Dear Ms. Vicki,
I have been reading your column for years, and I never thought there would come a day when I would be writing to you myself. But here it is.
My husband has been serving our country as an airman for 14 years. For the past 10, he has been having problems with his knees and shoulders due to life in the military. He's been told many times that he should go in front of a medical evaluation board (MEB), and last December his doctor started that process.
I am currently five months pregnant with our second child, and I don't know what is going to happen to us. My husband has no idea either. He has six years left until retirement, and he does not want to be kicked out of the Air Force.
Is there anything we can do to prevent this process from happening? What are the possible outcomes if this process does go further?
We have heard that we could lose medical benefits if he is not medically retired. Will I have to deliver my baby in a different hospital if I am not covered by Tricare? I would appreciate any help you can provide.
-- Scared of MEB!
I know this is very stressful. It's causing a lot of anxiety, and rightfully so.
Because your husband has more than eight years of active service, as you said earlier, he may be medically retired or he may be medically separated with severance pay. The benefits he retains will depend on which separation he receives.
With a separation and severance pay, he won't keep his current benefits. But if he is medically retired, he could keep all of his benefits based on his disability rating, and you would keep your military benefits, based on the amount of time you have been married to your husband.
The medical board will consist of military doctors who have not been involved in your husband's care. They will determine whether your husband can perform in his job, the rating percentage of his injuries, the stability of his disabling condition, his years of active service, and any pre-existing conditions.
There is nothing I can say that will make you feel better except that your husband won't be put out of the Air Force without any medical coverage for you to give birth to your baby. You should still be able to continue with your current medical care for a year after his last day.
An MEB can take a long time -- months if not more than a year, from what people have told me.
While you are waiting, you and your husband should start strategizing and making plans for what your life will be after the Air Force. You need to plan for where you will live, what kind of employment you will seek, and whether either or both of you will continue your education.
I know this is not a situation you want to be in because you have a child and you're expecting another soon. I encourage you to start planning your future now and to enlist the help of close family and friends who will be supportive.
Please keep in touch with me and let me know how you are doing. I will be thinking of you.
-- Ms. Vicki