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National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) check current status

Personnel Service Division (de)

Resources

 

NEW MEB Checklist (updated 11Sep14)

MEB Organization (updated 11Sep14)

PSC-psd-de Forms and Documents

PSC-psd-de  FAQ

TSGLI FAQs


Forms and Documents:

 

Election of counsel & consent to release of records

CG-4920
Evaluee's Statement Regarding the Finding of the Medical Board Report

CGHQ-4808/4808C
USCG Physical Disability Evaluation Board Findings and Recommended Disposition

Medical Board Quality Checklist
A useful checklist before mailing your Medical Evaluation Board to PSC-psd-de.

Index to Disability Examination Worksheets
A listing of worksheets in conducting Disability Rating Examination. Clinics may find these worksheets helpful in performing a Medical Evaluation Board.

Example of Memorandum for Temporary Limited Duty

TSGLI Certification Form

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Frequently Asked Questions:
 

·         Part I: INTRODUCTION TO PDES

·         Part II: MEDICAL EVALUATION BOARD (MEB)

·         Part III: INFORMAL PHYSICAL EVALUATION BOARD (IPEB)

·         Part IV: FORMAL PHYSICAL EVALUATION BOARD (FPEB)

·         Part V: PDES FINALIZATION AND POTENTIAL COAST GUARD & VETERANS BENEFITS

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Part I: INTRODUCTION TO PDES
 

·         What is the Coast Guard's Physical Disability Evaluation System?

·         What are the major stages of the PDES process?

·         I've been seriously hurt. What happens next?

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Part II: MEDICAL EVALUATION BOARD (MEB)
 

·         What is a Medical Evaluation Board (MEB)?

·         How important is it for me to submit a statement or rebuttal to the MEB?

·         What is the role of my doctor and the examining doctor at the MEB?

·         What is my command’s role after my Medical Evaluation Board (MEB) is completed?

·         I am being retired. Am I entitled to a medical board?

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Part III: INFORMAL PHYSICAL EVALUATION BOARD (IPEB)
 

·         What is an IPEB?

·         What happens if I am found fit for duty?

·         When are you considered unfit for duty?

·         I have been found unfit for duty. Is there a Coast Guard policy that allows me to remain on active duty?

·         I was found unfit by the MEB. How can the IPEB find me fit for duty?

·         Should the Coast Guard rate all my medical conditions?

·         I suffer from a condition listed in the VASRD. Does that mean I will be found unfit and rated by the IPEB?

·         The IPEB stated that my condition existed prior to entering the service and did not rate my disability. How can this be?

·         How does the IPEB determine my disability percentage?

·         What happens if I have more than one disability?

·         Will I receive a higher disability percentage because of my seniority and years of dedicated service to the Coast Guard?

·         How does the IPEB decide whether I receive severance pay or a medical retirement?

·         What is the Temporary Disability Retired List (TDRL)?

·         When am I entitled to a lawyer?

·         What is the role of my detailed military counsel?

·         Am I entitled to a written explanation of the findings from the IPEB?

·         Can I ask for the IPEB to reconsider their decision?

·         Do my post-service employment plans have any impact on my Coast Guard disability rating?

·         How long does it take for the physical disability evaluation process to complete?

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Part IV: FORMAL PHYSICAL EVALUATION BOARD (FPEB)
 

·         What happens if I reject the findings of the IPEB?

·         How long does it take before my Formal Board is convened?

·         Prior to a FPEB, what should I do?

·         I am going before a Formal Physical Evaluation Board. What should I expect?

·         What are my rights at a FPEB?

·         Am I entitled to a written explanation of the findings from the FPEB?

·         May I appeal the decision of the FPEB?

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Part V: PDES FINALIZATION AND POTENTIAL COAST GUARD & VETERANS BENEFITS
 

·         What legal review is conducted prior to receiving my orders?

·         How long do I have until I receive my orders?

·         I am being separated from the Coast Guard due to a physical disability. What will be my disability severance pay?

·         I am being permanently retired from active duty due to a physical disability. What will be my retirement payment?

·         What will my separation or retirement date be?

·         If I am separated or retired from the Coast Guard, may I also receive entitlements from the Veterans Administration?

·         Can the rating percentages from the Coast Guard and Veteran Administration differ?

·         Where can I find out about Transition Benefits?

·         Do I have any recourse regarding the final decision of the PDES process?

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Part I: INTRODUCTION TO PDES

 

What is the Coast Guard's Physical Disability Evaluation System?

The Coast Guard’s Physical Disability Evaluation System (PDES) follows the provisions of certain United States laws (specifically, Title 10, United States Code, Chapter 61) governing the separation or retirement of military personnel due to physical disability.  PDES laws were enacted primarily to ensure a vital, fit military force.  These laws also provide you certain benefits and protections if your military career ends prematurely due to injury or illness.  Should you suffer injury or develop a medical condition, the PDES program will evaluate your ability to perform the duties associated with your office, grade, rank or rating.  In accordance with federal law, the Coast Guard may find you fit for duty, separate you, or retire you due to a physical disability.  

