The Rest of the Story

It is now Tuesday, 28 May 2013.  I have been back on active duty now for exactly 2 full months… I will bring you up to speed on what happened from the last posting until now and what you can expect per Army regulation.

After I got my “Fit for Duty” letter, I followed up with the PEB who emailed me a small packet (included the official completion of the PEB/MEB as well as instructions for the recruiter).  I was given POC in Accessions in Ft. Knox, KY (don’t be surprised if individuals at MEPS get irritated that you are speaking with Accessions- yes you are supposed to- they will get over it).  My recruiter (just pick an army recruiter nearest you) followed the instructions contained in that packet from PEB.  Also, make sure you give your recruiter both your contact at PEB as well as the one from Accessions so things go smoothly.

You will have to rebuild your military packet (it’s kind of like you are enlisting for the first time, except that you have military service to add) yourself on the recruiters computer.  It is painstaking and tedious (did I mention time-consuming?).  This is important that it is done accurately and completely (the information is for your security clearance- they will need to re-review you and re-do your background checks).

Once your packet is complete and all source documents are turned in, you WILL go to MEPS, but ONLY for paperwork.  You will NOT see the medical section.  Let me repeat this- you WILL not and MUST not see the medical section.  They are NOT allowed to look at you.  PERIOD.  There is old information out there that says you have to get waivers for your medical stuff.  This is NOT true.  Your contact within Accessions will handle this him/herself.  Oh, and yes, you will have to go to the hotel when you go to MEPS.  Don’t even bother trying to dodge this one.  I’m married with 5 kids and even I had to.  It is regulation.

You will enter the DEP (Delayed Entry Program) but you will NOT choose a new job.  Per Army Regulation- there is NO re-training/training authorized for TDRL soldiers coming back to active duty.  You get the SAME job with an automatic 3 year contract (up to you to go see retention when that time comes to extend this if you so desire).

From here on out, you will be treated as if you are a prior service soldier (even though technically you don’t fall into this category for recruiting purposes).  You will get a ship date along with PCS orders to your new duty station.  If you have family, they will be authorized to travel as well, even though the orders won’t explicitly say as much.  I had zero issues with travel reimbursement or transportation.

Don’t be surprised if your orders sending you to your new duty station are very vague in nature.  Mine literally stated “Proceed to In-processing in at Ft. XXXXXX”.  I was not on any roster or in any system when I got here!  They will need to MANUALLY enter you.  Don’t let them send you on a wild goose chase.  A manual entry at the in-processing building will do just fine.  I then was sent to a Replacement Battalion where eventually I got new orders cut for a Brigade, then eventually was assigned a Battalion (2 week process) while I was doing normal post in-processing.

A couple of things to keep in mind-

1. NO ONE including medical professionals have the authority to make you divulge what you were in PEB/MEB for.  PERIOD.  This will be stated on the information sent to you by the PEB in your packet.  Someone throws a fit, show them the regulation in your packet.

2. Your medical records will restart fresh.  Don’t give them ANY old ones.  Just tell them you don’t have any and that you were TDRL (they will say “huh”? and then just say “retired” and they will drop it)

3. Don’t expect anyone, including your recruiter, to have any real idea of what TDRL is/does/means.   Just ask explain that it’s like the DL (Disabled List) for a baseball team- part of the team, just not actively playing.  I’ve never had anyone ask for more information after that explanation.

4. Don’t expect your new unit to cut you much slack.  Know your military courtesies and keep your military bearing about you.  Make sure you go LOOKING the part of the soldier.  I’m not sure mine still knows what TDRL means.  I’m just the guy “who was retired”.  It’s simpler that way.

5. Uniforms- I had none left.  My replacement detachment actually sent me through their supply room where they used a requisition form and took me to clothing sales where they literally re-issued a full initial issue of uniforms (no kidding- $1100 bucks worth).

6. Your ERB- it WILL get reset with the exception of Time In Service.  You will need your DD214 and/or orders to get your overseas credit, medals/ribbons/etc.  It stinks, but that’s just what happens when you come back in.  You also must have your promotion orders or else your Date of Rank will get reset to the date you come back in as well.

7. **IMPORTANT** Look friend- you made it through SO MUCH to get back to active duty.  Do yourself a favor and TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF.  You don’t want to go through this process again.

 

This will be my final posting unless someone brings something I left out to my attention.  If you have questions, PLEASE message me. 

Questions and comments come straight to my email and I check it regularly.  I will be as much help as I possibly can to you.  I’m all about the soldier.

