Many people contact the GI rights Hotline with questions about disability discharges and the IDES (Integrated Disability Evaluation System) through which people with potential disabling conditions are evaluated. People can call GI Rights counselors to discuss issues related to disability discharges.
A physical or psychological condition that interferes significantly with an individual’s fitness for duty can be grounds for discharge. Each Service’s disability evaluation system will determine if a servicemember is unfit for duty due to physical disability.
Not all medical problems amount to a disability. There is a separate category of administrative discharges, ODPMC (Other Designated Physical and Mental Conditions) which covers issues that can make someone unfit for servcie even though they are not recognized as a disability. Examples of non disability conditions include bedwetting, seasickness, and mild depression.
Processing for a disability discharge is initiated by a military doctor who, after medical evaluation refers 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 unnofficially take steps to get the official process going.
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 can also be 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.