DoD Establishes Physical Disability Board of Review

The Department of Defense (DoD) recently established a board whose sole purpose is to aid veterans with their disability claims. More distinctively, the board will focus on veterans’ appeals of their service disability evaluation ratings. Congresses’ 2008 National Defense Authorization Act mandates the board’s existence.

The Physical Disability Board of Review (PDBR) reconsiders the disability ratings of those veterans qualifying for the appeal. In reviewing the disability ratings, the PDBR will not employ service-specific rules. Instead, their only guideline will be the VA’s Schedule of Ratings Disabilities. The board, then, will use one consistent rating system and apply it to veterans from every service.

Despite being a DoD board, the PDBR is run by the Air Force. All service branches, however, are fully represented. If a veteran’s disability rating is on the fence in the board’s eyes, the board will often give the benefit of the doubt to the veteran. The board’s decision usually results in the veterans receiving higher disability ratings. In making its decision, the board considers the veteran’s:

  • Physical evaluation board documentation;
  • Service treatment records; and
  • Any Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical records.

In the board’s first year, 800 veterans appealed their ratings. There are approximately 77,000 veterans who qualify to appeal their original Physical Evaluation Board ratings. As seems to be common with VA, their adjudication staff numbers only 6. Services are not forced to adopt the board’s recommendations, but the current numbers are:

  • The Army has accepted almost 100%;
  • The Air Force has accepted almost 100%; and
  • The Navy has accepted almost 68%.

Of all the cases the PDBR has reviewed, 61% resulted in veterans receiving ratings making them eligible to receive disability retirement. The majority of the cases the board has reviewed have been service-related disabilities stemming from:

  • Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD);
  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI); and
  • Back and musculoskeletal conditions.

All veterans rated at 20% or less combined disability rating and separated from the service between 9/11/2001 and 12/31/2009 are eligible. Congress demands this program be in place and hopefully will supply the board with enough help so as to avoid developing a backlog of veteran disability claims.

If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, contact Veterans Help Group. You may be entitled to certain programs and benefits so contact our veterans disability rights firm today.