A soldier is placed on the Temporary Disability Retirement List (TDRL) if during the MEB (Medical Evaluation Board) he was assigned a disability rating of 30% or more but the condition was not deemed stable enough for a permanent rating. TDRL entitles a soldier to all retirement benefits the same as if he had served twenty years or more.
A soldier can only be on TDRL for a maximum of five years. At the end of five years, a permanent decision must be made regardless of whether the condition is deemed to be stable. While on TDRL, a soldier undergoes a physical evaluation of his condition every 12-18 months. It is CRUCIAL while on TDRL to maintain excellent medical records through the physician or other healthcare providers as well as documenting how and when the condition has affected your life.
The soldier will receive a letter in the mail (and possibly a phone call as well) alerting him to the evaluation appointment. This is typically done at the nearest post that is equipped to perform these evaluations. The soldier will be reimbursed for travel expenses. Many of the tests that were run during the original MEB process will be run again for comparative purposes. The doctor will then form a recommendation and complete the packet. The packet is sent to the soldier to either agree or disagree with the findings. From the time the soldier receives the packet, he as five days to agree or disagree with the findings. If he disagrees, he must attach documentation as to why he disagrees. The packet is then forwarded to the board for a decision.
At this point, a variety of decisions can be made.
- The soldier is found fit for duty. Usually, if this happens, the soldier is given the option whether to reenlist or be discharged. There is no disability compensation for this.
- The soldier is given a 0%-20% disability rating. He will be given a severance package the same as if this finding had been made during the original MEB process.
- The soldier is given a rating of 30% or more and the condition is still not rated as stable enough for a permanent rating. The soldier remains on TDRL and will be evaluated again in 12-18 months.
- The soldier is given a rating of 30% or more and the condition is stable enough for a permanent rating. The soldier is placed on PDRL the same as if this had happened during the original MEB process.
If the soldier does not agree with the decision, he can appeal. There is a very short timeframe in which he can file the appeal. If he appeals, he will appear in front of the formal board to plead his case. This is generally done with the assistance of JAG or personal counsel, though it does not have to be. If the soldier cannot appear in person, many times the board will allow the soldier to have his appeal heard by phone.
If the soldier is given a rating of 30% or more qualifying him for retirement, this is a risky game to appeal. When the soldier appears in front of the formal board, they can change the decision in either direction which includes dropping the rating below 30% which would then disqualify the soldier for retirement. Be sure to discuss all of your options with counsel before pursuing an appeal. On the other hand, if you were given a rating of 0% and know you can’t be found fit for duty, you really don’t have much to lose by going to the board to appeal the decision. This is a personal decision that must not be taken lightly.
It is crucial that the soldier keep his address updated with the Army while on the TDRL. Failure to report for an evaluation can result with being dropped from TDRL.
Our personal story…My husband was medically retired in June with his last evaluation the previous April. In December, he was called and informed he was due for his evaluation. When he questioned the timing (it had only been 8 months), he was told that the doctor was deploying soon so he had to come in within the next few weeks. He agreed and was seen in January. The physician questioned why he was there so early and when my husband told him what he was told, he replied that it was news to him. Very frustrating!
He was sent his packet to review at the end of February. Again, this was very confusing. The packet is large and unlike with the original MEB, there’s not a physician sitting there to explain to you exactly what it says and what it could be mean at the board. There were discrepancies throughout his packet. But the option was to agree or disagree and if he disagreed, he had to attach documentation as to why. The doctor’s recommendation was also very vague. It basically stated that his condition had not improved, would require follow up and he recommended removal from TDRL and that a permanent decision be made. But we were left wondering what kind of permanent decision? We agree that his condition has not improved but was he recommending discharge (which we disagreed with) or retirement (which we agree with). There was no way to tell and we also had no one to call. I was lucky that when I posted about it on my blog, several soldiers who had been through the process emailed me about it.
We ended up agreeing with it and attached a document that we referenced on the agree/disagree form that cleared up the inaccuracies that were throughout the report. As of the time I’m writing this in the middle of March, we do not yet have a decision. I don’t think I’ve had a good night’s sleep since the process started. We are hoping for a decision in the next few weeks so we at least know what we are dealing with and facing.
UPDATE: My husband’s TDRL was extended until May of 2009 when we will go through the process again.