Understanding Military Medical Separation

Military medical separation, or medical discharge, occurs when a member of the military is released from their service obligation due to a medical condition or disability that impairs their ability to perform their military duties. The process is initiated when a service member’s medical condition is determined to be severe enough to prevent them from effectively carrying out their responsibilities in the armed forces.

Qualifying for Military Medical Separation or Retirement

To determine if you qualify for military medical separation or retirement, the following are taken into consideration:

  • Medical Evaluation: A military physician or medical board assesses the service member’s medical condition and its impact on their ability to perform their duties. 
  • Severity of Condition: To qualify for a medical separation, the medical condition must be severe enough to hinder the service member’s military performance. 
  • Medical Board: In many cases, a medical board or panel is convened to review the medical evidence, including medical records, examinations, and opinions from healthcare providers. 
  • Types of Discharge: Depending on the medical board’s findings, a service member may be medically separated and discharged in various ways.
  • Medical Discharge: This is an honorable discharge due to a medical condition. 
  • Benefits: The benefits a service member receives upon medical separation depend on factors such as the nature and severity of their condition, length of service, and the policies of their branch of the military. 
  • Transition Assistance: Service members who are medically separated typically receive transition assistance to help them adjust to civilian life. This may include job placement assistance, education benefits, and other resources to facilitate the transition. 
  • Appeals: In cases where a service member disagrees with the medical board’s decision, there may be opportunities for appeals through a formal process. 

If you believe you have been wrongfully ordered into military medical separation or retirement, the experienced team of military law attorneys at the Federal Practice Group can help.

Military Medical Separation vs Military Medical Retirement

In cases of more severe and disabling conditions, you may be deemed medically retired. Understanding the difference is important, as retirement offers benefits and access to healthcare. 

Purpose & Eligibility

Military Medical Separation 

  • Purpose: Military medical separation is the process of separating a service member from the military due to medical conditions that make them unfit for continued service but not severe enough to qualify for retirement. 
  • Eligibility: Service members may be medically separated if they have medical conditions that prevent them from performing their duties, and these conditions are not deemed service-connected or career-ending.

Military Medical Retirement

  • Purpose: Military medical retirement is a process for service members who have medical conditions or disabilities that are deemed to be service-connected and severe enough to warrant retirement from the military. It is a form of compensation and recognition for the sacrifices made during military service. 
  • Eligibility: To be eligible for medical retirement, a service member must have a medical condition related to their military service that prevents them from performing their duties. The condition must be permanent or long-term. 

Compensation and Benefits

Military Medical Separation

Service members who are medically separated typically receive a severance payment if eligible. The amount of severance pay is based on factors such as length of service and the reason for separation. If their conditions are service-connected, they may also be eligible for some VA (Department of Veterans Affairs) benefits. 

Military Medical Retirement

Service members who are medically retired receive a retirement pension based on their length of service and disability rating, which is determined by the severity of their service-connected medical conditions. They are also eligible for full military retirement benefits, including access to Tricare healthcare, commissary and exchange privileges, and other retirement benefits. 

Process and Documentation

Military Medical Separation

The medical separation process involves a medical evaluation board (MEB) and a physical evaluation board (PEB). These boards assess the service member’s medical condition, determine their fitness for continued service, and recommend whether they should be separated. The service member may receive a severance payment if the recommendation is separated. 

Military Medical Retirement

The medical retirement process also involves an MEB and a PEB, but the focus is on determining the service connection between the medical conditions and the level of disability. A disability rating is assigned, and if it is high enough, the service member is considered for medical retirement with retirement benefits. 

Military Law Attorneys You Can Trust

The military law attorneys at the Federal Practice Group are well-versed in military medical separation and retirement casesAs active and retired military personnel, we work hard to protect your rightsIf you have been forced into military medical separation or retirement, consulting with an experienced military law attorney is important

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Frequently Asked Questions

It is suggested you seek an attorney the moment you are notified of possible disciplinary action. There is a wide range of disciplinary action a service member might face, and the consequences of those actions vary greatly. A military law attorney can discuss the possible consequences, and how best to proceed in your particular case.  

Service members have the right to always remain silent. This right is listed in Article 31(b) of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The natural inclination is to explain why you are not guilty of the allegation. However, the military will always try to use the statement against the service member. For this reason, we always advise clients to exercise their right to remain silent under Article 31(b). The military cannot use your right to remain silent against you.  

You always have the right to consult with an attorney. Depending of the type of investigation or disciplinary action, you may also have the right to have an attorney present with you. It is best to discuss your particular situation with a military law attorney to understand if that right applies to you. 

Yes, each one of the branches has a Court of Criminal Appeals. If you receive either a punitive discharge or in excess of 1 year of confinement, you have the right to an automatic appeal. Just like at the Court-Martial, you will have be detailed a military appellate defense counsel.  

Yes, most service members will be entitled to either an administrative separation board (or, if an officer, a Board of Inquiry). Each branch requires the service member to have been in a certain number of years before they can request to appear before a Board. If you are entitled to a Board, you will have the right to appear with a defense counsel, and present a defense before three Board members. 

 It depends on what the legal issue, and how you are able to challenge the legal issue. The military law attorneys at FPG have represented service members at trial that resulted in a not-guilty verdict. These clients were able to continue their military career as though the Court-Martial never happened.

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