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What are the major stages of the PDES process?

 

  1. Receipt of your medical evaluation board (MEB) from your clinic.
  2. Your MEB is then delivered to the Informal Physical Evaluation Board (IPEB) for adjudication.  It normally takes about 30 calendar days for the IPEB to render a finding.
  3. Your findings are mailed to you.  You will receive an automated DHL email stating where they were mailed and their estimated delivery date.  In your findings package will be an official memorandum detailing your options, your findings documents (forms CG-4808 and CG-4808C, if applicable) and an election of counsel form. 
  4. You will be given the opportunity to accept or reject your findings.  You will have 7 calendar days in which to obtain legal counsel, which will be detailed in your findings package.  You will also have 30 calendar days in which to accept or reject your findings.
  5. Legal review.  There are two rounds of legal review:  one here at Coast Guard Personnel Service Center and the other at COMDT (CG-0944).  Both check your board for legal integrity, all intact documentation, and any other errors.  These reviews can take several weeks each, depending on case load, attorney availability and other factors.
  6. Final Approving Authority signature.  Commander, PSC must sign off on the record.  This takes approximately 2 business days.
  7. Delivery to PSC-psd-de or PSC (opm-1) for orders.   Normally, you will be retired or separated within 30 calendar days of epm-1 or opm-1's receipt of your record.

The above list does not take into account the steps that occur if you reject and request a Formal Physical Evaluation Board (FPEB), which increases the PDES timeline.

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I've been seriously hurt.  What happens next?

The Coast Guard’s first priority is to give you proper medical attention should you become injured or ill.  However, if your commanding officer or treating physician believes you are unable to perform your duties due to your disability or illness during or after treatment, your clinic and command will convene a Medical Evaluation Board (MEB).

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Part II: MEDICAL EVALUATION BOARD (MEB)

 

What is a Medical Evaluation Board (MEB)?

 

You will most likely become involved in the PDES process when you incur an injury or illness that calls into question your ability to perform the duties of your office, grade, rank, or rating [Physical Disability Evaluation System Manual (hereinafter, the PDES Manual), COMDTINST M1850.2C, Chapter 3].  In that case, a Medical Evaluation Board (MEB) will convene, usually at the request of your commanding officer or treating physician. 

 

The MEB will make a recommendation as to whether you meet the Coast Guard's physical retention standards.  [PDES Manual, Chapter 3.G.4].  The MEB documents your medical problems, defines limitations (if any) imposed by your condition, and explains how your condition affects your ability to perform the duties of your office, grade, rank or rating.  For the purposes of the Physical Disability Evaluation System, "office" is defined as the member's assigned duties [PDES Manual, Chapter 2.A.36]

 

You will be provided a copy of the board’s report unless the information contained in the report might have an adverse effect on your physical or mental health.  At this point, you are afforded an opportunity to submit a statement in rebuttal to any portion of the MEB's report [PDES Manual, Chapter 3.H].  Your rebuttal must be made within 15 working days (not counting weekends and holidays) after you receive the MEB report. 

 

Your command will then submit the MEB, including a Medical Officer’s narrative summary  (form CG-5684) of your condition, a written command endorsement, and your rebuttal should you choose to make one, to Commander, Coast Guard Personnel Service Center,  Disability Evaluation Branch (PSC-psd-de).  You should be aware that any rebuttal will become part of your PDES record.  For a more detailed explanation of what happens when you are injured, or the Initial Medical Board process, see the PDES Manual, Chapter 3.

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How important is it for me to submit a statement or rebuttal to the MEB?

 

The MEB report is usually the first indication you receive of the Coast Guard's official diagnosis and determination of the medical conditions that may affect your continued service in the Coast Guard.  It contains all of the significant medical findings and opinions, and the recommended disposition of your eventual PDES case.  This is generally the first opportunity for you to have input in the PDES process.  However, you must be aware that if you choose to submit a statement or rebuttal, anything you say will become part of the permanent PDES record.

 

If you submit a rebuttal or statement, the MEB, if practicable, reviews the statement and makes changes to the report or provides additional comments that it deems appropriate.  You will be provided with any changes or additional comments made by the MEB.  If you do not rebut the initial or revised MEB report within 15 working days, the report is processed for further action in accordance with the PDES Manual.

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What is the role of my doctor and the examining doctor at the MEB?

 

As your medical care provider, your physician will provide you the best medical advice/treatment/care within their means.  Your MEB examining physician’s role is only to perform a thorough physical examination and formulate a medical conclusion regarding your health [PDES Manual, Chapter 3.F.2].  The role of your examining physician is confined to providing you with medical advice/treatment/care, and making a medical evaluation and recommendation to a Informal Physical Evaluation Board (IPEB), and if necessary, to a Formal Physical Evaluation Board (FPEB). 

