The individual responsible for counseling soldiers referred into the PDES with a MEB is the Military Treatment Facility (Reynold Army Health Clinic) Physical Evaluation Board Liaison Officer (PEBLO). The PEBLO counsels the soldier on MEB/PEB findings and related rights and benefits. If the MTF determines that the soldier is not mentally competent, the PEBLO counsels the designated next-of-kin.
The standard for determining fitness is whether the medical condition precludes the soldier from reasonably performing the duties of his or her office, grade, rank, or rating.
- Worldwide deployability: Inability to perform the duties of office, grade, rank or rating in every geographic location and under every conceivable circumstance will not be the sole basis for a finding of unfitness. Deployability is a primary consideration in determining fitness.
- Performance-based: The PDES relies heavily on the performance data provided by the soldier's immediate commander. Variance in case findings is often the result of inadequate information being provided relative to the soldier's duty performance.
Presumption of Fitness
When a soldier is referred for physical disability evaluation after having applied for length of service retirement, or an officer is within twelve months of mandatory retirement, or an enlisted soldier is within 12 months of his or her retention control point with retirement eligibility, the soldier enters the disability system under the presumption that he or she is physically fit. This is known as the Presumption of Fitness Rule. (This rule is not applied to RC cases referred under the non-duty related process described at paragraph 2c(5) above.)
Overcoming the presumption
- Philosophy: The soldier is presumed fit because he or she has continued to perform military duty up to the point of retirement for reasons other than physical disability. Disability retired pay is to compensate a soldier whose career is terminated solely for reasons of disability.
- History: The presumption rule originated as DoD policy in 1973 as a result of Congressional dissatisfaction with general ranked officers and medical officers retiring for physical disability when they were eligible for length of service retirement.
Application of the Presumption of Fitness Rule does not mandate a finding of fit. It is a rebuttal presumption that is overcome if the preponderance of evidence establishes the circumstances described below per DOD Instruction 1332.38.
- Acute, grave illness or injury: Within the presumptive period an acute, grave illness or injury occurs that would prevent the member from performing further duty if he or she were not retiring; or
- Deterioration of a chronic condition: Within the presumptive period a serious deterioration of a previously diagnosed condition, to include a chronic condition, occurs and the deterioration would preclude further duty if the member were not retiring; or
- Inadequate duty performance: The condition for which the member is referred is a chronic condition, and a preponderance of evidence establishes that the member was not performing duties befitting his or her experience in the office, grade, rank, or rating before entering the presumptive period.
Once a determination of physical unfitness is made, the VA will render a disability rating.