EDINBURGH, Ind. - A new mission is heading to Camp Atterbury, Edinburgh, Ind., with the addition of a Medical Evaluation Board Remote Operations Center set to be fully operational by late fall.
The U.S. Army Medical Command chose Atterbury to be the new MEBROC site which will focus on processing the backlog of medical evaluation boards present in the reserve component of the Army National Guard.
“It shows that Camp Atterbury has the ability to support big Army in a mission. Just as we did the mobilization mission, which we supported in the contract mobilization missions, Title 10 mobilization and now we’ve shown we can support MEDCOM in this MEB process,” said Col. Jeff Webb, MEBROC site director for Camp Atterbury.
As the backlog is depleted the other two MEBROC locations already in existence, one at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. and one at Fort Carson, Colo., will stand down making Camp Atterbury the enduring location, said Webb.
Four new buildings are being built at Atterbury in support of this mission and the cell will employ 32 people once it is operational.
Ruben Chipman, a supervisory physical evaluation board liaison officer, expects a steady flow of medical evaluation boards once the current backlog is down which could lead to an increase in jobs for the area.
When a soldier incurs an injury or illness that keeps them from serving, they are given a period of 12-18 months to improve. Once it is concluded, if the condition will not get better, they are sent to a medical evaluation board which determines their level of disability for benefits and pension, said Webb.
It is these medical boards that MEBROC will work to process in an effort to service disabled soldiers.
“The most important part of this whole process is the soldier. It’s [MEBROC] there to take care of the soldier, to ensure that they get what is due to them from their service to our country and ensure they get the proper medical look to determine they get the proper disability or rating,” said Webb.
Currently MEBROC is operating at about an 80 percent capacity, but has already started processing boards, said Brandon Killinger, a supervisory physical evaluation board liaison officer. Within the past two months around 128 boards have been processed.
“We have 140 days to get the board to the final determination to write the decision. Right now we’re probably doing it in about two weeks, so we’re streamlining it,” said Killinger.
By using the Army’s integrated disability evaluation system soldiers no longer have to hold dual appointments with the Veterans Affairs and Army medical evaluation board, shortening the time it takes to reach a full decision on a disability level.
Instead they’ll go to the local VA center which will send the exam results to MEBROC.
Medical providers on staff will write a summary of the injury and a disability evaluation based on the diagnosis to be forwarded on to the physical evaluation board which makes the final decision.
“The key is we work hand-in-hand with the VA now, trying to make it an easier process on the soldier,” said Killinger.
Sometimes however, the decision isn’t so straightforward. Soldiers possessing a condition that could get better or worse within five years are placed on the Temporary Disability Retirement List.
With the success the Army has had in lowering the medical evaluation board backlog, a TDRL backlog is beginning to be created.
With approximately 18,000 Soldiers on the TDRL, MEDCOM will also stand up a TDRL clinic at Atterbury to help with this backlog - creating a capacity to do more work at the installation, said Webb.
This addition to MEBROC will increase the number of positions available over the next few months, and between the two missions more than 100 people will be employed through this new Atterbury initiative.
What started as two desks and two chairs has grown to include four new buildings and 30 plus employees, with positions still available on usajobs.gov.
“We look forward to MEBROC being here for years and years in support of the MEDCOM mission,” said Webb. “Every board we process, we’re not processing a piece of paper: we’re taking care of a soldier. We owe everything to those who have served and have incurred injury or illness in the line of duty.”