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Physical Disability Board of Review

If you were medically-separated from the U.S. military between September 11, 2001 and December 31, 2009, you now have the opportunity to have your disability rating reviewed by the Physical Disability Board of Review (PDBR) to ensure fairness and accuracy.

What is the Physical Disability Board of Review?

The Physical Disability Board of Review, or PDBR, was legislated by Congress and implemented by the Department of Defense (DoD) to ensure the accuracy and fairness of combined disability ratings of 20% or less assigned to service members who were discharged between September 11, 2001 and December 31, 2009.

  • The PDBR uses medical information provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the military department.
  • Once a review is complete, the PDBR forwards a recommendation to the secretary of the respective branch of the armed services.
  • It is up to the individual service branch to make the final determination on whether to change the original disability determination.

For a visual overview of how the process works, view the application process.

History

  • Congress passed the Dignified Treatment of Wounded Warriors Act in January 2008.
  • DoD issued the DoD Intstruction 6040.44
  • The PDBR was then introduced in 2009.

There are significant differences between the PDBR and the Board for Correction of Military (or Naval) Record (BCMR/BCNR) review. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1:

What is a Physical Disability Board of Review?

A:

The FY 2008 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) requires the military services, upon request, to review certain separations for medical conditions where the rating was 20 percent or less and the member did not otherwise retire. The review will evaluate whether, under the applicable guidance in effect at the time, the rating awarded was fair and accurate.

Q2:

Who is eligible for a Physical Disability Board of Review?

A:

Veterans, to include members of the United States Coast Guard, as described above who were separated from between September 11, 2001 and December 31, 2009 can request this review.

Q3:

If the eligible Veteran is incapacitated or deceased, can someone else request a Physical Disability Board of Review on his or her behalf?

A:

Yes, the Veteran’s surviving spouse, next of kin or legal representative may request this review.

Q4:

How long do I have to apply for the Physical Disability Board of Review?

A:

At the present time, there is no time limit or cutoff date by which you must apply for this review. However, the longer you wait, the more difficult it may be to gather required medical evidence from your VA rating process, your service treatment record or other in service sources, which the PDBR uses in order to properly assess your claim.

Q5:

How do I request the Physical Disability Board of Review?

A:

To have your military disability ratings reviewed, see “How to Apply." 

You also have the option to send supporting documentation (statements, briefs, medical records, affidavits), but you don't need to send documents or records that are already included in your Military and VA medical records because the PDBR will collect these records.

Q6:

I wasn't in the Air Force. Why am I mailing my application for the Physical Disability Board of Review to Randolph AFB?

A:

DoD has designated the Air Force as lead component for implementing the PDBR process. As such, the AF has overall responsibility for case tracking and reporting, although the actual case evaluation and adjudication is done in a joint adjudication unit with all services (and components) represented. The Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness retains overall responsibility for program policy.

Q7:

What should I include with my application for the Physical Disability Board of Review?

A:

An applicant may submit statements, briefs, medical records or affidavits in support of their application. Unless requested by the intake unit, the applicant does not need to send medical records that are already included among his or her service medical documents or the medical separation paperwork (informal physical evaluation board, formal physical evaluation board and appeal files and results).

Q8:

Is there another way the Physical Disability Board of Review occurs?

A:

Under special circumstances, the PDBR can initiate a review but if this occurs, the PDBR will contact the former member, explain why the board believes a review is appropriate and ask for his/her consent. If consent is not given, there will be no review.

Q10:

What is the difference between a Board for Correction of Military (or Naval) Records (BCMR/BCNR) review and a Physical Disability Board of Review; and can I file with the PDBR and BCMR/BCNR?

A:

This is a very important point and you should understand there are several differences between the scope and the consequences of the two reviews. To help you compare you may wish to refer to the comparison chart at the end of these FAQs. If you file with the PDBR, you cannot ask your service BCMR/BCNR to review the issue of whether you should have received a higher rating for the same medical condition(s) that resulted in separation. However, you can request your service BCMR/BCNR to review other issues such as whether you should have been rated for additional medical conditions. If you do not go to the PDBR, you can ask the BCMR/BCNR to consider all of the issues relevant to your separation, including the rating awarded for your unfit condition.

Q11:

Can you give me an example of differences between Board for Correction of Military (or Naval) Records (BCMR/BCNR) review and a Physical Disability Board of Review?

