Not every service member with conditions that make them Unfit for Duty must leave the military. Each branch has special circumstances in place that would allow some disabled service members to continue on active duty after the Physical Evaluation Board has found them unfit.
For all branches, each case is individually determined. While there are some individual criteria, the overall idea for all of them is that they will only keep service members with particular skills, specialties, or experience that is needed by the branch at that time.
If you wish to apply to remain on active duty in any of the branches, your PEBLO will help you submit the correct paperwork during your Integrated Disability Evaluation System.
Air Force: Some disabled service members can remain on active duty in the Air Force on Limited Assignment Status (LAS).
To qualify for LAS, there must be a definite need for your particular skill, specialty, or experience, and your condition must be stable enough for it to be safely assumed that it won’t worsen significantly or require excessive medical care. Bluntly, you should be able to still greatly contribute to the Air Force without it harming you or you being a burden.
To apply for LAS, you must have served between 15 and 19 years. I assume that the basic idea for this limited time period is that service members with at least this many years have had a great deal of experience and training that could still be very beneficial to the Air Force, so it is worth it to keep them on longer, even if they aren’t physically fit. Less than this: not as valuable. More than this: 20 years is already a full military career.
Marines: Disabled service members in the Marines may be able to stay on active duty by requesting Expanded Permanent Limited Duty (EPLD).
To be retained on EPLD, you must be able to still significantly contribute to the Marines. The Marines will only keep service members in certain MOSs, whatever is specifically needed at the time. There are no limitations for the amount of time the service member has already been on active duty.
Navy: Active duty may be retained in the Navy through Permanent Limited Duty (PLD).
Any service member can apply for PLD, regardless of how long they have served in the Navy.
You can be retained on active duty if:
– you have skills, specialities, etc., that are needed by the Navy
– you need to complete Navy-funded training programs
– you need to (and can) complete a tour of duty
– your specific medical conditions are needed for training purposes at medical facilities
– you have 18 years of active duty service and want to reach fleet reserve eligibility
To qualify for PLD, remaining on duty cannot possibly be a health risk to yourself or others.
Army: Service members can continue on active duty in the Army by applying for Continuation on Active Duty (COAD) or Continuation on Active Reserve (COAR).
All service members can apply for COAD/COAR, but the Army is most likely to keep members with between 15 and 20 years of active duty, who have an MOS that is in shortage or a critical skill, and whose disability is the result of combat or terrorism.
To qualify, remaining on active duty cannot be a health risk to yourself or others.