Disability Appeals

Avenues of Review for Physical Disability Ratings

The Army Review Boards Agency (ARBA) has several Boards which may be able to grant you a disability separation or retirement, or change the disability percentage the Army gave you.

  • Army Board for Correction of Military Records (10 U.S.C. 1552)
  • Army Physical Disability Review Board (10 U.S.C. 1554)
  • Army Disability Rating Review Board (AR 635-40, Chapter 4)

The Army Board for Correction of Military Records (ABCMR)

The ABCMR is the highest level of administrative review in the Army and exists to correct errors or remove injustices from a Soldier's military records. In other words, the Board may consider granting your request for a disability separation or retirement, or a change to your disability rating, if an error exists in your record or as a matter of fairness (equity) even if an error does not exist.

However, an award of a higher Veterans Affairs (VA) rating does not establish error or injustice in the Army rating. The Army rates only conditions determined to be physically unfitting at the time of discharge which disqualify the Soldier from further military service. The Army disability rating is to compensate the individual for the loss of a military career. The VA does not have authority or responsibility for determining physical fitness for military service. The VA awards disability ratings to veterans for service-connected conditions, including those conditions detected after discharge, to compensate the individual for loss of civilian employability. As a result, these two Government agencies may arrive at different disability ratings based on the same impairment. Unlike the Army, the VA can evaluate a veteran throughout his or her lifetime, adjusting the percentage of disability based upon that agency's examinations and findings.

To learn more and for application procedures, visit the ABCMR page on this site or link to it by clicking here: http://arba.army.pentagon.mil/abcmr-overview.html

The Army Physical Disability Review Board (APDRB)

If you are a member or former member of the Army who was separated or retired from active duty within the past 15 years with a physical disability separation without pay for physical disability, you may be eligible to apply to this Board. The APDRB reviews decisions made by a prior board. It has the same powers as the Board (retiring Board, medical Board, other disposition Board) that originally reviewed but denied your disability claim upon separation or retirement.

About the APDRB:

  • You may appear before the APDRB in person or with counsel provided at your expense. An accredited representative of an organization recognized by the Veterans Administration under Chapter 59 of Title 38, United States Code, may also appear on your behalf.
  • The Board will consider your Army records along with any evidence you present to the Board.
  • Witnesses may present evidence to the Board in person or by affidavit.
  • The Board consists of five Army officers, two of whom must be from the Army Medical Corps.
  • You must submit your request for review within 15 years of the date of your retirement or separation.

How to Apply to the APDRB:

  • Submit a letter requesting a review to the APDRB to:
  • Army Review Boards Agency
  • 251 18th Street South, Suite 385
  • Arlington, VA 22202-3531

Include in the letter your full name, rank, social security number, and your contact information. Also state the reasons why you believe the Army should have granted you a disability separation or retirement. Include as attachments to your letter:

  • A copy of your DD-214
  • Any evidence (to include medical records) you wish the Board to consider
  • Contact information for your representative (if any) and any witnesses you desire to call.
Once this information is received, a representative of the APDRB will contact you to establish a Board date.

The Army Disability Rating Review Board (ADRRB)

If you were retired with a disability rating, the ADRRB may consider your request to review the percentage of your rated disability. This Board is established by Army regulation.

Who can apply to the ADRRB:

If you are a Soldier with a fully executed retirement order and seek higher disability percentage, you may apply if the reason is:

  • Your original retirement order was based on fraud or a mistake of law;
  • You were not granted a full and fair hearing when you made a timely demand for such a hearing; or
  • You have substantial new evidence which, by due diligence, could not have been presented before the retirement decision and which would have warranted a higher percentage of disability.

About the ADRRB:

  • You, your legal representative, or any informed Army authority may ask the Board to grant relief;
  • You are not entitled to a personal appearance before the Board;
  • Your request for relief must be filed within 5 years from the effective date of your retirement;
  • The ADRRB will consider your Army records and any information or evidence you submit in reviewing the case.

How to Apply to the ADRRB:

  • Submit a letter requesting a review to the APDRB to:
  • Army Review Boards Agency
  • 251 18th Street South, Suite 385
  • Arlington, VA 22202-3531

No special form for the letter is required. However, you should include the Soldier's full name, rank, social security number, and your contact information. Also state the reasons for requesting relief and the relief desired. Provide as an enclosure any evidence you wish the Board to consider.

Facts, Questions, and Answers

Can the Army Discharge Review Board (ADRB) grant me a disability separation or retirement?

The short answer is the ADRB may not change your discharge for nondisability reasons to a disability separation or retirement. If you received a disability separation or retirement from the Army, the ADRB may not change your disability percentage to increase your separation pay or make you eligible for a disability retirement.

However, if you were administratively separated with less than an honorable discharge or received a Bad Conduct Discharge at a Special Court-Martial, it may be to your benefit to request ADRB review of your discharge before requesting review from the ABCMR.

The ADRB has the authority to change the reason for your discharge (e.g. from misconduct to Secretarial Authority) and your service characterization (e.g. Under Other than Honorable Conditions to Honorable). The ADRB could consider your disability in determining, as a matter of fairness, whether to grant a change to the reason for separation or upgrade your service characterization. If the ADRB granted either form of relief, you may be better positioned before the ABCMR in requesting your discharge be changed to a disability separation or retirement. Further information about this ADRB is available by clicking on this link: http://arba.army.pentagon.mil/adrb-overview.html

Changes Related to Disability Ratings

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2008 (Pub. L. 110-181) changed the way that the Department of Defense (DoD) rates certain medical conditions, by requiring it to apply the Department of Veterans' Affairs Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD). Prior to the NDAA's enactment, DoD's disability rating guidelines relating to pain, decreased range of motion, and certain other issues differed from the VASRD. More Soldiers and Veterans are now eligible for placement on the Temporary Disability Retirement List (TDRL) and permanent disability retirement, instead of medical separations with severance pay.

Application of the New Law

Although the NDAA did not become effective until January 28, 2008, the Physical Disability Board of Review (PDBR) will apply the VASRD'as it existed at the time of the applicant's discharge (which may differ from the most current version)'in all cases in which the applicant was discharged between September 11, 2001 and December 31, 2009, with an overall disability rating of 20% or less.

The Secretary of Defense also directed, as a matter of policy, that the PDBR and ABCMR will apply VASRD section 4.129 to PTSD unfitting conditions for applicants discharged on or after September 11, 2001. This means that a Soldier who was separated on or after September 11, 2001, at least in part due to PTSD, is entitled to placement on the Temporary Disability Retirement List (TDRL) for six months with a disability rating of 50%, although that rating is subject to re-evaluation at the end of that six-month period.

Although not required by law, the ABCMR will consider the VASRD as it existed at the time of the applicant's discharge in all cases in which the applicant was discharged on or after September 11, 2001. This approach is adopted as a matter of policy and equity.

What Does This Mean to Me?

If you were discharged on or after September 11, 2001, and your PEB relied upon DoD or Army guidelines that conflicted with the VASRD, you may be entitled to a higher disability rating and possibly medical retirement. If you believe you are entitled to a higher disability rating, you may apply to the ABCMR or the PDBR. The PDBR website has information on PDBR eligibility and the differences between the two Boards. https://health.mil/Military-Health-Topics/Conditions-and-Treatments/Physical -Disability/Disability-Evaluation/Physical-Disability-Board-of-Review