|Military Line of Duty (LOD) Investigations|
|What Are They, How Can They Affect You?|
Guide Note: This article is written from the point of view of the Army, but applies equally to all of the services.
You decide to go to Pamplona, Spain and run with the bulls. It was great fun until you got gored in the chest and trampled over by a thousand-pound angry steer. You wake up in the hospital. When you start to regain consciousness, you thank God that you are alive. After speaking with the doctor, you realize how fortunate you are that you don't have permanent injuries and that you are not a paraplegic. The only permanent injury is a pin in your leg and a noticeable limp that you'll likely have the rest of your life. You realize that the incredibly stupid thing you did could have gotten you killed.
Once you are back at your unit, your platoon sergeant tells you to see 1st Lt. Jones from Alpha Company about an investigation he is doing. You don't know what kind of investigation you could be involved in, but you and your squad leader go over to 1st Lt. Jones' office. After he introduces himself, he tells you he is doing a Line of Duty investigation concerning your bull injuries. You ask yourself, "What is a LOD investigation?"
A LOD investigation is generally conducted whenever a soldier acquires a disease, incurs a significant injury or is injured under unusual circumstances. There is a presumption that all diseases, injuries or deaths occur "in the line of duty - not due to own misconduct." A LOD investigation helps determine a soldier's entitlement to pay and allowances, accrual of service and leave time and, in some cases, disability retirement. A soldier receives these benefits only if the final determination is "in line of duty - not due to own misconduct."
The investigating officer begins the investigation by getting a copy of the Statement of Medical Examination and Duty Status from the appointing authority, along with any available documentary evidence (witness statements, medical records, police reports, etc.). The IO collects other documentary evidence concerning the injury and the circumstances surrounding it. The IO conducts witness interviews, including one with the soldier who was injured. The IO may read the soldier his or her rights and must inform the soldier that any statements given concerning "the origin, incurrence or aggravation of an injury" must be voluntary.
Once all of the evidence is gathered, the IO reviews it carefully and is required to make one of three determinations concerning your status- (1) "in the line of duty- not due to own misconduct"; (2) "not in the line of duty- not due to own misconduct"; or, (3) "not in the line of duty- due to own misconduct."
If the injury or disease is caused by the soldier's intentional misconduct or willful negligence, the IO may determine the soldier's injury or disease to be "not in the line of duty - due to own misconduct." "Willful negligence" is the conscious and intentional omission of the proper degree of care under the circumstances.
Factors leading to adverse determinations include: whether the soldier was under the influence of alcohol or drugs; whether he was the aggressor or voluntarily participated in a fight; or whether he acted in a manner considered extremely erratic or reckless without regard for his personal safety or the safety of others.
An investigating officer may determine that running with the bulls is extremely reckless and therefore, find the soldier to be, "not in line of duty — due to own misconduct."
The consequences of this determination can be significant. Any time the soldier was not present for duty due to hospitalization, being on quarters or being on convalescent leave is counted as bad time. Bad time has to be made up. This means that a soldier's ETS date will be moved back one day for every day the soldier is not present for duty.
The consequences of the LOD investigation may continue even after the soldier leaves active duty. If there are any complications from an injury that was deemed not in the line of duty, the VA may determine that the soldier is not eligible for VA benefits or medical treatment for the injury. The VA may also determine that the soldier is not entitled to any disability benefits for the injury.
Line of duty investigations are not intended to inhibit soldiers from participating in normal activities such as basketball, football, rock climbing, skydiving or scuba diving.
However, soldiers must consider the repercussions of engaging in very dangerous activities, like running with the bulls.
If you are the subject of a Line of Duty investigation, contact your servicing legal assistance office immediately.
Article by LeeAnna George, III Corps Legal Assitance Office, Fort Hood