A:

You were found unfit for a back problem and separated at 10 percent for this condition. You also had asthma problems but they were not found to be unfitting (you met retention standards). Additionally, you also contend you suffer from tinnitus but this diagnosis was not documented in your physical evaluation board proceedings. You may ask the PDBR to re-evaluate your back injury rating and determine whether the asthma condition should have also been considered separately unfitting and factored in your overall rating. The PDBR could not consider the matter of claimed tinnitus if that condition was not documented in your original PEB proceedings. Alternatively, you could ask a BCMR/BCNR to change your record to show you were found unfit for all conditions. If you do not go to the PDBR, you could ask the BCMR/BCNR to consider everything; if you have been to the PDBR, the BCMR/BCNR will not review the rating for your back or asthma related conditions, but will consider whether you should have also been found unfit (and received an additional rating) for the tinnitus or any other medical condition you may be claiming.

Q12:

Should I choose a Board for Correction of Military (or Naval) Records (BCMR/BCNR) review or a Physical Disability Board of Review?

A:

There is no easy or clear-cut answer. The choice is important and highly dependent upon the facts and circumstance of your case. The applicant should weigh all of the factors and make a choice only after careful consideration (see chart at end of FAQs for side by side comparison between the PDBR and BCMR/NR with respect to deciding which venue would be optimal for pursuing a review of your disability).

Q13:

Is there someone who can help me make the choice between a Board for Correction of Military (or Naval) Records (BCMR/BCNR) review and a Physical Disability Board of Review?

A:

You should contact your local veterans’ service organizations, several of which provide excellent advice and service on these issues.

Q16:

Can I appear in person for the Physical Disability Board of Review?

A:

The PDBR is a document review only. There is no provision for a personal appearance.

Q17:

Why does the Physical Disability Board of Review need my VA records?

A:

Part of the PDBR review process is to consider the rating(s) previously awarded to an applicant by the VA for his or her unfitting medical condition(s), but particularly those awarded with an effective date within twelve months of the applicant’s date of separation. Access to applicable VA rating and medical documents, though not required by policy, are instrumental to the PDBR’s review process and greatly facilitate making any revision to the original disability rating provided by the military department PEB concerned.

Q18:

Will my privacy be respected during the Physical Disability Board of Review?

A:

Yes. Only individuals with a need to know will have access to information from the applicant’s service and medical records.

Q19:

What if I don't consent to the release of my VA records for the Physical Disability Board of Review?

A:

If the applicant does not consent to a release of DVA records, the service disability rating will be reviewed for fairness and accuracy, but the comparison to the DVA rating will not be possible and will therefore not be accomplished.

Q20:

Will the Physical Disability Board of Review review my case if my VA disability determination is pending?

A:

An important point to consider is the Physical Disability Board of Review will review a case and adjudicate a rating one time only. If the applicant’s VA determination is pending, the applicant must decide whether they want the PDBR review without this information. The PDBR will take the VA determination (for the unfitting condition(s) only) into account as one factor. The ideal objective for the PDBR is to compare the Military Department PEB rating(s) with the subsequent VA rating(s) – for all unfitting conditions. However, the significance of a higher VA rating varies as to how this serves as a valid indicator that an error has taken place. Therefore, it is difficult to set forth a general rule as to whether an applicant should wait for a VA determination letter before submitting an application for PDBR review.

Q21:

Where does the Physical Disability Board of Review take place?

A:

The case evaluation and consideration (so-called adjudication) will take place in a joint (all services and components represented) central adjudication unit in National Capital Area created especially to perform this mission.

Q22:

Who makes the final decision for the Physical Disability Board of Review?

A:

By law, the PDBR makes a recommendation to the applicant’s service secretary who makes the final decision. This responsibility may be delegated to, but to no lower than, the Directors of the Review Boards Agencies (Army and Air Force); for the Navy, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Manpower and Reserve Affairs) or the Associate Counsel; and for the Coast Guard, The Assistant Commandant for Human Resources (CG-1). These individuals are career members of the senior executive service (civilian general officer equivalents).

Q23:

How will I be notified about the decision of the Physical Disability Board of Review?

A:

The secretary of the military department concerned, or the designated decision authority, will notify the applicant of the final decision and the consequences if the rating is changed including the effect upon benefits. The applicant’s Service BCMR/BCNR, the VA, and Defense Finance and Accounting Servicer (DFAS), or in the case of the Coast Guard, the Pay and Personnel Center, will be responsible for correcting the military and finance records or adjustment of other benefits where appropriate.

