When unable perform your military duties, the MEB and PEB process begins.

When a Medical Evaluation Board (MEB) determines that a medical condition prevents a service member’s reasonable performance of the duties required of his or her office, grade, rank, or rating, the MEB refers the case to the Physical Evaluation Board (PEB). The PEB will decide whether the service member is fit or unfit to continue military service. If found fit for continued service, the service member is returned to active duty. If the service member is found unfit, he or she will be separated from service or medically retired.

How does the PEB decide separation versus retirement?

For those unfitting condition; i.e. the medical impairments which render the service member unable to continue on active duty, the PEB applies the VA schedule of ratings for those unfitting conditions. If those ratings total less than 30%, the service member will be separated from service. If those ratings are 30% or greater, the service member will be retired.

There are two types of medical retirement: temporary and permanent.

If the PEB determines that a service member will be retired, they will either place them on the Temporary Disability Retirement List (TDRL) or Permanent Disability Retirement List (PDRL). Those placed on TDRL will undergo periodic evaluations, not to exceed a statutory maximum period. The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) modified the period of time a retiree may continue on TDRL. If placed on TDRL prior to January 01, 2017, placement on TDRL cannot continue for more than five years. Those placed on TDRL on or after January 01, 2017 cannot continue for more than three years. Prior to or at the expiration of the three or five year TDRL period, a retiree will be found fit to continue service, separated, or transferred to the PDRL; i.e. permanently retired.  A retiree transferred to the PDRL is considered to be permanently retired and will not undergo future reevaluations or examinations for Department of Defense purposes. Retirees placed on either TDRL or PDRL are entitled to benefits provided to traditional military retirees.

Early involvement helps secure the PEB decision that a service member desires.

Representing service members throughout the MEB and PEB is difficult. Proper representation requires knowledge of how to navigate the Disability Evaluation System (DES) and objectively evaluate a service member’s case. Often, the outcome a service member desires is contrary to the case file. For example, a service member may want to stay on active duty and continue to serve his or her country. However, the weight of the evidence overwhelmingly supports the position that he or she will be found unfit. By seeking out assistance early, a service member can help ensure their case file and supporting documents are in unison; i.e. all advocating for the same desired outcome, whether seeking a medical retirement or a fit to continue on active duty finding. While seeking assistance late in the process is not necessarily detrimental, representatives can better advocate with early involvement.


DoDi 1332.18, Disability Evaluation System (August 05, 2014).

10 U.S.C. § 1201 et seq.

*Nothing in this article should be considered legal advice.