The Temporary Disability Retired List (TDRL)
TDRL is more of a state of being than an actual list. When an active duty service member cannot perform his duty requirements for a medical reason, he begins the Integrated Disability Evaluation System process and either returns to full duty, leaves the military, or is put on TDRL.
A service member is placed on TDRL only if his condition is not stable, he has Total Combined Military Disability Rating of 30% or higher, and there is a chance that he could improve enough to return to full duty or seriously worsen within the next five years.
How a Service Member is Placed on TDRL
In the past, TDRL was fairly rare since the DoD would seldom start the disability process before a condition was mostly stable. Now, however, the military requires that the service member return to full duty within one year of being diagnosed with a condition that may make him Unfit for Duty. If the service member’s physician feels that the condition will not improve enough in that time, he is required to start the disability process by referring him to the Integrated Disability Evaluation System.
For example, Sally is diagnosed with cancer. Her doctor says she should just need a simple surgery, and then she should be fine within a month or so. While she won’t be able to perform her job during that time, the DoD will not start the disability process since she should be back and going fairly quickly. If, however, the doctor thought she would be able to be cured of cancer, but it would take a year of intensive treatments during which time she wouldn’t be able to work at all, the DoD would be much more likely to start the disability process and put her on TDRL.
There are some conditions that could benefit from being on TDRL. For example, a torn rotator cuff patient might be struggling to keep up physically in the military, but a period of treatment and healing without the pressures of a military environment might allow the service member’s condition to improve enough for him to return to full duty.
A service member might also be placed on TDRL if it is clear that his condition is not stable and may get worse. The DoD only gives a permanent Military Disability Rating for the severity of the condition at the time of separation. If he is separated when it is not severe, he will get a lower rating than if he is separated when it is more severe. In this case, by putting him on TDRL and then officially separating him once the condition is stable, the DoD is better able to give him a rating that will more accurately reflect the long-term effects of his condition. This is often the case with Mental Disorders, like PTSD.
During and After TDRL
When on TDRL, it is as though the service member is medically retired from the military. He does not perform any military duties, is given a temporary Military Disability Rating of at least 50%, and receives full Military Disability Benefits from the DoD and the VA.
During the TDRL period, the service member must be occasionally re-evaluated (generally every 18 months) to determine the progress of his condition and his disability ratings updated to reflect any changes in his condition.
If the condition improves enough during his time on TDRL, the PEB may find the condition no longer unfitting. In that case, the service member can choose to either return to full active duty or permanently retire from the military. If he chooses to return to full duty, all DoD disability benefits he was receiving during TDRL will stop.
If the service member chooses to permanently retire or if the condition worsens, or at least does not improve, and becomes relatively stable, the PEB will medically retire or medically separate the service member with a permanent Military Disability Rating based on the severity of his condition at that time.
All TDRL cases will receive a permanent rating based only on the VASRD criteria that is in effect at the end of the TDRL period.