 

The MEB does not assign you a disability percentage rating for injuries or illnesses, nor will it make reference to the Veterans Administration Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD), a manual used by the IPEB and the FPEB to assign codes and disability percentages to injuries/illnesses [PDES Manual, Chapter 3.G.3.b].

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What is my command’s role after my Medical Evaluation Board (MEB) is completed?

 

Your command should provide you with a copy of the MEB report and ensure that you are counseled on its contents and your medical condition before it is forwarded to PSC-psd-de. 

Your command should also provide a written endorsement to the medical evaluation.  The endorsement should contain a summary of the duties normally associated with your office, grade, rank or rating, along with your current duties.  A statement regarding your ability to perform current duties should be included.  Therefore, be sure that your command is aware of any limitations you may have in performing your duties.  Finally, the endorsement is required to state the interim duty status (if any) into which you have been placed due to your injury or illness.

 

Your command has the ability to define your disability within the context of your duties and responsibilities.  The PDES Manual makes it clear that “the sole standard in making determinations of physical disability as a basis for retirement or separation shall be unfitness to perform the duties of office, grade, rank or rating because of disease or injury incurred or aggravated through military service" [PDES Manual, Chapter 2.C.2]. 

 

Without a command endorsement, a IPEB or FPEB may have difficulty determining if you are unfit to perform your duties due to injury or illness.  As a result, while it is common to focus on the physician statements, diagnosis, and prognosis, what is documented in the command endorsement can also prove helpful.  For a more detailed explanation of your command’s role, see the PDES Manual, Chapter 3.I.

 

Once the MEB package is complete, PSC-psd-de will refer the package to a Informal Physical Evaluation Board (IPEB).  For a more detailed explanation of the Informal Physical Evaluation Board process, see the PDES Manual, Chapter 4.

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I am being retired.  Am I entitled to a medical board?

 

The decision to convene a MEB is made by your command and/or your physician.  If you are separating or retiring from the Coast Guard for reasons other than injury or illness, and you are able to perform the duties expected of you in your current billet, a medical board would not be convened as a matter of policy even though medical evidence indicates you have impairments.  If a MEB were convened, the IPEB probably find you fit for full duty by presumption.  This is a rule that effectively prevents you from receiving disability benefits from the Coast Guard if you were fully performing the duties of your office, grade, rank or rating prior to your planned separation or retirement [PDES Manual, Chapter 2.C.2.b].

 

However, if a MEB and an IPEB finds you fit for full duty and you disagree, you may overcome this presumption of fitness for duty in one of two ways.  First, you may show that because of your injury or illness, you have been unable to perform the duties of your office, grade, rank or rating for a long period of time.  Second, you may overcome the presumption if your injury or illness occurs immediately prior to, or while processing, your separation or retirement.  For more a more detailed explanation, see the PDES Manual, Chapter 2.C.2.c. & Chapter 3.D.7.

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Part III: INFORMAL PHYSICAL EVALUATION BOARD (IPEB)

What is an IPEB?

An Informal Physical Evaluation Board (IPEB) is a permanently established administrative board located within the Coast Guard Personnel Service Center in Arlington, VA.  It is a panel of at least two commissioned officers, one of whom serves as Board President and the other as Medical Officer.  The IPEB weighs and impartially examines all relevant evidence in your case and makes findings and recommendations in conformity with applicable laws, regulations, and established policy.  The IPEB evaluation is a review based solely on the documented record submitted by your command.  Neither you nor any other witnesses are present for this portion of the process.  

A IPEB may find you fit for full duty or unfit for full duty.  A fit for duty finding will be made if the record indicates you are physically and mentally able to perform the duties of your office, grade, rank or rating (including specialized duty, if applicable).  For the purposes of the PDES, "office" is defined as the member's assigned duties [PDES Manual, Chapter 2.A.36].   

In reaching its decision, the IPEB is guided by the PDES Manual; the Veterans Administration Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD), Title 38, Part 4, Code of Federal Regulations; the Coast Guard Medical Manual; and the Coast Guard Personnel Manual

Occasionally, rather than making a decision of fit for full duty or not fit for full duty, an IPEB might decide that your physical condition is not clear enough to make a fitness determination.  In such cases, the IPEB orders a follow-up medical board, called a Disposition Medical Board (DMB).  An email from the IPEB to your MEB physician orders the DMB to be conducted and indicates the required specialist consultations and submission deadline.  The IPEB processes DMB findings in the same manner it processes MEB findings [PDES Manual, Chapter 4.A.7].

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What happens if I am found fit for duty?

