We've noticed that some members of the military have come here seeking information about medical "early retirement".
When you're in the military, "early retirement" generally means being retired before reaching 20 years of service. It implies being forced out by medical issues or downsizing. Although there's still a COLA pension and healthcare, it's less money and it's not the same ER as in the sense of "served my time, never working again". Veterans have been known to fight against being "early retired" because they'd prefer to leave at their own discretion-- or at least have more time to prepare.
Here's our advice on medical issues or a physical evaluation board:
- Visit your base legal staff and read through the regs that govern your situation. Don't just talk with them-- ask for their help in reviewing the specific instructions & regulations and how they pertain to you. Ask them if there's any way to acquire an advocate or an ombudsman who can monitor your case and make sure you're treated right. You want to know the differences among a regular retirement, a few months/years on the Temporary Disabled Retirement List, and a medical/disability retirement. Even if you make it to 20 there's the strong possibility that you'll have a disability rating.
- Legal may be able to determine whether the paperwork was done correctly and whether the medical board is following the applicable procedure. It might help to emphasize that you just want to make sure this is all done correctly the first time so that you don't ever have to revisit it.
- Visit the instructors of the local transition assistance course for retiring veterans. They know the general provisions of veteran's benefits programs. More importantly they have the references & instructions and they know who to call for questions.
- The base hospital may offer a support group for medical conditions leading to early retirement. If there's one in your area then you can discuss your situation with them and find out their experiences.
- Military.com's "Your Military Advantage" is an excellent guide to figure out what you're already entitled to and what you may be able to fight for. The author lays out the best benefits explanation I've ever read, along with resources and references to the source documents.
- Military.com's discussion boards may have others in the same situation who can share their knowledge & experience. There may also be valuable advice on one of the service-related boards like:
the Physical Evaluation Board Forum
the Veterans Benefits Network
and its Navy/Air Force counterparts, or
the GruntsMilitary Forum
- Visit one of your local veteran's organizations like the American Legion, the Fleet Reserve, the VFW, or the Military Officers Association of America. They'll be able to tell you about the local VA or other resources.
- If you rate a Purple Heart then make sure you get it and that it's on your DD-214. It has a bearing on both your pension and your veteran's benefits.
Setting aside the retirement questions for a minute, please take care of yourself. Find the best medical advice you can get, and follow it regardless of whether you're expected to be fully qualified to return to duty. Don't risk a lesser approach, and don't end up in the hands of a quack, just because they're promising that you'll be fully restored to duty. There are many LIMDU alternatives to "100% worldwide deployable" and the military isn't exactly so overburdened with career veterans that they can afford to discard them. The medical-board process will attempt to find a way to get you to 20 or to do the right retirement by your medical prognosis.