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thedrifter
03-12-07, 03:52 PM
Leathernecks' disability pay topped by other services
By Kelly Kennedy - Staff writer
Marine Corps Times
March 19, 2007 Edition

In the Marine Corps, the word is that disability ratings for wounded troops are fair and, if anything, caseworkers fight to make sure physical evaluation boards err on the side of the service member.

Marines take care of their own, the saying goes.

But according to Defense Department statistics, enlisted Marines make less in average disability pay than their counterparts in any other service. Marine officers fare better, making a couple hundred dollars a month more, on average, than Army officers, but lagging behind their peers in the Air Force and Navy.

Marine Maj. Carroll Harris wrote her master's thesis about the disability transition process in January 2006, and may provide a clue as to why enlisted Marines get shortchanged compared to the other services.

She found that Marines make it through the process within two or three months if they have the proper paperwork - but the process tends to take much longer if they must wait for physicians' evaluations, line-of-duty investigations and commander's evaluations.

"There are multiple examples of injured Marines waiting over two years for [physical evaluation board] decisions," she wrote.

"A lack of initiative taken by Marines can also greatly hinder this processing timeline. Individuals responsible for submitting items to the [physical evaluation board] have little to no incentive to get those items in quickly due to a variety of other, more immediate competing demands."

She also said rating troops based on their military jobs is perceived as unfair because if an infantry Marine and an administrative clerk both have back injuries, the infantryman is more likely to see his career end because of the injury. This criticism also crops up among soldiers.

In such situations, there should be an option to retrain service members in other positions, she wrote.

"Current regulations provide no opportunity for lateral moves in order to avoid separation," she wrote. "Marines in more physically arduous [jobs] assume a greater risk of injury, loss of career and separation."