If you are found fit for duty by the IPEB, you will be returned to your unit to continue your career.  However, if you believe you are unfit, you have the option of rebutting the IPEB findings while you continue to serve with your unit [PDES Manual, Chapter 4.A.14.b].  Your rebuttal must be in writing and should be submitted via your chain of command within 30 days of the date on the findings memorandum mailed to you.  If you are found fit for full duty, you are not entitled as a matter of policy to a Formal Physical Evaluation Board (FPEB).  However, if your physical or mental condition worsens, you may go through the disability process again. 

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When are you considered unfit for duty?

You may be considered unfit for duty when one or more physical or mental disability (injury or illness) prevents you, or could prevent you, from performing the normal and reasonable duties of your office, grade, rank or rating [PDES Manual, Chapter 2.C.2]. 

Some medical conditions are automatically unfitting as a matter of policy [Coast Guard Medical Manual, Chapter 3.F].  Although there is no hard-line rule to determine fitness for duty for many conditions, Coast Guard policies are promulgated to ensure members on active duty are fully capable of performing all expected duties.

If you are found unfit, the IPEB makes a fitness decision by balancing the extent of your injury or illness as a limitation to perform assigned duties of your rating – as shown through medical and performance evidence – against the rating requirements in the VASRD and Coast Guard policy.  Typical medical evidence used by the IPEB in their decision making process includes the narrative summary written by the MEB, your medical profile, the history and treatment of your injury or illness, referrals to physicians and sick call, and the type and frequency of medication, if any.  Performance evidence includes statements from your command, personnel records, promotions, awards, and adverse personnel actions.  However, you should be aware that if you are performing the duties of your office, grade, rank or rating, you may not necessarily be found fit for duty.  Similarly, in some situations, you may be unable to perform all the duties expected of your office, grade, rank or rating and be found fit for full duty.   

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I have been found unfit for duty.  Is there a Coast Guard policy that allows me to remain on active duty?

 

Yes, under certain conditions.  Firstly, you should have between 18 to 20 years of active duty.  Chapter 17 of the Coast Guard Personnel Manual, provides that a member who was found unfit may apply to be continued on active duty until 20 years despite his/her disability.  A member desiring retention on active duty should submit a request letter to Commander (PSC-epm-1) or (PSC-opm-1) with a copy to (PSC-psd-de).  They will consider retaining members on active duty in a limited assignment status if they meet the following criteria: 

 

·         The member possesses a special skill for which there is a specified Service need

·         The member’s physical condition is such that he/she can perform duty requiring their special skill.

·         Retention will not jeopardize their health or their associates’ health.

·         The disability is stabilized and is not likely to require frequent absence from duty.

·         The member should have at least 18 years but less than 20 years service.

 

In exceptional cases, Commander (PSC-epm-1) will consider retaining an individual with less than 18 years in an aviation rating in a non-flying status until eligible for retirement subject to all these conditions: 

 

·         The member possesses an above average proficiency in an aviation rating for which the Service has a specific need.

·         The member can perform useful service in an established billet for their rate and rating.

·         The member's retention will not jeopardize his or her own or associates' personal health.

·         The member is in pay grade E-6 or above with at least 16 years of service for retirement eligibility. 

·         The member submits a written request to Commander, PSC (epm-1) to remain on active duty until completing 20 years' active service.

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I was found unfit by the MEB.  How can the IPEB find me fit for duty?

Simply put, the medical evaluation board (MEB) and the Informal Physical Evaluation Board (IPEB) are separate boards with different roles.  The MEB does not decide whether you are fit for continued duty.  A MEB decides whether you have an injury or illness, and documents the extent of that injury or illness.  The MEB then recommends whether the injury or disease is severe enough to cause you to fall below Coast Guard medical retention standards as identified in Coast Guard Medical Manual, Chapter 3.F.  If the MEB concludes that you fall below Coast Guard retention standards, it will refer you to a IPEB.  But, note that failure to meet retention standards does not necessarily mean that you are unfit for duty because you may still be capable of performing all the duties of your office, grade, rank or rating.

The IPEB makes the decision about whether you can adequately perform the requirements of your office, grade, rank or rating.  The IPEB alone decides fitness for duty by balancing the extent of your injury or illness against your ability to perform the duties of your office, grade, rank or rating.  For more information concerning the differences between the MEB and the IPEB, see the PDES Manual, Chapters 3 & 4.

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Should the Coast Guard rate all my medical conditions?

The PDES Manual allows all medical conditions identified in a medical record to be rated.  However, Chapter 2.C.2.a states, "[T]he sole standard in making determinations of physical disability as a basis for retirement or separation shall be unfitness to perform the duties of office, grade, rank or rating because of disease or injury incurred or aggravated through military service."  This statement makes it clear that only military unfitting conditions will be rated by the IPEB and the FPEB.  In other words, you can only expect to be rated for conditions that are unfitting independent of any other medical conditions.  For example, you may be diagnosed with arthritis, which is ratable under the VASRD, but if you are still able to perform all of the duties required of your office, grade, rank or rating, you will not be rated for that condition.

