Maintaining personal readiness is a key responsibility of every Armed Forces servicemember. Active Duty troops must keep up their “fit for duty” status so they are ready and able to do their jobs without restrictions. However, injuries and illnesses are a part of life. When a servicemember is deemed medically unfit for duty, they are generally placed on a temporary “profile” which outlines what they can or cannot do.
While profiles are a medical necessity in many cases, many soldiers know that they are sometimes frowned upon by superiors. It is not an exaggeration to say that being on profile could hurt a servicemember’s career. For example, being unable to perform one’s duties because of a physical or mental issue, even if only for a brief time, could delay or interfere with a time-sensitive mission or deployment.
Personal Readiness Versus Privacy
When an individual’s personal readiness status is compromised for too long or is detracting from a mission, that person’s profile may turn into a burden. That said, personnel should never try to hide an injury or illness when they need treatment. Otherwise, their injury may get worse or heal improperly.
Of course any injury or illness which is duty-related must be reported to the servicemember’s respective branch of service. However, if the injury takes place outside of the scope of their military duties, such as a fall or auto wreck while on leave, an alternative some Active Duty servicemembers consider is to seek treatment from a civilian doctor to keep the matter private.
Is that a wise course of action? Not particularly. Here is why!
Military Personnel as Assets
The acronym “G.I.” (meaning “Government Issue”) has been around long before it referenced military personnel directly. All joking references to government property aside, G.I.s are the essential assets on which the United States depends for its military capabilities.
This has even been explicitly stated by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III, who proclaimed, “The greatest asset of the United States Army aren’t our tanks or our helicopters or our sophisticated weapon systems. They are our people.”
As with all its other vital assets, the Department of Defense needs to take good care of its troops and stay aware of when they are not 100% mission ready. It is easier and more effective to do that by keeping medical care “in-house.” Per TRICARE, “When you’re stationed at a military installation that has a clinic/hospital or troop clinic, you’re assigned to a Primary Care Manager (PCM) where you are required to get all of your medical care.”
In this way, the military can not only ensure it is providing the high-quality medical services that members are entitled to, but also it can keep better aware of everything happening medically with those members. The system is intentionally designed so that there are no surprises. That includes the use of the Military Physical Profile Serial System.
PULHES and the Disability Evaluation System
The Military Physical Profile Serial System grades affected military members’ PULHES (P: physical capacity or stamina; U: upper extremities; L: lower extremities; H: hearing and ears; E: eyes; and S: psychiatric) factors with a number (1 – 4).
The higher the number in any category, the more serious the medical condition impacting functional capacity. This gives commanders a snapshot of their troop’s medical readiness.
So while it may be technically possible for an Active Duty servicemember to bypass TRICARE and the profile process by visiting a civilian doctor, it certainly seems to go against the best interests of the servicemember’s unit. Further, withholding such information could be construed as being deceptive, should the truth ever come out.
In the end, it is wiser to be forthcoming and report medical injuries and illnesses in accordance with TRICARE and military policies. In most cases, when the process is followed as intended, there should be no negative ramifications. However, there are no guarantees.
A profile can lead to a member having their case reviewed by a medical board. Based on the findings of such a review, there is the possibility of being disqualified under the Disability Evaluation System. The affected member could then be separated under one of the following decisions:
- Separation with severance pay
- Placement on the Temporary Disability Retirement List
- Placement on the Permanent Disability Retirement List
- Separation without benefits
Clearly, the latter circumstance is the one everyone wants to avoid! If a member faces a denial of benefits after separation, they may benefit from consulting a personal injury attorney who can help them plead their case and potentially qualify for benefits, including disability pay.
Get Gary Bruce If You Need Help After an Injury
If you have been injured outside of your military duties and have been denied benefits after a medical disqualification from service, it may be critical to connect with a seasoned personal injury attorney as soon as possible.
Our firm has been proudly serving military families stationed at Ft. Benning for decades, and we know our way around the complexities surrounding personal injury law when it involves members of the U.S. military.
You should know all of your options before making important decisions. There is no obligation to hire just to have a consultation with one of our lawyers. Contact our firm today for a free case review.