HOOAH!

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Contacted by PDA

Today, an SFC from the PDA (Physical Disabilities Agency) called me.  He emailed me a document (Election Relative to Re-Enlistment) on which I had to declare my intentions regarding active duty (this is separate from the one I signed for the medical board).

I initialed the “I elect to reenlist in the Regular Army/Army Reserve/National Guard within 90 days following approval of my PEB findings” box.

I was informed this document would be sent to a DoD civilian who would then contact me with further instructions regarding my “reenlistment” within the week.  Below is the form I received.

Election Relative to Re-Enlistment

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Fit for Duty!

Last Tuesday, 12 Feb, 2013, I was called in to my PEB liaison’s office for some “news”.  I suspected that the medical board had finally responded.  Sure enough, the board had sent their answer.  The following is a direct quote from the document.

Box 8.

“Returned Duty as Fit.

Your condition has improved to the extent that you are now fit for duty.

Since being placed on the TDRL, re-examination indicates that your condition has improved to the point that currently there is no functional impairment that precludes satisfactory performance of duty.  The PEB considers you fit for duty in your present rank and primary specialty.  Accordingly, you may, with your consent, be returned to active duty or active reserve status.  Details will be provided by letter from Commander, Human Resources Command.

You are advised that a member of an armed force may not be required to sign a statement relating to the origin, incurrence, or aggravation of a disease or injury that he/she has.

Box 9.

THE BOARD FINDS THE  SOLDIER IS PHYSICALLY FIT

And that the soldier’s disposition be:  Returned to duty as fit.”

 

I signed the response page that I concurred with the findings.  In approximately 2 weeks, I should be receiving orders and instructions sending me to a local recruiter for reinstatement.

 

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January 2013 Update

I received a call just after the new year to go BACK to the army doctor at Ft. Leavenworth.  The medical board called my liaison and told them I need to be evaluated for my shoulders!  My shoulders were NEVER taken into consideration for my original medical board procedure.  While I was still on active duty, I had been on crutches for over a year and it was beginning to bother my shoulders.  I had commented about it to a doctor at some point (don’t even remember when), and the comment made it into a medical report.

The medical board found this complaint/comment during their review for returning to active duty and decided they wanted x-rays and an evaluation.  Now, according to regulations, ONLY the condition that placed a soldier on TDRL can be evaluated when requesting to return to active duty.  My liaison informed me that the only reason they would request this information would be to determine “whether or not I need a profile” for my shoulders.

My liaison believes the board is considering finding me fit for duty.  The doctor ran me through several range of motion tests for both my shoulders and my hips (and took new x-rays of my hips for good measure) and wrote in his report that my shoulders are fine (according to X-rays, although there is a small amount of correctable (with stretches/exercise) impingement, probably due to the crutches (shoulders are not meant to bear weight).  He also re-expressed his confidence in my ability to return to active duty.

The reports have all been turned in to the medical board, so yet again, we await their response…

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Inquiry Sent

Last week (during my normal bi-weekly follow-up call to my PEBLO), I learned the computer systems were back up but no news on my status from the medical board.  She told me she would be sending an inquiry on my file/case along with “a few others who are also waiting”.  Apparently I’m not the only one who has been in the queue longer normal.  I will follow-up with her next week.

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Still Waiting!! Computer systems down?!

I called my PEBLO today, and she said that the computer systems have been down for the last 2 weeks!  All medical board processes are digital, meaning they are sent out digitally and received digitally.  No snail mail whatsoever.

They always tell me they will call me when they hear something, but, no offense to them- I will continue to follow up weekly.  I will post again before Thanksgiving next month, unless I have an update before then.

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Still Waiting

As of today, 29 Aug ’12, I am still waiting to hear from the medical board.

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Introduction

Introductions

I am a SPC in the US Army.  4 years ago, I was medical boarded for bi-lateral acetabular hip impingements brought on by an accident in the line of duty.  Long story short, I was placed on TDRL (Temporary Disabled Retirement List) at rating of 30%.  I never wanted to leave the army, but the options I had been given were not good, and at the time, military surgeons were just learning how to deal with this type of medical injury/issue.  After seeking advice, I chose to the medical board route in hopes I could get a civilian surgeon to “fix” me.  Even then, my goal was always to resume my army career at a later date.

This blog documents my journey back to active duty from TDRL.  There just doesn’t seem to be very much documented information out there on the web on a soldier coming off of TDRL and regaining his/her active duty status.

