TDRL Reexaminations: A Common Mistake that Leads to Disastrous Results

Temporary Disability Retirement List TDRL Reexaminations and Physical Evaluation Boards for Military
By: Joel Pettit • May 11, 2023

Every temporarily retired Service member on the TDRL must undergo a medical reexamination prior to the PEB conducting a TDRL Informal Physical Evaluation Board (IPEB). DoDI 1332.18, citing 10 U.S.C. Chapter 61, explains that every Service member on the TDRL must be reexamined at least once every 18 months to determine where there has been a change in the disability for which the Service member was temporarily retired. Service members temporarily retired for mental health issues, the TDRL reexamination must take place no sooner than 90, but not later than 6 months, after leaving active duty. 

Now that we know the ‘why’ and ‘when’, what about the how? This is where things can get very tricky. The Military Departments generally coordinate with the closest military treatment facility (MTF) to ensure Service members won’t be required to travel unreasonable distances for their reexamination. That said, I have had TDRL clients who complained about having to drive 4 hours to a TDRL reexamination. In these exceedingly rare cases, it was solely due to the Service member living in such a rural locale that there was no other option. Still, Service members should be aware of the potential locations for their TDRL reexaminations upon relocating after leaving active duty.  

Logistics aside, the lion’s share of every Service member scheduled to attend their TDRL reexamination should be on their medical documentation. DoDI 1332.18 clearly states that each Military Department will obtain and consider medical treatment documentation from the following sources:

. . . DoD medical treatment documentation, VA or veteran-provided medical treatment documentation or the disability examination that occurred within 16 months of the member being placed on the TDRL, and rating documentation.

As you can see, “or” and “and” are placed very strangely. Their placement can easily be interpreted to create many different buckets of evidence the Military Department must obtain and review. Although the drafting here leaves much to be desired, the good news is that Service members usually benefit from cautious PEB administrators who will simply ensure they obtain all medical documentation possible pertaining to every TDRL case. In my experience, this is not the sticking point for most members.

A common pain-point, however, is whether the records are reviewed before, during, or after the TDRL reexamination, if ever. I have had many clients who arrive at their reexamination with food journals, VA medical records, or civilian medical records only to leave with those same records. Why? It would not be wrong to place some blame on the TDRL examiner for not asking for and reviewing the records, seeing as there’s a high likelihood every TDRL Service member has records to offer. Still, TDRL Service members must remember that to “obtain” records, Military Departments must receive them. Hence, although there’s no legal duty, there is a bit of reliance Military Departments place on the Service members to supply civilian medical treatment records to the TDRL examiner. My advice, therefore, to Service members attending their TDRL reexamination is to bring all the medical treatment records they can, secured in a binder or cost-effective folder, and to hold the records in their hands, if possible. Too many clients have forgotten their records in a backpack, purse, or shoulder bag, not a few feet away from the TDRL examiner. “Out of sight, out of mind.”

I know, I know; this is the least mind-blowing, insightful advice you’ve ever heard. I would have thought so too, until I was selected for the Navy’s Formal Physical Evaluation Board (FPEB), TDRL Unit in 2021. I was inundated with TDRL clients who all seemingly forgot to give their records to the TDRL examiners. At first thought these were just excuses, until I saw the “created on” date on the medial treatment files. I was shocked at how many were two or three days prior to the Service member’s TDRL reexamination date. There are, of course, many other issues on which to focus when considering TDRL reexaminations. But the fact remains that the strongest evidence during a Physical Evaluation Board – on paper or in a hearing – is the medical treatment evidence created by a disinterested third party.

If you are a Service member on the TDRL, facing an upcoming reexamination, and you are uncertain about what to do to give yourself the best chance of converting your TDRL status to PDRL, please contact Joel Pettit Law. We have helped dozens of Service members in the exact same position prepare for, and successfully undergo their TDRL reexamination, avoiding needless TDRL FPEB hearings and potential post-FPEB appeals. Our TDRL Advisory practice is built specifically to help guide you through these difficult situations. Contact Joel Pettit Law to discuss your case and the TDRL issues that may be standing in the way of moving forward with your life.

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