When I was studying criminal justice in undergrad, or as it is more popularly known, wasting four years of my life, we learned about ranks within police departments. I really wish I would have paid more attention during that lesson because it likely would have helped me when doing intakes with Veterans. The reason is that I have to know what rank a Veteran was at when he or she was discharged from the military. One might think that it is a simple as asking them and then jotting down their reply, but like going to the DMV, things get complicated fast.
Most of my research came from the Department of Defense. They are quick to point out that many people make the same mistake I do. I confuse pay grade with rank. E-1, or “enlisted one,” is the most basic pay level. However, most Veterans I talk to will either give me their pay level when I ask for their rank, or they will tell me both. I am not supposed to play favorites in my line of work, but the Vets who give me pay grade and rank are my favorite. While the DOD is quick to point out that they pay grade and rank are different, I doubt you will ever see a Master Chief petty Officer listed as an E-2. Generally when your rank changes, so does your pay grade. This is why so many Veterans and civilians use them interchangeably. However, it is not always the case. Sometimes there are two ranks listed at the same pay grade. Even though one outranks the other, they make the same amount of money.
What is the issue? Did you know that all five branches of the Military have different titles at each level? (For the most part.) For instance, the very basic rank in the Army and Marines is a private. However, if you were an Airman you would be considered an Airman basic. In the Navy and Coast Guard you’d actually be considered a seaman recruit. All of these ranks I just listed are considered “E-1’s.”
The most common rank we encounter in this firm is E-4. Here is where things get a little convoluted. In the Army an E-4 can be a corporal or a Specialist. In the Navy and Coast Guard an E-4 is a Petty Office Third Class, while in the Marines an E-4 is a corporal. Lastly the Air Force considers an E-4 a Senior Airman. Technically these are all the same rank. If a Veteran tells me his was rank was specialist, I often have to ask him to clarify simply because there are so many ranks to keep track of in the military. Three out of the five branches consider an E-5 to be a sergeant but the Navy and Coast Guard consider an E-5 to be a Petty Officer 2nd Class.
Here are some interesting facts about ranks that I observed from my research:
*There are 20 different ranks that fall under the category of E-9 across the 5 branches.
*Stars indicate importance. The more stars you see, the higher the rank.
*Officers are listed either as W or O. For instance, a “W-1.”
*E-4 is the most common rank in the military.
So, why am I going on and on about ranks? First of all I do find them fascinating. But they do play a small part in a VA disability claim too. For instance, when I am talking to someone who served for a long period of time with a low rank, it’s a red flag. Recently I talked to a Veteran who served for a decade that was discharged as an E-1. For the most part, an individual who served for 10 years would not be ranked that low. I immediately asked if had faced any disciplinary charges before he was discharged, and he said he had. He was actually ranked as an E-5 prior to his demotion. This does not mean that we can’t help; it simply paints a better picture of his military career. We like to be very thorough in our reviews. This could actually be beneficial for a psych claim like PTSD. It could possibly be used as evidence to help prove a change in behavior. We have found this to be the case in a number of PTSD and MST claims over the past several years. This shows us that a Veteran was on one course, then something happened to change that course. It could be a PTSD stressor or a sexual assault that changed the course.
It is important to note that rank does not increase your chances of getting service connected; it does not speed up your case.
If you would like to learn more about what we can do to get you service connected, give us a call today for a free consultation. 1-877-526-3457. You can also fill out this form and one of our staff members will give you a call.