As a Soldier, physical and mental fitness for duty is required to serve. If a Soldier’s ability to serve has been compromised by an injury or illness, medical retirement does not automatically follow. A medical retirement is the last option for an injury caused or aggravated by service. An injury may initially result in a Soldier’s placement on the temporary disability list (TDRL). That ‘temporarily disabled’ status can remain for several years while a Soldier receives treatment. However, a Soldier cannot remain on the list indefinitely.
Depending on the Soldier’s length of service, as well as, the injury’s severity and stability, a Soldier may be removed from the TDRL and separated with severance pay. Army Regulation (AR) 600-35 explains the circumstances surrounding a Soldier’s placement on the TDRL. The regulation also outlines when TDRL removal and separation with severance pay may be appropriate.
Federal law requires Soldiers to be placed on the TDRL “when they would be qualified for permanent disability retirement and the preponderance of evidence indicates one or more conditions will change within the next five years so as to result in a change in rating or a finding of fit.” AR 600-35, Chapter 4, Para. 4-33.
When disabilities are not permanent
Placement on the temporary disability retired list (TDRL) occurs “when the years of service or percentage requirements for permanent disability retirement are met but the disabilities are not determined to be permanent and stable.” AR 600-35, Chapter 4, Para. 4-27(2).
Prior to January 1, 2017, a Soldier on the TDRL with a stable disability could remain on the TDRL for five (5) years. A Soldier with less than 20 years of service with a stable disability rated at less than 30 percent is required to be discharged from the TDRL with severance pay. See generally AR 635-200. While on the TDRL, a physical examination is required every 18 months, at a minimum. If you fail to report for your physical examination, your Branch of Service will remove you from the TDRL list and your retired pay will be suspended until your examination has been completed.
Separation 10 U.S.C § 1203 and 10 U.S.C § 1206
Separation with disability severance pay “is directed under 10 U.S.C § 1203 or 10 U.S.C § 1206, as applicable, when the Soldier is unfit due to a compensable physical disability determined under the standards of this regulation, and— (a) The Soldier has less than 20 years of service . . . [and] (b) the Soldier’s combined disability rating is less than 30 percent, to include a rating of zero percent.” AR 660-35, Ch. 4, Para. 4-27(3).
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If you or a Soldier you know has been injured or placed on the TDRL, it is imperative to know the law and the rights related to severance pay and treatment. Staying informed is necessary to avoid waiving important opportunities for treatment, pay, and retirement options. At Crisp and Associates, LLC, we have a military administrative law department dedicated to cases involving injured Soldiers facing difficult choices about retirement.