Unfit for Duty

Topics:

Unfit for Duty
Multiple Conditions
How Conditions are Judged Unfitting
Conditions That Are Unfitting But Not Ratable

Unfit for Duty

Unfit for Duty

The DoD will only give Military Disability Ratings, and thus Military Disability Benefits, for conditions that make a service member Unfit for Duty.

Unfit for Duty means that the service member is unable to perform the duties of their office, grade or rank, including, but not limited to:

  • perform their job requirements
  • fulfill their military responsibilities
  • meet their physical fitness requirements
  • be deployed
  • wear their equipment and gear
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Multiple Conditions

If a service member has multiple conditions, each one must be unfitting in and of itself in order to be rated. To determine this, each condition is looked at as though it were the only condition the service member has. All by itself, does it still make them Unfit for Duty? If yes, then it is ratable. If no, then it is not.

There is an exception to this rule: If the service member has multiple conditions, and none of them are unfitting by themselves, but all together they make them Unfit for Duty, then they all are collectively considered unfitting, and thus can all be rated.

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How Conditions are Judged Unfitting

The Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES) begins when a service member develops a condition that their physician feels could make them Unfit for Duty. The physician then refers them to the Medical Evaluation Board (MEB).

The MEB first reviews all of the service member’s conditions and determines which of them are medically acceptable/unacceptable. Medically unacceptable conditions are ones that do not meet the branch’s standards of fitness. All medically unacceptable conditions are then forwarded to the Physical Evaluation Board (PEB).

The PEB then reviews the service member’s conditions and determines which, if any, make them Unfit for Duty. The PEB relies heavily on the medical acceptability determinations of the MEB, but it is not unusual to have the PEB’s decisions contrast with the MEB’s decisions. This is because the MEB only looks at the condition and the standards of fitness, while the PEB looks at how the condition actually affects the service member’s ability to do their job.

For example, let’s say that there are two service members with the exact same condition: amputation of the thumb. One service member is a cannon crewman, and the other is an intelligence analyst. The amputation of the thumb will always be judged by the MEB as medically unacceptable since it does not meet the standards of fitness. For the cannon crewman, the PEB will most likely judge the condition unfitting since it would be very difficult for them to perform their job. For the intelligence analyst, however, the PEB could judge their condition fitting since they could still perform many of their job requirements.

Note: It is standard practice for the military to keep a service member that does not meet the standards of fitness on active duty if they can perform their job requirements AND can still contribute to the mission.

To determine if the service member’s conditions make them Unfit for Duty, the PEB looks at all the pertinent evidence that is submitted to them. The most important evidence for the PEB is medical records and the statement from the service member’s commander on their ability to perform their duties.

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Conditions That Are Unfitting But Not Ratable

A judgment of unfitting is not the end-all-be-all. While this is an essential rule for DoD Disability, it does not pre-empt all the other rules about conditions that are and are not eligible to receive a Military Disability Rating.

All EPTS conditions and the conditions on our Conditions That Are Not Ratable page are still not ratable, even if they make the service member Unfit for Duty.

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FAQs

What is Unfit for Duty?

Unfit for Duty means that the service member is unable to perform the duties of their office, grade, or rank because of a medical condition. For DoD Disability, all conditions must make the service member Unfit for Duty in order to qualify.

Do my conditions make me Unfit for Duty?

If the condition makes you unable to perform your military duties, then it could make you Unfit for Duty. The PEB will look at the standards of fitness as well as the specific responsibilities of your current position to determine whether or not the condition is unfitting in your case.

Why does Unfit for Duty matter?

Disability is intended to compensate veterans for their decreased ability to work because of their medical conditions. If a condition does not make a service member Unfit for Duty, then the service member is capable of working and continuing their service.

Is Medically Unacceptable the same as Unfit for Duty?

No. Medically unacceptable conditions are ones that do not meet the branch's standards of fitness, however, that does not mean that the service member is Unfit for Duty. Depending on the service member's MOS, they may be able to still fulfill their duties despite their conditions. Ultimately, it is up to the PEB whether a condition is unfitting or not.

How do I prove my conditions are unfitting?

In addition to medical records that fully detail the conditions, symptoms, and limitations, submit a letter from your commander specifying exactly how your conditions make you unable to perform your job duties.

If I qualify for DoD disability, what benefits will I receive?

If the MEB and PEB both determine that your conditions are unfitting, you will either be medically separated or medically retired, depending on your disability rating. If you are medically separated, you will receive a one-time payment. If you are medically retired, you will receive a monthly payment as well as all other retirement benefits. You will also qualify to receive disability benefits from the VA.

Can conditions that existed prior to service be unfitting?

Yes. If your condition existed prior to service (EPTS), then it could have been fitting when you first joined, but then worsened over time, eventually becoming unfitting.

How long does it take to receive my disability benefits?

You will begin receiving your benefits from the DoD within 2 months of separation.