Q24:

Will the Physical Disability Board of Review decision be explained to me?

A:

The final letter to the applicant will provide a rationale for the decision.

Q25:

If the decision of the Physical Disabilty Board of Review changes something in my records, when will the correction be effective?

A:

The military records will be corrected effective the date of execution of the Physical Evaluation Board’s separation action (retroactive to the date of separation). This is the same rule for BCMR/BCNR corrections.

Q26:

Can I appeal the decision of the Physical Disability Board of Review?

A:

By law, the decision of the secretary (or designee) is final. There are no provisions for appeal or reconsideration by the PDBR. On the other hand, previously denied BCMR/BCNR appeals may be reconsidered when relevant newly discovered evidence (not previously available) is presented.

Q28:

Whom can I contact if I have additional questions about the Physical Disability Board of Review?

A:

Please send your questions via email. Keep in mind, however, that this office will not offer advice or discuss the merits of your application.

Q29:

Am I eligible for Physical Disability Board of Review of my disability separation if I was put on the Temporary Disability Retired List Temporary Disability Retired List (TDRL) prior to September 11, 2001?

A:

Yes, as long as you were removed from the TDRL and subsequently separated from your military department by reason of disability with a combined disability ratings of 20% or less, after September 11, 2001 and prior to December 31, 2009, you are eligible to apply to the PDBR for review of your disability separation.

Q30:

Am I eligible for Physical Disability Board of Review if I was placed on the Temporary Disability Retired List (TDRL) between September 11, 2001 and December 31, 2009 and then permanently separated from my Military Service, with severance pay (e.g. taken off the TDRL) with a combined rating of 20% or less AFTER December 31, 2009?

A:

You are not eligible for a review of your case at the PDBR because you were permanently separated from the military AFTER December 31, 2009. However, you can request review of your case in other venues, including your military service’s BCMR (or BCNR for Navy Department Veterans).

Q31:

What conditions will be reviewed by the Physical Disabiltity Board of Review if I leave block #3 of the DD Form 294 blank in my application?

A:

The PDBR will only review your medical conditions found unfit by your Service (military physical evaluation board [PEB], reconsiderations, etc.).

Q32:

What will be reviewed by the Physical Disability Board of Review if I only ask for one (named) medical condition to be reviewed, from a PEB with multiple medical conditions?

A:

The PDBR will review/adjudicate only the requested (named) medical condition, in addition to all unfitting conditions. (see DoDI 6040.44, June 27, 2008, Incorporating Change 1, 6/2/2009)

Q33:

Can I ask the Physical Disability Board of Review to review more of my medical conditions?

A:

Yes --The PDBR, when requested by the applicant, can review some or all of the medical conditions found on your military MEB/PEB. (see DoDI 6040.44, June 27, 2008, Incorporating Change 1, 6/2/2009)

Q34:

How can I get the most comprehensive PDBR review of my permitted medical conditions

A:

Applicants must inform the PDBR inblock 3 of the DD Form 294 that the applicant wants all MEB/PEB conditions considered for being unfit for duty and rated. Unfit means unfit for duty or Category I, while rated means given a disability rating.

Comparison – BCMR/BCNR vs PDBR Review of Rating

CharacteristicBCMR/BCNRPDBR
Panel Composition 3 civilians in grade of GS-15 and above. 3 military officers in grade of 05/06 (or civilian equivalents.
Review Authority May apply for review of military record, within three years of error/injustice (may be waived in the interest of justice). Medical separation 20% or less where member did not retire finalized between September 11, 2001 and December 31, 2009 (may be extended).
Review Process Application submitted, medical, personnel or legal advisories prepared and served on applicant with chance to comment before panel review and vote. Application submitted, then case summarized by PDBR medical member (or other experts) for presentation to PDBR before vote. Applicant can submit records from non-DoD sources.
Panel Outcome Recommendation or decision. Recommendation only.
Burden of Proof Member has the burden of proof to establish error or injustice. There is a presumption of regularity. Member need not allege anything, review accomplished upon request.
Standards Will correct errors in records and/or remove an injustice. Rating reviewed for fairness and accuracy.
Impact of subsequent VA Rating Within discretion of the Board. Will compare VA rating with particular attention to one given within 12 months.

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