may qualify for disability benefits under the VA.
There is no difference between the branches of this disability process.
Think of the physical evaluation board as another medical panel or committee that examines the facts of your condition or illness and determines whether you should keep serving and whether you qualify for disability benefits while you are still in the military (and after).
PEB process completion is required to prove benefits eligibility. It’s the first opportunity to show medical evidence to board members. Your entitlement to disability severance pay or other healthcare benefits depends on how these initial meetings pan out.
The purpose of the physical evaluation board is to determine if you are unfit to continue military service and how you should be discharged from military service if so.
Furthermore, the physical evaluation board decides:
Technically, the physical evaluation board is divided into two subsidiary boards, which handle the initial rating decision and reconsideration.
The informal physical evaluation board (IPEB) receives information directly from the medical evaluation board. It’s comprised of two members at minimum, though it may add a third member in some cases.
The IPEB decides if a servicemember’s service-connected conditions qualify them for disability benefits and if they are unfit for duty.
Suppose the IPEB decides that the conditions do not make them unfit for duty. In that case, they send a servicemember back to full duty or back to duty with an assignment limitation code, which may limit the kinds of tasks or work they are allowed to complete.
If the IPEB decides that at least one condition is “unfitting,” it sends those conditions to the VA so the VA can assign them a military disability rating based on their symptoms and other factors.
What if a disabled or injured service member disagrees with the IPEB’s decision? In that case, they can appeal to the formal physical evaluation board or FPEB. This comprises three members: a physician, a line officer, and a military officer who operates as the Board President.
The FPEB receives an appeal or rebuttal from the servicemember, at which point it re-examines the evidence and the initial decision made by the IPEB. If the FPEB agrees with the initial board decision, it schedules a formal hearing. It gives the servicemember a chance to present new evidence or have witnesses testify on their behalf. The decision stands if the FPEB agrees with the original decision even after the hearing.
But if the FPEB disagrees with the initial decision, it is allowed to adjust that decision, including increasing the disability rating, marking a Veteran as no longer deployable, etc.
Since the physical evaluation board (and the medical evaluation board) can significantly impact your chances of recovering compensation for disabilities or injuries, it’s important to prepare for their examination thoroughly.
Be sure to submit all the important information about your medical records and disabling conditions to the medical evaluation board at the beginning of the process. You should also frequently write in a journal and collect lay statements from fellow servicemembers who witnessed the event that led to your injury or condition.
The more information you can provide to the medical and physical evaluation boards, the more likely they will agree with your recommendation or desire.
Then, if you are ordered to submit to medical examinations, do so quickly and without delay. Any delay can make your injuries or conditions appear less debilitating or harmful than they may be, potentially harming or ruining your chances of recovering maximum disability compensation benefits.
In essence, physical evaluation board records (as well as records from the medical evaluation board) can positively or negatively affect VA disability claims. Since these boards have the earliest medical documentation of your injury or illness, they are best equipped to provide supporting evidence for any VA disability claim.
For example, if you have a condition already rated medically unacceptable for service by the MEB, you’ll most likely qualify for VA disability compensation. The same goes for a PEB record that states your disability is debilitating and confirms your symptoms or limitations.
Therefore, it’s important to thoroughly prepare and go through the physical evaluation board process and request documentation copies. If you’ve already been discharged, you can contact the physical or medical evaluation board and get your records after the fact.
Since this can be easier said than done, it’s a good idea to have knowledgeable attorneys help you with this process by contacting the right people and filing the right forms on your behalf.
The physical evaluation board can impact your VA disability claim, especially if you want to acquire the maximum disability rating possible. If you believe the PEB’s analysis of your injury is inaccurate or your disability rating should be higher, knowledgeable Veterans law attorneys can help.
At Berry Law, we’re committed to helping Veterans just like you secure the compensation they deserve for their service to our country. Contact us today for a free consultation and to get started.
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