Before 2008, the DoD had guidance published for evaluating and rating conditions that made a service member Unfit for Duty. This guidance was both inconsistent with the VA rating system and rather vague, leaving the different service branches to develop their own policies for evaluating and rating certain conditions. As a result, service members in different branches with the same condition often received very different Military Disability Ratings from their Physical Evaluation Board (PEB).
Recognizing that this was both inconsistent and unfair, Congress decided to fix this problem by passing a law in 2008 that required all of the military branches to rate disabilities based solely on the VA's rating system, the VASRD.
In addition to making the VASRD the single standard tool used in all ratings for Military Disability, Congress created the Physical Disability Board of Review (PDBR).
The PDBR is a board made up of medical and DoD Disability authorities. The purpose of the PDBR is to review the DoD’s ratings for service members medically separated between September 11, 2001 and December 31, 2009 and update their ratings to agree with the laws of the VASRD that was in effect at the time of the service member's separation from the military. So if a veteran was separated in 2004, their ratings would be changed based on the 2004 VASRD. See the Historic VASRDs page for a list of these older VASRDs.
Veterans must apply to have their ratings reviewed and updated by the PDBR.
For a veteran’s case to be eligible for review by the PDBR, he must have been medically separated (a disability rating of 0%, 10%, or 20%) from the military between September 11, 2001 and December 31, 2009. All veterans separated before September 11, 2001 are not eligible to have their case reviewed by the PDBR, and all veterans who were separated after December 31, 2009 are already rated solely on the VASRD, so they don’t need to be reviewed by the PDBR.
How the PDBR Reviews and Rates Conditions
The DoD only gives Military Disability Ratings for service-connected conditions that make a service member Unfit for Duty. Because of this, the PDBR will only review the ratings of conditions that were determined to be unfitting by the Physical Evaluation Board (PEB). That being said, when reviewing a case, the PDBR does have the power to recommend that a condition that was found not unfitting by the PEB be changed to unfitting if there is strong enough evidence that it was actually unfitting.
The DoD also only rates conditions at the time the service member officially leaves the military, so the PDBR is required to use the VASRD that was in effect at the time the veteran left the military. So if a veteran officially left the military in 2005, the PDBR will rate his conditions based on the VASRD that was used in 2005. We discuss all the old VASRDs on our Historic VASRDs page.
Similarly, the PDBR will only rate conditions based on how severe they were at the time the service member left the military. So, if a service member left with mildly limited motion in the wrist in 2005 and now cannot move the wrist at all, his revised DoD rating from the PDBR would still only be for the mildly limited motion he had at the time of his separation.
The PDBR will only increase a condition’s rating, never decrease it. So if the VASRD rates a condition lower than the rating the condition originally received, the PDBR will not lower the rating. It will simply remain the same. There is no negative risk to having your case reviewed by the PDBR.
How to Apply to the PDBR
If you wish to apply to have your case reviewed by the PDBR, it is vital that you carefully put together your application with all the necessary information.
The PDBR takes into consideration all medical evidence leading up to the date of separation and only post-separation evidence that lies within the 12-month period immediately following the date of separation. Please keep in mind, though, that any post-separation evidence is only valuable if it helps to show the severity of the condition at separation. Showing that the condition is getting worse during that 12-month period doesn’t help since only the severity of the condition at the time of separation matters.
If you are preparing an application to submit to the PDBR, therefore, only submit the most pertinent information that lies before separation and within that 12-month period. Please don’t submit every medical record you have—this coming from someone who has had to muddle through every page of a 2,500 page application to find the mere 50 pages that contained relevant information. If really important information lies outside that 12-month window, it can be included in the application to the PDBR, but it will not really affect the PDBR’s final rating decision.
Our website can help you figure out what medical evidence is pertinent to your case. If you Find Your Conditions on our site, it will tell you exactly what information is needed to rate your conditions. This information could include test and x-ray results, examination notes, prescribed medications, etc. Once you know how your conditions should be rated, you’ll know exactly what medical records you need to submit to the PDBR.
Remember, however, that our explanation of the conditions on this site is for the current VASRD. Make sure to check out our Historic VASRDs page to see how the VASRD in effect at the time of your separation differs from the current VASRD.
Once you’ve gathered all the necessary medical evidence, you can apply by submitting it along with VA Form 3288 and DD Form 294. Also include your retirement certificate, all Medical Evaluation Board and Physical Evaluation Board records, and all VA records with your original and current ratings.
MAKE SURE THAT THE DOCUMENTS YOU SEND ARE COPIES, NOT THE ORIGINALS!!!
Mail all materials to:
500 C Street West, Suite 41
Randolph AFB, Texas 78150-4743
Appealing the PDBR’s Decision