When serving in uniform, some military members get injured or sick and require extended care. In times like these, military medicine’s first priority is to return the service member to a level of health that allows them to return to duty.
And while that care is happening, further medical evaluations may be required to determine IF that is possible.
This happens under something called the Disability Evaluation System (DES). DES was created to make consistent evaluations on medical issues. Some patients cannot return to duty. They may be placed on a permanently disabled retirement list or they may be assigned to something called the Temporary Disability Retired List (TDRL).
No matter which list a servicemember winds up on, they are considered retired military. That is an important distinction because those who do not retire are considered separated and are therefore not eligible to draw military retirement benefits.
Those on the Temporary Disability Retired List (TDRL) are entitled to the same benefits as someone who “got their 20” or served for 20 years or more and applied for military retirement.
There is one caveat–those on the TDRL have conditions that are not necessarily “permanent” and re-evaluation of the condition may result in one of two things:
- Being declared no longer disabled
- Having status changed to indicate a permanent disability
Temporary Disability Retired List Rules
The Defense Finance Accounting Service (DFAS) official site describes the type of retirement pay offered to those on TDRL.
Retirement pay calculations are subject to change due to legislation, program changes, or other variables–you will need to consult your base Finance office or unit orderly room to learn what the most current retirement pay calculations are and how they apply to TDRL.
Those who are found unfit to perform duty because of a disability that may not be permanent will draw retirement pay while they are on TDRL, computed one of two ways:
- The percent of the disability starting with a 50 percent rating also known as “Method A”
- The total number of active service years, also known as “Method B”
This retirement pay is computed “based on whichever is more beneficial for you,” according to DFAS.
While on the TDRL, there must be a new physical examination once every 18 months, minimum. Those who do not meet this requirement will be removed from the Temporary Disability Retired List until the required exam is performed.
TDRL: How Long?
How long can a service member draw retirement pay while on TDRL? It depends on when you were placed on the list. Those who were added before 2017 have a maximum of five years assuming the condition does not improve over time.
Those who were placed on the list after Jan. 1, 2017 have three years on the list, again assuming the condition does not improve.
DFAS advises, “If your disability stabilizes and is rated at 30 percent or greater, you will be transferred to the Permanent Disability Retired List (PDRL).”
In cases where the disability “stabilizes and is rated at less than 30 percent” and the patient does not have 20 years of service, the servicemember is discharged from the TDRL with severance pay.”
TDRL Severance Pay
In cases where the military member is discharged with severance pay, that pay is calculated in one of several ways. The basic formula is computed by multiplying years of active service (not more than 12) by the highest one of the following, according to DFAS:
- Twice the amount of monthly basic pay while on active duty on the date of removal from the TDRL “and in the grade or rank in which serving on the date of transfer” to TDRL status.
- Twice the amount of monthly basic pay when placed on the TDRL or on the date of separation.
- Twice the amount of monthly basic pay when placed on TDRL or on the date of separation, if not carried on TDRL. This rate of pay is for the “permanent Regular or Reserve” grade “to which the member would have been promoted had it not been for the physical disability for which the member was separated and which was found on physical examination for promotion.”
- Twice the amount of monthly basic pay when placed on TDRL or on the date of separation, if not carried on TDRL for the “temporary grade or rank to which the member would have been promoted had it not been for the physical disability for which the member was separated and which was found on physical examination for promotion” in cases where promotion eligibility was required “to be based on cumulative years of service or years in grade.”
The regulation that governs this retirement pay issue also includes the following caveat:
“To compute the years of active service multiplier, count a part of a year of active service that is 6 months or more as a whole year, and disregard a part of a year that is less than 6 months. A member with less than 6 months of active service is not entitled to disability severance pay.”
Not All TDRL Cases Result In Permanent Retirement
There are many instances where a military member placed on the list may improve sufficiently to return to active duty. In such cases, DFAS regulations say that this must be determined by a physical evaluation, or by “…the Secretary of the Military Department”.
If the service member is found to be fit or soon to be fit for duty, “the member shall be removed from the TDRL”. The rules also add that anyone removed from this list “may, with his or her consent, be recalled to active duty, appointed, reappointed, enlisted, reenlisted, or resume status in the Fleet Reserve or Fleet Marine Corps Reserve”.
The rules for drawing disability pay in this context are clear; the disability severance pay you may receive under this program must be deducted from the amount of “any compensation for the same disability to which the former member of the Armed Forces or the member’s dependents become entitled under any law administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs.”
That said, no deductions are authorized from death benefits, “to which the former member’s dependents become entitled after the member’s death.”
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
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