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I suffer from a condition listed in the VASRD.  Does that mean I will be found unfit and rated by the IPEB?

Just because you have an injury or illness listed in the VASRD does not mean that the IPEB will find you unfit and medically discharge you from the Coast Guard.  Before you are considered eligible to be medically discharged (either through separation, retirement or temporary retirement) from the Coast Guard, you must be determined to be unable to perform the duties of your office, grade, rank or rating, and your inability to perform your duties is a direct result of a documented injury or illness.  In other words, the mere existence of a physical defect or condition that is ratable under the VASRD does not itself provide justification for separation or retirement from military service [PDES Manual, Chapter 2.C.2.i]. 

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The IPEB stated that my condition existed prior to entering the service and did not rate my disability.  How can this be?

 

The objective of the PDES is to document and provide benefits for injuries and/or diseases incurred or aggravated while in the Coast Guard.  Therefore, injuries and/or diseases that are not service connected do not qualify for potential PDES benefits.

 

The injury or illness that you may have been rated for may have existed prior to your entry into the service (termed EPTE –- existed prior to entry into service).  Causes of EPTE disabilities include hereditary or congenital defects, injuries, or diseases with an inception before entering service. 

 

You will be separated from the Coast Guard without disability benefits if the IPEB decides your injury or illness existed prior to service and that your condition has not been permanently worsened, or aggravated, by service with the Coast Guard [PDES Manual, Chapter 2.C.5].  The amount of aggravation by service with the Coast Guard of a prior existing injury or illness is determined by finding the percentage of disability at the time of the IPEB, and subtracting the percentage of disability existing at the time of entry into the Coast Guard.  For more information on this topic, see the PDES Manual, Chapter 2.

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How does the IPEB determine my disability percentage?

If the IPEB finds that you are unfit and you are eligible for disability benefits, the IPEB will rate the severity of your injury or illness using the Veterans Administration Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD), as modified by the PDES Manual, Chapter 9. 

The VASRD lists hundreds of physical and mental disabilities and rates these disabilities using objective medical criteria.  Depending on the severity of your illness or injury, the IPEB may rate you from zero to one hundred percent disabled.  Disability percentages are a direct result of applying the VASRD to the description and severity of the illness or injury.  For this reason, it is important that any disease or injury is correctly characterized in your record.  

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What happens if I have more than one disability?

Each condition, taken independently, must prevent you from performing the duties of your office, grade, rank or rating.  For example, if you are suffering from a knee injury and a bad back, for both items to be rated you must be able to show that each condition, independent of the other, prevents you from performing the duties of your office, grade, rank or rating.  When you have more than one ratable disability, the percentages are combined rather than added.  This results from the consideration of the most disabling condition first. 

 

For example, a person having a condition rated at 60 percent will be considered to have 40 percent remaining efficiency.  If that person has another condition rated at 20 percent, he or she is considered to have lost 20 percent of the remaining 40 percent of efficiency, or 8 percent.  Thus, a person with a 60 percent disability and a 20 percent disability has a combined disability percentage of 68, which is rounded up to 70. 

 

Pyramiding is the term used to describe the application of more than one VASRD rating to any area or system of the body when that area or system is more appropriately rated under a single code.  For instance, if you are missing a hand, you would not also be rated for a missing finger.  This is not permitted under the PDES because it results in overrating the disability.

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Will I receive a higher disability percentage because of my seniority and years of dedicated service to the Coast Guard?

No matter who you are, what rank you hold or who you know, you will be evaluated by the medical boards based on objective medical documentation.  PDES  makes every effort to ensure consistent application of Coast Guard policies and the VASRD to each evaluee.  Officers and senior enlisted members are treated equally to junior enlisted members. 

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How does the IPEB decide whether I receive severance pay or a medical retirement?

The severity of your injury or illness will determine whether you are separated with severance pay or whether you are medically retired.  If you are rated at zero, ten, or twenty percent disabled you will be separated from the Coast Guard with severance pay.  If you have an injury or illness rated at 30% or more, or if you have a disability and twenty or more years of active duty service, you will receive a medical retirement.  Medical retirement at less than 20 years of service can be permanent or temporary.  If your condition stabilizes and becomes permanent you will be permanently medically retired.  If your disability is not stabilized or is likely to change, you will be placed on the Temporary Disability Retired List (TDRL).

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What is the Temporary Disability Retired List (TDRL)?

 

If you are being temporarily retired, you will be placed on the TDRL for up to five years and reevaluated at least once every 18 months [PDES Manual, Chapter 4.A.8 & Chapter 8].  You may be temporarily retired if you meet all of the below criteria:

 

·         Your condition or disability is uncertain or likely to change,

·         Your disability is rated at 30 percent or higher, and,

·         You are unfit for duty. 

However, the IPEB may make findings in your PDES case at any time if you meet any of the following criteria:

 

·         You become fit for duty,

·         Your condition or disability stabilizes, or

·         Your degree of disability falls to less than 30 percent.  

