Unfortunately, the service branch you are in complicates the question. Some branches provide legal assistance from the outset when going through the Medical Evaluation Board (MEB) and through the Informal Physical Evaluation Board (IPEB). Other branches do not provide legal assistance until the results from the IPEB are received.
Regardless of the service branch, you are entitled to legal assistance and representation after the IPEB at the Formal Physical Evaluation Board (FPEB).
There are issues with the decision made by some of the service branches to only provide representation at the FPEB. First, each level of the DES has its own procedures. A service member must make important decisions at each stage. By allowing a service member to make elections without the assistance of legal counsel, many service members are ill informed or ill prepared for the daunting process. For those that do provide legal assistance from the outset, most of those attorneys are carrying a heavy caseload and do not have the time to effectively advocate for the service member. Second, for the branches that provide legal assistance throughout the MEB and IPEB, you will not remain with that attorney at the FPEB. The service member’s case will be transferred to a new attorney at the Physical Evaluation Board.
Early advocacy is often important to secure the result a service member desires. Further, maintaining report with an attorney is important. By choosing civilian representation you can ensure your case is properly handled from the outset, you work with the same attorney from the infancy of the process through completion, and any and all avenues of success are explored.