In the Line of Duty

  • Published
  • By Maj. Gen. Anthony F. Przybyslawski
  • Air Education and Training Command vice commander
It's a true honor to serve as the vice commander of this great command -- the First Command. I'm associated with world class professionals focused on our mission everywhere I go. 

But there is one drawback to the position: I chair the reviews for all the fatalities within Air Education and Training Command. Many of you have participated in the video teleconferences we've held covering these fatalities. These briefings always leave me saddened and, more importantly, concerned about a trend I've noticed in the ranks.

Specifically, I'm troubled with some of the off-duty decisions our Airmen have made that ultimately result in the tragic loss of a military member, someone who believed in the same thing you and I believe in -- the defense of our great nation. 

It's heartbreaking when tragedy strikes our professional and personal families, especially when unwise choices and unlawful actions were the cause, leaving the surviving family potentially without the protection of Air Force benefits.

Did you know if, as a result of overindulgence of alcohol, an Airman dies or sustains an illness or injury resulting in inability to perform military duties for more than 24 hours, there will be a line of duty investigation?

Did you know if the line of duty investigation determines that an Airman's death, illness or injury is due to personal misconduct and finds the Airman was not acting in the line of duty, substantial government benefits could be lost?

Did you know that your actions will affect the ones you leave behind? Even if you survive, your future medical care following separation from the Air Force could be lost if it is determined your actions were not in the line of duty. Which begs the real question: should you expect the same benefits for an act of irresponsibility as for an act of bravery and honorable duty?

Don't let this happen to you, especially when this type of tragedy is preventable. Operating a vehicle after drinking alcohol can only result in a dangerous situation. Most recently, our losses were a result of this fatal combination -- apparent reckless driving (80 mph in a 35 mph zone) and "off the chart" blood alcohol levels (0.27 blood alcohol content).

Here are a couple key points to consider next time you decide to put yourself at risk. If there are any complications from an injury deemed "not-in-the-line-of-duty," the Department of Veterans Affairs may determine the Airman is not eligible for VA benefits.

Any further medical care would then be chargeable to the Airman and his insurance company. If you can't cover the cost, think of the expenses your family members might end up paying for you. If you die as a result of your misconduct, your dependents will not receive the more than $1,000 per month in VA dependency and indemnity compensation.
If you choose to drink, you must do so responsibly. And keep this in mind: although it sometimes gives us a feeling of invincibility, alcohol doesn't make us immune to accidents.

I encourage you to educate yourself on line of duty determinations. If you need more information, talk to your commander or first sergeant. And always remember who you are and what you represent -- 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

A finding of "not-in-the-line of duty" due to misconduct may also impact an Airman's:

- Disability, retirement and severance pay: If an Airman is injured such that a medical disability separation occurs, a LOD determination of "not in line of duty" will prohibit any disability compensation from being awarded.

- Forfeiture of pay: You may not be entitled to pay if you were absent from regular duties for a continuous period of more than one day because of injury that was directly caused by or immediately following an alcohol related incident.

- Extension of enlistment: An enlisted member's period of enlistment may be extended to include that period of time he was unable to perform duties because of his intemperate use of alcohol. Any time the Airman 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 an Airman's estimated time of service date will be moved back one day for every day the Airman is not present for duty.

- Veteran benefits: The Department of Veteran Affairs may use a member's official military records, including an LOD determination, when determining veteran benefits. If an Airman is found not in the LOD, the resulting loss of certain benefits could cost a dependent child or spouse $250,000 or more in money and benefits that are denied.
These include but are not limited to, VA dependency and indemnity compensation, Montgomery GI Bill death benefit, medical and dental benefits up to three years from the date of death of a member and access to base facilities.

- Survivor benefit plan: If you die on active duty and "in-the-line-of-duty," your surviving dependents may be eligible for benefits under the SBP. If an LOD investigation determines that your death was due to alcohol-related misconduct, your surviving dependents may be ineligible for SBP benefits.

- Basic educational assistance death benefit: Certain survivors of deceased members entitled to basic educational assistance may be entitled to death benefits, which are jeopardized if there is a finding the member was not in the line of duty.