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When am I entitled to a lawyer?

The Judge Advocate of the Coast Guard has the responsibility to assign military legal counsel to represent you.   Counsel is assigned to PDES cases only after the IPEB has made a finding.  The PSC-psd-de, will notify you of the IPEB findings.  Upon receipt of the notification letter and findings, you must return an election of counsel and consent form to PSC-psd-de via fax or expedited mail.

You will have two choices: a Coast Guard attorney at no cost to you, or civilian counsel at your own expense.  Your election of counsel form included in your findings package permits PSC-psd-de to release a copy of your record to the attorney of your choice.  Your attorney will then work with you to determine the best course of action in your case -- acceptance, rejection, etc.

Upon issuance of findings and recommendations by the IPEB, you have 30 days to either accept or reject the findings.  Your assigned counsel will brief you on the IPEB's recommended findings and disposition and then, if necessary, represent you before FPEB proceedings.  He or she will not advise your command, physicians, or any other interested personnel about your case without your permission.

You are NOT required to obtain an attorney.  However, it is strongly recommended that you consult with an attorney before making a decision to accept or reject your findings because it is a legally binding decision.  Your attorney can help you understand your benefits, entitlements and outcome of your decision.

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What is the role of my detailed military counsel?

Military counsel is detailed by the Judge Advocate General of the Coast Guard (G-L).  As such, counsel’s obligation is to zealously represent the client, guided by established ethical standards. 

By virtue of training, skills, legal and practical knowledge, and experience with the PDES process, military counsel can advise you in making a knowledgeable and informed decision on whether to accept the findings, request reconsideration, or proceed to a formal hearing.  The lawyer’s paramount duties are to assist you by advising you of your legal rights, identifying the strengths and weaknesses of your case, candidly and fully explaining possible outcomes, and representing you. 

The military attorney has no direct control over the findings of the Board.  The attorney can only advocate your interests to the board members.  Coast Guard legal counsel is not authorized to negotiate with the IPEB or FPEB to change the IPEB or FPEB recommended findings. 

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Am I entitled to a written explanation of the findings from the IPEB?

The IPEB makes findings and recommendations of your medical condition in a closed session.  The only written record of the IPEB findings is contained in the CG-4808 and/or CG-4808C forms that are mailed to you by PSC-psad-de.

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Can I ask for the IPEB to reconsider their decision?

Yes.  Sometimes this is a better choice than immediately proceeding to a Formal Physical Evaluation Board (FPEB).  The purpose of the request for reconsideration is to provide new or additional medical information that was not reasonably available at the time of the MEB.  The evidence from the physician who wrote the medical board report is the strongest evidence, but medical evidence from other physicians will also be considered.

A request for reconsideration should be submitted before rejecting IPEB findings and within 30 days of the issuance of IPEB findings.  However, it is advised that the request be submitted within 20 days of the issuance of the IPEB findings.  If no response is received prior to 30 days from the issuance of the IPEB findings, it is advised that the evaluee submit a rejection to ensure that no rights are inadvertently waived.  The IPEB has the discretion to change their findings, following a request for reconsideration.

Should your medical condition change significantly at any time during this process, your Commanding Officer has the responsibility to notify the PSC-psd-de of any significant changes in your status or physical condition, and, arguably may need to add to, or change, the command endorsement of the MEB.

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Do my post-service employment plans have any impact on my Coast Guard disability rating?

Your future employability is rarely a consideration in PDES determinations.  It would be a consideration only if you were completely unemployable.  However, the percentage ratings in the Veterans Administration Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD) represent the average impairment in earning capacity resulting from such injury or illness, had it occurred in a civilian occupation.  It is important to remember that the applicable percentage ratings in the VASRD will not always neatly fit every civilian occupation.  In some civilian occupations you may not be impaired to the degree of the disability rating found in the VASRD, and in other occupations you may be impaired to a higher degree than the disability rating contained in the VASRD.  Although Chapter 9.A.2.a. of the PDES Manual states the purpose of the VASRD, it does not describe how the Coast Guard uses the information contained in the VASRD or how the Coast Guard makes disability determinations.   

Chapter 2.C.2.a states, "[T]he sole standard in making determinations of physical disability as a basis for retirement or separation shall be unfitness to perform the duties of office, grade, rank or rating because of disease or injury incurred or aggravated through military service."  This statement makes it clear that no other considerations, including civilian employability would be a consideration by either the IPEB or FPEB in making fitness for continued duty/rating determinations.  Furthermore, Chapter 2.C.2.b states that "the law that provides for disability retirement or separation (10 U.S.C. chapter 61) is designed to compensate a member whose military service is terminated due to physical disability that has rendered him or her unfit for continued duty."  The bottom line is this: your inability to function in your desired future civilian occupation is not normally a consideration in the actual rating assigned by the IPEB or FPEB.  It is only a consideration when the medical record indicates you are completely unemployable. 

