A physical or psychological condition that interferes significantly with an individual’s fitness for duty is grounds for discharge. Each Service’s disability evaluation system will determine if a servicemember is unfit for duty due to physical disability. Smaller medical problems may lead to an involuntary discharge such as Other Designated Physical And Mental Conditions.
Processing for a disability discharge must be initiated by a military doctor who, after an initial medical evaluation, can begin processing the member for consideration by the disability evaluation system. The disability evaluation system is composed of a series of medical boards. With conditions such as missing limbs or blindness, a member is obviously unfit for duty due to physical disability and a military doctor usually initiates the necessary procedures. However, not everyone who qualifies for a medical discharge has such obvious medical problems and a servicemember must sometimes take action to initiate the process.
A condition, or series of conditions, may lead to a determination of unfitness due to physical disability if it reduces or prevents an individual’s actual or presumed ability to perform military duties. Criteria for determining a member’s ability to perform his or her duties include:
- Whether the condition represents a decided medical risk to the health of the member or to the welfare of other members….
- Whether the medical condition imposes unreasonable requirements on the military to maintain or protect the member….
- What established duties the member must perform during any remaining period of reserve obligation.
Although military regulations list various physical defects which normally make a person unfit for military duty, [a]ny condition that appears to significantly interfere with performance of duties appropriate to a servicemember’s office, grade, rank, or rating will be considered for referral to the disability evaluation system.
A servicemember is ineligible for physical disability evaluation when the member’s condition is a developmental or constitutional disorder not constituting a physical disability. A servicemember is also ineligible for physical disability evaluation when the member is:
- pending an approved, unsuspended, punitive discharge or dismissal;
- pending separation under provisions that authorize a characterization of service of Under Other Than Honorable.
However, [w]hen the medical impairment or extenuating circumstances may be the cause of the conduct that lead to the above discharges, members should normally be referred to the disability evaluation system.