This board mandated by Congress to review disability ratings of wounded veterans is finally accepting applications after months of delays. The application form is now available at: http://www.dtic.mil/whs/directives/infomgt/forms/eforms/dd0294.pdf It must be signed and mailed to SAF/MRBR, 550-C Street West, Suite 41 Randolph AFB TX 78150-4743. Congress created the Physical Disability Board of Review PDBR) after investigations found inconsistencies in how the military assigns ratings. The board has been delayed since its creation in 2007. It wasn't until JUN 08 - months after the panel was to begin operating - that the Defense Department formally announced its creation. "Even at this late date, it is still good news to hear that the board is finally taking applications," Vanessa Williamson, the policy director at New York-based Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said. "But unless they are doing active outreach to troops and veterans, those with wrongly decided claims will not even know that recourse is available." The board posted its application on a Defense Department Web site last week after it was approved by the federal Office of Management and Budget. A wounded soldier's disability rating is based on the severity and long-term impact of a veteran's injury. A rating above 30% means a service member gets a monthly retirement check and care at military hospitals. Those rated below 30% get severance payments that are taxed. While they continue to get health care, it is provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs instead of the military. Their families, once covered by military health insurance, no longer receive government-provided health care. Retired Army Lt. Col. Mike Parker, an advocate for wounded soldiers, said the delay is a minor issue compared with other problems. Parker said the military often doesn't rate a veteran's most disabling condition and isn't using the Department of Veterans Affairs rating system. "The Defense Department has stated the PDBR can continue to rate service members with Defense Department and service created criteria that result in lower disability ratings," he said. "The problems that caused artificially low and illegal Defense Department disability ratings in the past will continue under the PDBR." By law, the PDBR will reassess whether an applicant's rating should be raised, possibly to 30% or higher, which would make the person eligible for lifetime military retired pay and TRICARE coverage for themselves and their dependent family members. In the process, the PDBR will: • Examine the applicant's disqualifying condition for their medical separation. • Ensure the action was fair and accurate. • Compare the DoD and Veterans' Affairs ratings. • Make a recommendation as to whether the rating should be changed. The Board cannot lower a veteran's current disability rating, and any positive change to the rating will result in the military records being corrected. The scope of the PDBR is very limited. The result of this is there may not be very many disability rating upgrades. For one thing, the PDBR can only look at the condition(s) originally deemed by the service as the reason for the member's unfitness to continue serving. It can't consider any medical conditions other than those that the parent service might have disregarded in developing the original disability rating. That is, if the member had several different conditions, but the service cited only one as the reason for discharge, the other conditions can't be considered in the PDBR deliberations. Further, a member who applies to the PDBR cannot subsequently ask their service Board of Correction of Military/Naval Records (BCMR/BCNR) to review the same issue of whether they should have received a higher rating for the same medical condition(s) that resulted in their separation. In contrast, an application to the service BCMR/BCNR permits consideration of all evidence submitted, including evidence that the service failed to give adequate consideration to other unfitting conditions in making the original rating. Eligible veterans should review the Frequently Ask Questions posted at: www.health.mil/Content//docs/PDBR%20faq.pdf to determine which board best suits their specific needs.