The #1 Secret to Crushing Your Medical Retention Review (MRR)

Army Peb
By: Joel Pettit • May 11, 2023

Just because you’re facing the Medical Retntion Review (MRR) process doesn’t mean that “MRR” should mean anything to you; it shouldn’t. The term you cannot afford to ignore, however, is Line of Duty Investigation (LODI). But when’s the last time you heard another Service member talk about having to get an LODI done to show that their injury was duty related? If you’re on active duty, the answer is likely never. Of course, there are those uncommon instances when Active-Duty Service members must have an injury investigated, but most Service members will go their entire career never knowing, let alone having first-hand experience, with a LODI. Sadly, this is also the case with the vast majority of Reservist Service members.

Why “sadly?” The answer is simple: because the DoD only considers Reservist Service members “on duty” when they are in a travel status to or from duty, in a drilling status, or on active-duty orders, they are not on duty most days. Yet, an LODI is required any time a Reservist Service member reports an injury on duty. This is spelled out in the SECNAVINST 1770 series. This standard is the polar-opposite for Active-Duty Service members; they rarely require LODI’s because the DoD considers them perpetually on duty so long as the injury/illness didn’t take place while absent without leave, was a result of the Service member’s own misconduct, or is suspected as existing prior to entering military service.

What does this functionally mean? If you’re a Reservist, you should be reporting every injury you suffer, no matter how slight, to your unit’s medical personnel as soon as possible. When I say “report,” I mean to take five minutes to write an email – personal or military – to your unit’s medical staff. Unless you break your arm in a SCIF, there’s no reason not to pull out your cell phone and write a quick email detailing the event that just happened. Why does this matter, you may ask? Because SECNAVINST 1770.5 not only explicitly states that a Service member’s command “will” conduct a LODI every time an injury is reported on duty, but also fails to add any qualification for how serious the injury need be. Therefore, technically, reporting a paper cut requires a LODI. This truly is 180 degrees from the standard placed on Active-Duty Commanders.

Ironically, this regulation is very rarely, if ever, followed. Most Reservist Service members, including unit leaders, are former Active-Duty. This is precisely why the Reservist population would never think of reporting anything less than a catastrophic injury to their medical personnel, just as they never did while they were on active duty. Of course, this is no excuse for units to ignore the regulations that are meant to protect Service members.

Unfortunately, there is a sinister hitch in the Navy’s Line of Duty regulatory construct when applied to Reservists: an LODI is totally meaningless – in terms of obtaining a medical retirement – unless Service members also obtain a Line of Duty Benefits letter (LOD-B). I can confidently say that fewer than 1% of my Reservist clients knew what an LOD-B was before speaking with me. An LOD-B can only be obtained after an LODI has been performed and the Service member was found to have been in the line of duty when injured, an existing injury was aggravated, or contracted the illness in question. Sounds easy, right? Very, very wrong. Having successfully obtained LOD-B’s for clients, I’ve seen the process last between 90 to 180 days. The 90-day timeline involved a very cooperative command that understood the dire situation my client was in. The 180-day timeline involved fighting with my client’s Squad Leader, Platoon Sergeant, and First Sergeant.

Why does all this matter? If you’re a Reservist who is perpetually placed into the Medical Retention Review (MRR) process, only to receive a letter from Navy Medical (BUMED) explaining that you are recommended for retention but with restrictions, it is only a matter of time before those restrictions will result in you not being recommended for retention. Once this happens and you are referred to a Physical Evaluation Board, you can no longer obtain an LOD-B until your case is adjudicated. Sadly, it is virtually impossible for Reservists to be medically retired via the Navy PEB without an LOD-B. Hence, once the PEB finds a Reservist “Not Physically Qualified,” that member will be separated within 30 to 60 days; that means that Reservists will be separated long before their LOD-B gets adjudicated, even if they file it the day after the MRR case is finalized.  

Still, not all hope is lost. If you find yourself faced with a difficult command structure that cannot or will not abide by the rules and regulations meant to protect all Service members, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Joel Pettit Law. Many attorneys believe that assertive, blunt, singularly focused advocacy always wins. At Joel Pettit Law, we are not a myopic firm where one size fits all. We have many tools at our disposal to assist with your case. The key is choosing the right one; after all, why use a sledgehammer when a scalpel will do? Contact Joel Pettit Law to discuss your case and ensure you’re using the right tool for the job.

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