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How long does it take, normally, for the physical disability evaluation process to complete?

This process will normally take approximately 4 to 6 months from the findings of the IPEB unless the evaluee rejects/rebuts or additional information is required.  If the evaluee rejects the findings of the IPEB, the case gets heard at a Formal Board, which could add several months to the process.   If more medical information is required to adjudicate a case, the timeframe for that information being due back to CG PSC is dependent upon the nature of the medical condition being assessed (some conditions simply require more time to complete healing or treatment; some conditions require a simple additional exam to allow CG PSC to complete adjudication of the case).


 

Part IV: FORMAL PHYSICAL EVALUATION BOARD (FPEB)

 

What happens if I reject the findings of the IPEB?

 

You may reject the IPEB's recommended findings and disposition and demand a hearing before a Formal Physical Evaluation Board (FPEB), which is a standing board located at the Coast Guard Personnel Service Center.  The FPEB is a fact-finding body; it holds an administrative hearing to evaluate your fitness for duty and to make recommendations consistent with its findings.  The FPEB examines the written medical evidence, evaluates other evidence presented by you and your counsel, and hears witnesses, which may include you, in order to ensure you a full and fair hearing as required by law.  Your military legal counsel, or other such representative, will represent you at your hearing.   

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How long does it take before my Formal Board is convened?

 

You have the right to at least three working days notice of the time and place of the FPEB hearing.  Included in this three-day period you also have the right to reasonable access to the record, and any other evidence that the board is provided prior to the hearing.  However, the scheduling of your FPEB depends on many factors (the nature of your disability, your ability to travel, your attorney's schedule and other scheduled FPEBs, to name a few).  

 

Your assigned counsel will work with you to schedule your FPEB.

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Prior to a FPEB, what should I do?

 

If you reject your IPEB findings, you should immediately begin preparing for your FPEB.  You are urged to contact your counsel upon submitting your rejection. Also, you will have the right to meet with your Coast Guard appointed lawyer one business day prior to the formal board hearing.

 

During discussions with your counsel, you should thoroughly review your case.  Your counsel will assist you with the Veterans Administration Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD) criteria associated with your case and the medical documentation provided.  Your counsel will explain the strengths and weaknesses of your physical disability case and inform you of any risks involved with proceeding with a formal board.

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I am going before a Formal Physical Evaluation Board. What should I expect?

 

The FPEB is normally composed of three officers: a Board President, a Medical Officer, and a third officer called the Military Member.  Each officer has an equal say in deciding your case.  If you are a member of a minority, a female, or an enlisted person, you may  request a minority, female, or enlisted member on your board, if reasonably available.   

 

If you give sworn testimony, you should expect to be asked to respond to questions posed by your counsel, as well as questions from the Board members.  You should anticipate questions relating to the treatment you received medication, and limitations that your condition imposes.  At the hearing, Board members have your medical records, portions of your personnel file, and statements from your command concerning how your condition affects your duty performance.  At the FPEB, you may also present new medical evidence on your behalf, call witnesses, and cross-examine witnesses if appropriate.  The FPEB uses all of this information in its decision-making process.

 

Following questions from the Board members and your counsel, you will have one last opportunity to address the Board members by making a statement.  When your presentation is over, you and your counsel will be asked to leave the boardroom so that Board members may deliberate on your case.  Once the Board members reach a decision, you and your counsel will return to the hearing room where you will be informed of the Board’s decision.  On average, FPEB determinations are usually concluded the same day.

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What are my rights at a FPEB?

 

You are entitled to a full and fair hearing, which includes the following:

 

  • The right to be present in person;
  • The right to challenge any member of the board for cause;
  • The right to present evidence on your own behalf;
  • The right be represented by detailed counsel or other representative;
  • The right to cross-examine witnesses who are present or can be readily contacted by telephone;
  • The right to receive a copy of the proceedings and findings (audio cassette);
  • The right to make statements under oath or affirmation;
  • The right not to make any statements relating to the origin or aggravation of a disease or injury; and
  • The right to an impartial hearing.

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Am I entitled to a written explanation of the findings from the FPEB?

 

Current Coast Guard policy is that a written explanation of the FPEB findings is not required to be provided to the evaluee.  However, you may make a written request for an explanation.  The PDES Manual requires a board to provide amplifying statements setting forth the basis for its findings and recommended disposition when the basis is not readily apparent from the documents of record, as in the case of a disability percentage award varying from the normal, or when your true physical condition is not adequately reflected by the VASRD.

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May I appeal the decision of the FPEB?

 

There is no actual appeal of right within the Coast Guard PDES system.  At the conclusion of the hearing, the FPEB provides you with its recommended findings and disposition.  You have three working days from the date of the FPEB findings to decide whether or not to file a rebuttal and to make notification of your intentions, and 15 working days from the FPEB findings date to submit a rebuttal.  In the rebuttal you must: (1) state the reasons for rebutting the decision of the FPEB; (2) state the nature of your objection; and (3) provide or cite evidence to support your position.  A rebuttal may include substantial existing evidence, which, despite due diligence, could not have been presented before disposition of the case by the FPEB.

