ARLINGTON, Va. — Army officials are promising reserve component soldiers
found medically unfit to serve that they will not languish waiting for a
According to a policy issued March 3, Reserve or National Guard soldiers who
are being medically discharged or retired will now be released from active duty
no more than 30 days after the Army makes its final ruling, instead of a
three-month maximum previously in effect.
The Army's official goal is to release such soldiers "within five working
days" once the service's Physical Disability Agency issues its final
determination that the soldier is "unfit" for service, the policy says.
The 30-day window is a "worst-case" scenario, specified, "only to allow
installations flexibility to handle special cases," according to the policy.
The full month might be needed, for example, if a soldier's condition takes a
sudden turn for the worse while he or she is waiting for discharge paperwork
and must be re-evaluated by the medical board, said Col. Fred Schumacher,
executive officer and reserve component advisor on the Army Physical Disability
The new policy "is a recognition that we need to get [reserve soldiers] back
to job and family as fast as we can, after appropriate medical treatment and
processing," Schumacher said.
Previously, Army rules allowed officials to take up to 90 days to wrap up
out-processing for any soldier found medically unfit for service after he or
she went through the Army's physical disability evaluation system.
Active-duty soldiers use the extended out-processing to "essentially begin a
career shift," seeking employment outside the Army, as well as finding new
housing for their families, Schumacher said.
The 90-day out-processing maximum remains the standard for active-duty
But reserve component soldiers who have been "medically boarded" are in a
very different position, because they have civilian lives, Schumacher said.
The medical board process already takes "several months" beyond a soldier's
actual medical treatment in Army hospitals.
So once the board has issued its final ruling, "it's pointless to have them
just sitting around," Schumacher said. "The soldier needs to get on with his
Delays in out-processing can place a special strain on reservists because
their jobs and families are often located far from the active-duty mobilization
station or an Army medical facility where soldier is required to stay until
But the hardships posed by the 90-day out-processing window didn't reach the
attention of Army officials until large numbers of Army Reserve and National
Guard soldiers began getting called up for Operations Iraqi Freedom and
The "medical hold" issue came to a head last spring with news stories about
hundreds of reservists stuck for months at Fort Stewart, Ga., waiting for their
conditions to be evaluated, treated by service doctors, and assessed by the
Army medical board.
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