The #1 Thing Harming Reservists in the MRR – The Process

NAVY Medical Retention Review (MRR) PEB MEB Overview
By: Joel Pettit • July 3, 2023

What Navy and Marine Reservists are Facing in the MRR

Imagine you’re going through an administrative process that could end your military career, with no option for retirement, and the regulation explaining your right to appeal the decision and request a hearing advises military leaders to do the following: “. . . members who inquire relative to the advisability of requesting a hearing should be so advised and discouraged from requesting a hearing due to the time and expense involved.” MILPERSMAN 1910-168. In a word, despicable!

For most Sailors and Marines, the phrase “Medical Retention Review” (MRR) carries little to no meaning. Why? Barring a catastrophic injury, the idea of not being able to physically carry out the duties of your MOS or rate is simply not on the minds of most Service members. Strength, resilience, self-reliance, and grit define the culture throughout the US Armed Forces. It is, therefore, no surprise that none of my clients ever heard of the MRR process before finding themselves at its mercy. Once trapped, however, every client was amazed and horrified at the number of Department of Defense Instructions and Navy regulations they needed to digest to gain a rudimentary understanding of the process in which they were involved.

In this post, I will break down and present the MRR process pictorially and in bullet-point format. Although there are thousands of nuances in every legal or administrative proceeding, I will focus on building a foundation of understanding that will enable Service members to appreciate the process they’re in. Understanding the playing field easily has the biggest impact on my clients’ cases.

Seeing the Big Picture

Chapter 5.i. in the Navy’s Reserve Personnel Manual (RESPERSMAN) 6000-010 outlines the entire Medical Retention Review (MRR) process. The extraordinary number of acronyms the Navy uses to describe the MRR process makes reading about it impossible without referencing no fewer than 10 other DoD or Navy instructions, manuals, or memos. I will, therefore, attempt to clarify the process and let you, the reader, decide whether you’d like to do some extra heavy bedtime reading by tackling every cited regulation. That said, below is a wire diagram showing the flow of the MRR process.

Medical Retention Review (mrr) Flowchart

As you can see, the process is quite simple, in theory. What complicates matters is usually the lack of communication among command personnel, medical practitioners, and Service members. But why is communication about such a simple process so difficult: because virtually no one understands the entire process. My clients consistently tell me they reached out to medical and unit personnel to inquire about the MRR process, but no one could tell them what to expect. Sadly, having the above wire diagram readily available would make everyone’s lives exponentially easier. There are still others who’d like a bit more depth without simply being handed all the regulations. That being the case, the next section contains a detailed step-by-step explanation.

Know Each Step

Step 1: An MRR package must be initiated when a Service member’s unit Medical Department Representative (MDR) determines that a Service member has developed a new or had a change in an existing medical condition (>180 days) and will preclude the member from satisfactory performance and safely participating in a physical fitness test. Although there is no rule explicitly stating that the Service member will be notified at this stage, the Service member is normally informed so he or she can assist with gathering medical documentation and also comply with the requirements of the next step in the process.

Step 2: The MDR has 60 days to collect all medical documents relating to the MRR. Importantly, Service members in an MRR status must submit medical documentation within 30 days of a medical appointment (which they couldn’t do unless they were notified of their referral into the MRR), or risk being administratively separated for unsatisfactory participation in the Ready Reserve per Military Personnel Manual (MILPERSMAN) 1910-158.

Step 3: After the MRR package is complete, the MDR will forward it to Navy Medical Readiness Training Command (Echelon IV) for review, quality assurance, and endorsement by the Director, Warfighting Assessment and Readiness (N9). The Director’s endorsement will come in the form of one of 4 Physical Risk Classifications (PRC):

  • Physically Qualified (PQ): Unrestricted duty.
  • Physically Qualified with Potentially Limiting Conditions (PQ-MOB): Physically qualified but may have conditions that limit deployment/mobilization and may require a waiver. Members in this category, most likely, will not require a MRR periodic resubmission.
  • Not Physically Qualified/Retention Recommended (NPQ/RR): Approval for activation in CONUS fewer than 30 days is at the CO/OIC’s discretion, with MDR input. More than 30 days in CONUS assignment requires an AOR waiver from the gaining COCOM Surgeon. AOR waiver approval for OCONUS orders fewer than 30 days is at the discretion of the Reserve Force Surgeon. AOR waiver approval for OCONUS orders greater than 30 days is at the discretion of COCOM Surgeon. AFRICOM waivers require COCOM Surgeon approval, regardless of the length of assignment. PERS message will specify administrative requirements, restrictions, and future submission requirements.
  • Not Physically Qualified/Retention Not Recommended (NPQ/RNR): Member may complete correspondence courses only. The member will be assigned an administrative Manpower Availability Status (MAS) code.

More information about PQ, NPQ/RR, NPQ/RNR determinations can be found in MILPERSMAN 6110-020.

Step 4: BUMED will review the MRR package, then determine the physical qualification status according to the regulation concerning the Service member’s satisfactory participation in the Navy Reserve. RESPERSMAN 1001-010.

Step 5: PERS-953 adjudicates MRR cases (essentially administratively finalizing the package) based on BUMED’s recommendation and notifies the Service member of his or her right to select one of the following options:

  • Administrative discharge
  • Transfer to the retired reserve (if eligible)
  • Appellate review by the Physical Evaluation Board
  • Request LOD-B for DES within 30 days of receipt of their notification letter

The form letter used to elect one of the three first options can be found in MILPERSMAN 1910-168.

Step 6: The Service member makes a written election from one of the four options.

Step 7: Once the Service member’s election plays out (PEB review or LOD-B for DES), the member’s Reserve Command undertakes the corresponding administrative processing to transition the Service member out of the Navy.

Step 8: The Service member officially separates from the Navy Reserve.

How to Use this Information

It’s apparent there are a lot of moving parts, units, and people involved in the MRR process. Although communication among them is crucial, it seldom occurs efficiently or effectively without the Service member taking an active role. This is precisely why Service members would be wise to question the motives of anyone who advises him or her to ‘trust the process.’ Service members should trust the process, in that the rules set forth in regulations are accurate and correct. In terms of individuals having the Service member’s best interests in mind when gathering information, adjudicating cases, or processing paperwork, Service members shouldn’t trust anyone further than they can throw them.

Knowing the steps in the MRR process, however, gives Service members the opportunity to understand how their current decisions can affect the process going forward. For instance, knowing the difference in the PRC’s may dictate how worried a Service member should be about their current medical condition and what they may want to discuss with their physician to achieve a PRC that won’t require facing a Physical Evaluation Board. Simply knowing a process will never be enough to smartly navigate the nuances of its operations. Notwithstanding, understanding each step and where it lies in the greater scheme is the foundation for achieving the skillful navigation required.

What’s Next

Part 2 of this series, The Navy’s Medical Retention Review, will discuss the four options Service members have once they receive their MRR results. This vital decision will determine in which direction your MRR goes. There are many factors to weigh and scenarios to understand before an option should be selected.

At Joel Pettit Law, we are intimately familiar with not only the MRR process, but also the complex nuances of the election of options. Further, the PEB process, and the way it intersects with the LOD-B for DES, is something we’ve assisted several clients successfully navigate. If you are facing any of these issues, please don’t hesitate to contact Joel Pettit Law to discuss your case.

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