Please note that these are MY experiences, and you should not base your expectations nor make decisions solely on what you read here.

Stay tuned for more.  I will be updating often.

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Request for TDRL Eval Expedite

After doing some research online and making some phone calls,  I discovered I could request my TDRL evaluation to be pushed up.  I managed to contact the TDRL office outside Washington DC, with the help of HRC.  To my surprise, I was indeed able to make this request, although I was advised that all locations performing evaluations were backed up by months.  Nonetheless, I asked for this to be done.  The gentleman that assisted me carbon-copied me on his email to Ft. Leavenworth (the closest army post to my residence in Kansas City, MO) asking for my evaluation to be performed as soon as possible.

I received a phone call a couple weeks later from the PEB liaison at Munsen Army Hospital, Ft. Leavenworth, KS.  I was informed that my eval was indeed moved up and I would be called for my appointment within two weeks.

Those two weeks turned into a month.  I was advised on follow-up calls that the clinic was behind.  I finally had my visit the first week of April.  Ironically, this was about the same time I was going to have it without requesting an expedite.  I wonder if it would have been even later had I not asked for this.

The appointment went smoothly.  Imaging of my hips were taken, I was interviewed by the doctor, and range of motion tests were performed.  The doctor was rather dubious when I informed him I was asking to be returned to active duty.  After passing my range of motion with flying colors (and actually exceeding normal standards), he asked if I would be willing to run on a treadmill.  I obliged and ran 1.1 miles in 9.5 minutes without exerting myself.  He observed me for at least some of the time, although I’m not sure how long as he was in the rear of the room.

Once back in the exam room, the doc informed me he had only written ONE recommendation for a soldier to be returned to active duty in his 30 year career of doing these evaluations.  He told me I would be his second, and that he “could do nothing else but recommend me for reinstatement to active duty”.

It took from then til this past Friday, 22 June 2012, to receive this narrative summary… almost 2 full months later.  My liaison, in the mean time, told me they had til July 1st to get my board packet completed.  This leads me to believe the “expedite” on my eval was for naught, as this would have been the original timeline anyhow… So if you ask for an expedite, while it may seem like things are moving ahead of schedule, be prepared to be stuck in the old time-frame.

This is the narrative summary written by my doctor that will go before the board.

DIAGNOSIS:  Normal examination.  I advised that I could not exclude his ability to return to duty today based on examination, physical performance of running for nearly 1o mins without observable sequelae.  There is always a risk that he will have some future issue with his hips especially regarding the radiologic reporting of minimal early degenerative changes in the hips.  If there is a reason to have TDRL exam to support returning to duty, he would meet criteria today by virtue of clinical exam.  For his PEB considerations, I see no reason to keep him on TDRL status and would support a return to duty.  He should continue to wrap up his training to run and should cross train with swimming or cycling to develop supporting musculature as much as possible.  No limitations are recommended as would be a normal orthopedic recommendation at this point in any setting.  It should be noted that he as no osteoarthritic symptoms.  I discussed all findings and answered all questions extensively today with the exception of his radiology interpretation, which was not available at the time of his departure.

I signed off on this documentation, agreeing with the findings, and the packet will go to Ft. Lewis, WA this week for review.  I was told to expect 30 to 45 days.

I will update this blog when I get a response.

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Brief History

I was medical boarded and placed on TDRL December 28th, 2008, for bi-lateral femoral acetabular hip impingements.  Since then, I received operative care by the Denver VA, University of Colorado Orthopedics, and the Kansas City VA.  I’ve had 1 non-invasive surgery, 2 invasive surgeries (in which they inserted 3 bone screws in each femur), and 2 more non-invasive surgeries a year later to remove the hardware- the last of which was Sept of 2011.  After the last surgery, I underwent intensive physical therapy to rehabilitate my hips and regain my full range of motion.  The process was long and painful, yet today, I am pain free.  I still get some minor soreness occasionally, but nothing more.

I am back to full running and no limitations on weight bearing or any activity.  My recovery has been fully documented by the VA and the rehabilitation/physical therapist.  I was rated by the VA at 40%.

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First TDRL Evaluation – May 2010

My first of my required TDRL evaluations actually occurred in between my 2nd and 3rd surgeries.  I explained the evaluating orthopedics doctor at Ft. Carson, CO, that I had only had 1 hip operated on and still needed additional surgeries.  I asked to be retained on TDRL for more time while I had the remainder of my operations.  I stated that I eventually wanted to be reinstated to active duty.

Two months later, I received my request and was retained on TDRL.

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