It is true...you can get a VA award of 100% disability/unemployability, but the news is that you can also be considered for unemployability by your service at your PEB. What's the advantage?
Most of us go before the PEB and are evaluated for the service-disabling injuries/illnesses presented at the "snapshot in time" of our condition at the moment of evaluation by the PEB. Turns out, the DOD language follows VA language on this issue...so you can put the case to the PEB that your injuries/illnesses, separate or combined, are of such a serious nature that you are "most likely" to not be able to work at all.
The advantage: getting the military (in my case, Air Force) to award 100% for unemployability means a jump from the 60% my PEB recommended to the 75% of base pay that a permanently and totally disabled retiree receives! Again, in my case, it means (if approved, and so far the advisory opinion recommends it) a jump of over $600 additional retirement per month...backdated to the actual retirement date. The military's top retirement percentage, whether through service or disability, is 75%, so that extra 15% is well-worth my persistence! And no waiting for hi-3!
The odds are bad...only 12 awarded by the USAF in a ten year period as they "don't like" to go that route. Here is the link for a successful Board appeal just approved.
How do you put together a successful PEB presentation, or if that fails, a successful Board of Correction of Military Records appeal?
1. Present an injury serious enough to warrant your retirement - that's the MEB's role to evaluate
2. Document that injury and any secondary issues - very possibly, that will be your role!
3. Document ALL additional ailments, even if they are not likely to be considered "service-disabling", because they help construct an image of you as completely unable to work; if you have any lingering problems with LOD injuries or illnesses which can be documented (such as from sick calls or physical exams), ask a physician to provide a summation of your physical condition - not a letter, but a very much detailed report explaining each injury or illness
4. Try to get total disability ratings from Social Security as well as the VA before your PEB, or at least before submitting an appeal to the Board of Corrections. Those awards are not binding on other agencies, but they are powerful proof! In my case, I had a Social Security judge explain his finding of my disability retirement and explain, in page after page, why his ruling was dated one day after my retirement. Ditto with the VA! I used both of those agency's decisions to appeal my case before the Board of Corrections, stressing that federal judges in similar situations reached conclusions similar to what I asked of the Board.
5. Support your claim for unemployability by evaluations from professionals such as Certified Rehabilitation Counselors (CRC), state or federal voc-rehab officials; even the VA's Chapter 20 rehab evaluation can support an umemployability claim to the military and to the VA by stating rehab is not likely to prepare you to re-enter the work force because injuries are too limiting. In my case, the state was contracted to do my voc-rehab evaluation and the conclusion was that I was too disabled for any training to help re return to work, even with college degrees and professional experience
6. If appropriate, get an evaluation from a reputable pain clinic. This helps substantiate all medical and mental aspects of your injury rather than leave unexplained. I happened to have been treated by Army, Navy and Air Force docs, and had great documents from all of them. I asked the doc at my separation physical to explain all the issues I was complaining about, not just the LOD injury, and to make a conclusion about my ability to return to work. He did, but wasn't supposed to be so detailed. But the Board had no choice but to accept all these arguments - and I stressed with language throughout my appeal that my "snapshot in time" was as bad as I could in good conscience describe it.
7. Write up a persuasive presentation if you are appealing to the Board of Corrections. They accept as long a narrative as you care to prepare, but support it with source documents such as LODs, sick call reports, physicians' notes...everything to make your case. You must not dishonor yourself with any false claims, but you are perfectly correct in putting every pain, every scar, every headache, every sprained back before the PEB and Board of Corrections if those injuries continue to bother you at retirement, and together make it less likely that you can seek meaningful employment after retirement
8. If meds make it unsafe for you to work, that is a compelling argument for an award of unemployability at retirement. If you can work (stand, lift, etc) but such work causes pain and suffering, there is no compelling reason for you to work in pain - and thus you should be considered unemployable
Work with a veterans service organization's service officer. BUT...I couldn't find a single one who would assist with my Board of Corrections appeal. Either their organization didn't practice before the Board (the DAV, Paralyzed Veterans and other groups told me they couldn't help) or they are not experienced at the issue of unemployability relating to the military's disability retirement system. What is needed is much of what succeeds with the VA's individual unemployability, but remember the military looks at that famous "snapshot in time" that you present while standing before the board!
BTW, you gotta watch these guys. I put together my own Board of Corrections application and forwarded it to the Paralyzed Veterans of America...all 43 pages of application and supporting documents. No copier at home. A year or so went by and I phoned the PVA to ask how its going...only to learn they had no record of it. Checking, I found that their mail room logged my Express Mail envelope, but the VSO working it left the organization and all files were destroyed to lost. So...lotsa work doing another application. And that application was lost. I went from 2009 to the Fall of 2011 before my request for correction actually was received by the AF Board of Corrections!
Lesson: passive vets are likely to get swamped by all this, even with a VSO's help. You might benefit from an attorney's assistance, at least to review your papers before they go the Board - I retained an attorney who looked over my papers and suggested toning down the anger a bit, and re-wording things to better flow towards that magic moment when "all benefit of the doubt" is given to the veterans!
It should be obvious - don't lie or cheat. If a doctor feels you are exaggerating or malingering, the DOD and the VA requires a comment as part of his report on you.
Do it. Most of us aren't going to have enough years service to retire at the highest percentage, and most of us won't have the specific service-disabling injuries to get that top-end 75% retirement - but with an unemployability award you just might! You should also make sure that your injuries, if via Instrumentality of War or Hazardous Service or actual Combat, are described as such - has a great impact on CRSC and CRDP