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High Risk Activities and Line of Duty: Be Safe, Be Prepared
By Lt. Col. Robert Mundie, 82nd Reconnaissance Squadron commander
/ Published February 23, 2009
OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. --
Do your summer leave plans include mountain climbing, skydiving or white water rafting? If they do, then as an Airman you have the responsibility to ensure the safety of yourself and those around you. Mountain climbing, skydiving and white water rafting are three of the 26 "high-risk" activities identified by our wing's safety office. By participating in a "high-risk" activity, you increase your potential for serious injury and your chance of being the subject of a Line of Duty investigation!
A Line of Duty investigation is required when an Airman, whether hospitalized or not, has a condition or injury that results in the inability to perform military duties for more than 24 hours, the likelihood of a permanent disability, if a death occurred or if there's any reasonable question on the facts of the incident. An incident being found "not in the Line of Duty" could be catastrophic for the military member and his or her family. The final Line of Duty Determination decides who is responsible for hospitalization costs, pay, service time, entitlements and disability retirement benefits.
A Line of Duty Determination is made by a commander after an investigation board collects all of the evidence pertaining to an incident. An Air Force Form 348, Line of Duty Determination, identifies four proximate causes of the member's injury. A final Line of
Duty Determination will find that the condition or injury occurred "in the line of duty" or "not in the line of duty" and will be linked to one of the following causes:
1. Intentional misconduct (not in the line of duty)
2. Willful neglect (not in the line of duty)
3. Both intentional misconduct and willful neglect (not in the line of duty)
4. Neither misconduct nor neglect (in the line of duty)
An injured Airman, or the family of a fatally injured Airman, will receive their full military benefits only if an "in the Line of Duty Determination" is made.
Here are a few examples:
1. Incident: An Airman is on leave and suffers a brain injury during a boating accident. The commander's investigation determined alcohol was a contributing factor. The Line of Duty investigation determined the accident was "not in the line of duty" because of "intentional and willful negligence" due to the intoxication of the Airman. The brain injury precludes continued military service.
Result: The Air Force will provide free and immediate medical care to stabilize the Airman. The Airman will have to use leave days or lose duty time to cover the lost service time until separation. After the Airman's medical discharge, the Airman will lose previously entitled military medical treatment from both the Department of Defense and the Veteran's Administration. The Airman is likely to lose all disability benefits because the injury was due to his or her misconduct.
2. Incident: An Airman is on vacation just outside of the base's "local area" and decides not to take leave. The Airman is an accomplished skydiving enthusiast, but is involved in a fatal mishap. The Line of Duty investigation determined the accident was not the fault of the Airman, but since the Airman was Absent without Leave, or AWOL, the final determination was "not in the line of duty" due to "intentional misconduct."
Result: The Airman's family loses VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation ($250,000), Montgomery GI Bill Death Benefit, Dependent Educational Assistance and continued access to base facilities and base housing.
So you're asking yourself, "How do I protect myself and my family from an unfavorable
Line of Duty Determination, especially with high-risk activities?" Follow these simple steps:
1. If you participate in a high-risk activity, make sure you get a safety brief from your supervisor or commander. For good reasons, high-risk activities are receiving a substantial amount of attention by our leadership, so make sure you're trained, equipped and properly cleared before continuing your high-risk activities. Contact your unit safety representative for a complete list of high-risk activities.
2. Make sure you comply with AFI 36-3003, Military Leave Program requirements. Becoming injured while "outside of the local area" but not on leave isn't only inviting an unfavorable Line of Duty Determination but could also lead to action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
3. Use common sense. Alcohol, drugs, lack of sleep or being physically unfit does not mix well with high risk activities. The Air Force has a very good Operational Risk Management program, but ORM works only if you use it. If you have any questions on ORM, see your unit safety representative.