NEWS | Nov. 12, 2014

Facing an MEB? Call OAC!

By Lt. Col. Trinh Peterson Office if Airmen's Counsel

The Office of Airmen's Counsel is a division of the Community Legal Services Directorate under the Air Force Legal Operations Agency.

OAC attorneys enjoy an attorney-client privilege with their clients and work to preserve their clients' interests, whether it's a disability rating increase, a return to duty finding, or a disability separation or retirement that the wounded or ill Airman so richly deserves.

Within the OAC, there are nine lawyers (two of whom are currently reservists) and four paralegals, to represent Airmen from the time they enter the Integrated Disability Evaluation System, also known as the MEB process, to when they meet the Formal Physical Evaluation Board through their appeals, to the Secretary of the Air Force Personnel Council or the Veterans Administration.

The OAC office represents Airmen worldwide, active-duty and Reserve. This workload translates to more than 2,000 clients and more than 700 hearings in 2013.

But many prospective clients (Airmen) do not know OAC exists since the OAC only has nine PEB attorneys serving hundreds of military treatment facilities. There just aren't enough attorneys to station one at each MTF. And, although there is no way of knowing how many Airmen have faced the MEB process without the benefit of legal counsel, Congress recognized in 2008 even one Airman is too many.

With innovative outreach activities, including an Armed Forces Network commercial, news articles such as this one, and posters throughout Air Force installations, the OAC is making a difference for Airmen who are not familiar with this organization.

When an Airman is put into the IDES at the MTFs, they need to understand they have the right to seek immediate legal assistance from the OAC. Outreach becomes very important because without the OAC guiding Airmen, their rights and benefits may be negatively affected due to the numerous filing deadlines that run throughout the IDES.

The bottom line is that if you are an Airman facing an MEB, the OAC is there to assist you through the process. The nuanced legal issues involved in the IDES require early and often communication between the Airmen and the OAC.

The OAC can be reached at (210) 565-0739.