   

Filing a rebuttal to a FPEB requires a very careful consideration of the possible outcomes.  The Physical Review Counsel (PRC) hears FPEB rebuttals.  In its review the PRC shall not substitute its judgment for that of the IPEB or FPEB.  If the PRC does substitute its own findings, then a right to appeal to a Physical Disability Appeal Board (PDAB) is triggered.  The findings of an FPEB will not normally be modified on review by the PRC unless they were clearly erroneous.  You should speak with your counsel before making this decision.

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Part V: PDES FINALIZATION AND POTENTIAL COAST GUARD & VETERANS BENEFITS

What legal review is conducted prior to receiving my orders? 

Completed IPEB, FPEB, and Physical Review Counsel (PRC) findings must undergo two rounds of legal review before they can be finalized.  The first legal review is here at Coast Guard Personnel Service Center.  The second is at COMDT (CG-0944).  After those reviews are complete, your board will go before the Final Approving Authority (Commander, CG PSC) for signature.

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How long do I have until I receive my orders?

It takes several months after you accept the findings of the IPEB or after conclusion of your FPEB for orders to be executed.  After final approval, CG PSC (epm-1) or CG PSC (opm-1)  issues a message to your command with a retirement/separation date.  Normally, your separation or retirement occurs within 30 days of  PSC (opm-1)'s or PSC (epm-1)'s receipt of your board.  PSC (epm-1) or PSC (opm-1) receive your board after legal review is complete and the Final Approving Authority has signed off on it.  The Final Approving Authority is Commander, PSC.

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I am being separated from the Coast Guard due to a physical disability.  What will be my disability severance?

You will be separated from the service with severance pay if you are rated with a zero, ten, or twenty percent disability and less than twenty years of service.  Disability severance pay is discussed in the Pay Manual, Chapter 10.G.

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I am being permanently retired from active duty due to a physical disability.  What will be my retirement payment?

Disability retirement payment may depend upon your length of active service or upon your percentage of physical disability.  Military disability compensation is determined in one of two ways.  The first way is to multiply your base pay by your disability percentage.  For example, a member with a 30 percent disability rating would retire at 30 percent of his/her base pay. 

The second method is based on years of service.  This method is determined by multiplying your active duty years of service by 2 ˝ .  For example, a service member with 16 years and a 30 percent disability would receive 40 percent (16 years of service X 2.5) of his/her base pay, rather than 30 percent, because of their longevity of service.  After each method is computed, you will be given the one resulting in a greater compensation amount.

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What will my separation or retirement date be?

After your board is signed by the Final Approving Authority (Commander, PSC), it will be delivered to either PSC (epm-1) or PSC (opm-1) for orders.  Normally, you are retired or separated within 30 calendar days of epm-1 or opm-1's receipt of your board.

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If I am separated or retired from the Coast Guard, may I also receive entitlements from the Veterans Administration? 

Yes.  Any member separated or retired from the service may file a claim with the VA for service-connected disability compensation.  VA disability compensation varies with the degree of disability and the number of dependents, and is paid monthly.  The benefits are not subject to federal or state income tax.

VA disability payments have an affect on the amount of military retirement or disability pay.  Retired members who receive disability compensation from the VA waive military retired pay equal to the amount of VA compensation received.  If the amount of VA compensation exceeds retired pay, retired pay will be waived as a whole.  Click here for the VA Compensation for veterans rates as of 1 December 2007.

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Can the rating percentages from the Coast Guard and Veteran Administration differ?

Yes.  The Veteran Administration implements a separate and distinct policy in rating service members.  The Coast Guard only rates unfitting conditions.  The VA is concerned with the overall civilian employability of a disabled veteran due to the disability.  This emphasis on civilian employment allows the VA more flexibility in addressing the disability of a service member.  Because these two separate organizations apply two different policy standards, there often are differences in the overall disability findings.  

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Where can I find out about Transition Benefits?

Coast Guard members being involuntarily separated or retired from the Coast Guard because of physical disability are entitled to Transition Benefits in accordance with the provisions of the Transition Assistance Program.  For further information on the Transition Assistance Program contact the nearest Work-Life Staff at 1-800-872-4957.

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Do I have any recourse regarding the final decision of the PDES process?

The Coast Guard Board for Correction of Military Records (BCMR) has the authority to review and change Coast Guard and Coast Guard Reserve personnel records, and to grant appropriate relief.  The PDES process is covered by the mandate of the BCMR, so current or former members are entitled to apply for relief.  Additionally, you have a right to communicate with your Congressional representatives or to seek judicial injunctive relief from Federal Courts.

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