If you have a spouse in the armed forces, you know that this job can take a toll on their body. You hear it when they make that groaning sound every morning when they roll over and out of bed, and see it when they wash down handfuls of ibuprofen with an energy drink.
Every workday they will spend at least an hour doing PRT, or Physical Readiness Training. Top minds at the Department of the Army spent years designing this optimal physical strengthening regime that consists mostly of jumping up and down in a parking lot for an hour. Not exactly the kind of exercise that is gentle on the joints of the body.
Add ruck marches, field exercises, deployments, air jumps, and running- miles and miles of running- and suddenly your spouse calls to tell you that this time, it’s not just going to be three days of quarters, or a temporary profile. This time, the doctors are recommending a Medical Evaluation Board, or MEB. Now what? Well, don’t despair; with a little bit of organization and motivation, you can go with your spouse into the Medical Retirement process with confidence.
Tip # 1: Help a hubby out!
Once your spouse has been selected for the MEB, things will start to move very quickly. He will enter the Integrated Disability Evaluation System, or IDES. He can expect his first phone call within the first week after being given a P3 profile. He will be assigned a PEBLO (Physical Evaluation Board Liaison Officer) who will be his main point of contact throughout the entire process. The VA will also assign him a MSC (Military Service Coordinator). These two people will be your lifeline if you have any questions along the way. If possible, you should attend these meetings with your spouse so you can be well informed as to what to expect over the coming months.
First, help by making the initial few meetings amicable. PEBLOs and MSCs will see many, many clients during the day, and can get in a rut. You don’t want them to see you, and your spouse as just another face in the revolving door of clients they are supposed to support. If you take the time to ask them a few questions about themselves at the top of the meeting, and show you are interested in them as a person, you can begin to build a rapport, and set yourself apart as someone that they are invested in helping.
Second, take notes. A lot of information will get thrown at your spouse in a short amount of time. If you are writing down what is being said, your spouse is free to engage with the person who can really help get this process off to a good start.
Third, ask questions; this one can be tricky because service members (and your PEBLO and MSC will undoubtedly be retired NCO’s) have a culture that frowns on civilians butting in, but it can also be beneficial if you seem knowledgeable and engaged in the process. The best thing is to go over everything ahead of time with your spouse, so you go in knowing what they know, and you don’t end up repeating questions that have already been answered.
You are his battle buddy in this fight. Help him keep track of appointments, sort medical paperwork, and most importantly, be there to listen. This will help him feel confident and prepared, knowing that he has thought of everything, and has a solid game plan.
Tip # 2: Encourage him to stop being “ARMY STRONG”
If he is hurting, he needs to say that he is hurting. This is the opposite of what he has done his entire career, and it will take him some time to come around to. Remember that his identity has been built around a mentality of “drink water, drive on” and changing that will be hard. But he needs to be honest about his pain. He needs to make appointments if something hurts or even just feels wrong. The way the military sees it, if it’s not documented, it didn’t happen.
He has probably gotten used to a level of daily pain civilians would not dream of tolerating. The big shift in thinking he needs to make is, soon he will be a civilian too. If there is something wrong with him that makes it so that he cannot function at the level that is comfortable for him, that is a disability. It is disabling him from living a normal life, no matter how big or small.
Tip # 3: Learn to say “No”
The military is a mission-based organization. That means that there is always something that your service member could be doing to further the mission. It might be moving vehicles at the motorpool, qualifying at the range, guard duty, staff duty. Whatever it is, it is less important than your spouse’s new mission; to get out of the military with fair and adequate compensation for his injuries. His unit will try to use him as long as they can; however they can. They will tell him he is indispensable at his job. They might even believe it. The truth is, commanders, first sergeants and first line leaders say this about everyone, but as soon as they’re gone, they will just fill the spot with the next guy.
No one is going to check his last NCOER when he goes to look for employment in the civilian world. Your spouse is separating from the military. He needs to make it a priority to make his medical appointments, the appointments with his PEBLO, and his VA coordinator appointments. Focusing on ones self is hard for service members that are used to sacrifice, but there are no second chances when it comes to Medically Retiring from the military.
The military was in every part of his life, every day, for the last many years. Now focus must shift, to ensure that you are prepared to go into the future with a solid plan, and some security for your family. As a military spouse it is important to not minimize your role in this process, because there is so much that you can do to help. You just have to be willing to do what needs to be done. And as mil-spouses, that is what we do best.
****Welcome to our newest blog teammate Kari Elkins!!!!!
Author: Kari Elkins