Though most people sign up for 4 years at a time when signing a contract that binds them to joining the military, there are some times when a military member is medically unfit to continue on with his contract. When this happens, the service member is typically discharged under a medical discharge.
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There are many different reasons that a service member can get a medical discharge. When a service member has a condition that makes her unable to perform her duties, she is medically discharged. Such conditions can include physical and mental health conditions. Two boards make the determination as to whether the service member is unfit for duty: the Physical Evaluation Board ,or PEB, and the Medical Evaluation Board, or MEB.
Most service member voluntarily present themselves at the MTF or medical treatment facility if they feel that they are suffering from a condition that hinders their ability to perform their job duties properly. However, it is also possible for their commander to refer them to the MTF for an examination if they feel that a medical condition is prohibiting the service member from performing their duties to their full potential. If it is determined by the MTF that the service member's medical condition is below the standards required for retention, the case will be forwarded to the MEB, which will then turn the case over to the PEB.
If a service member's condition prohibits him from being deployed--and this condition lasts more than a year--a MEB evaluation will be precipitated. The service member and the command have nothing to do with this initiation. Instead, it is made by the medical treatment facility. The medical board is comprised of physicians who are on active duty, but these physicians have nothing to do with the care of the service member in question. The MEB will review the service member's case file and make a determination based on the facts presented.
If the service member is found to have a condition that would prohibit them from serving in the military, the MEB will turn the case over to the PEB for further action. The PEB will make a final determination in the case. They can request any of the following actions be taken, based on the facts presented to them. They can request that service member be released from active duty; they can medically retire the person; place the individual on a temporary retired/disabled list; or they can return the service member to active duty with or without medical retraining or job limitations. Once the PEB has made a determination, the recommendation is sent to a central medical board. If the service member feels that the determination was unjust, she can appeal the decision.
If a service member is determined to be unfit for duty and he is medically discharged from the armed services, he can be eligible for disability payments. The Department of Defense has a schedule for rating disabilities. This schedule must be used when a service member is deemed unfit to perform their duties because of a medical condition. Disability payments are made to the service member based on the rating they receive from the DoD.